Overpopulation, social change and writing

The following is a bit long winded.  I wasn’t really sure where it was going until I got some thoughts down, thoughts that have been swirling in my head these past many weeks since my return to the farm.

Mr.C5 & myself have many things in common. One deep bond we share is the fact that we feel we have never really ‘fit in’ in this world all the way back to when we were children.

Of course at our core none of us ‘belong’. What we strive for throughout our lives is – at least for those us who have the privilege to take the time to reflect on occasion about the meaning of our lives – a sense of belonging to a tribe of our people. This is simply part of the human condition. At its core we are all alone (not to be confused with lonely although this is often mixed up with feeling alone and often the two do go hand in hand but not always).

However the majority do ‘belong’. They follow the standard expected trajectory of a typical life in their respective society.

Some caveats: I am speaking here of life in the Western world, so called developed countries. I am not considering issues of race, ethnicity, gender, etc… as this just muddies the water for this discussion. In another setting, these would be very important to consider, and for those of you who know me, these are dear issues to me where I have sought progressive social change for decades. I am talking in generalities here which I do think is acceptable in this discussion.

Again: The majority do ‘belong’.

What I mean by this is that the majority follow a traditional path – you go to school, you meet a significant other (the majority this being a member of the opposite sex) whom you marry/hook up with, you have kids and you buy a house (or acquire some type of shelter) and get a mortgage. The kids grow up and eventually leave the home and the parents are left wondering what now. Many end up questioning what is the purpose of having worked one’s ass off to end up having this empty feeling they just don’t quite understand.

Following this traditional path does not guarantee happiness. Why do people expect this? If anything, I would argue many regret not following their heart, and they must acknowledge that they followed what was expected of them by others – social pressure is hard to stand up to – not what they wanted to do.

I remember once hearing that Carl Sagan described humanity as being in its adolescent phase. This statement was from several decades ago now but I have always thought this is such a clear and honest depiction of humanity. When you think about the powerful people on this planet – the men or should I say boys with political and economic power, it is as if we are stuck living our lives on the school playgrounds, competing for our little piece of turf.

So many believe and argue that there isn’t anything wrong with this. (If you know me you know I certainly do not argue with this). They have bought into the belief that humans are competitive beings to the core. The problem is that so so so many suffer because of this: all the innocent victims – women, girl and boy children, all of the non-human world, the billions of people who get little to nothing through no fault of their own but just a matter of bad luck of where they were born.

We humans are just so bloody immature and ignorant. We lack knowing how to deal with our emotions, how to deal with conflict (thanks Brits for the cultural legacy of conflict avoidance as seen in their ‘former’ colonies). And how to process our past & current emotional traumas – we all have them despite some saying (so many of my former students) “I had the best childhood/family ever”. Yeah right. I joke about this but I think everyone needs a therapist at least at some point in their life. If this happened, maybe all the cycles of abuse might finally end in a few generations. Wishful thinking???

As I continue with my ongoing struggle to figure out what it is that I will do mostly in a professional/career sense, reflecting on my decades of activism, seeking meaningful engagement in the outside world, I am struck at how there really is little meaning that one can grasp.

It seems that for most their meaning comes from the fact that they have children, and most likely eventually grandchildren, and that this is enough for them. I am a woman who has chosen to NOT have children. And not because I didn’t have a man in my life that I wanted to have kids with, or because I biologically couldn’t have kids. No, I actually CHOSE to NOT have kids, something I just wish people would stop judging me for and would accept. I am oh so thankful to live in a time where there are many, still a minority, women who don’t/didn’t have kids.

It is perfectly normal to not want to have kids as it is to want to have kids. Wanting kids is not an instinctual matter. Look up the meaning of instinct – an aspect of in this case the human self that one cannot change through any means of free will, something that is immutable. We all have the capacity to have choice in whether they will/want to have children or not.

I am not the selfish one as I am accused of being. I can easily argue the exact opposite. Those who want to have their OWN kids, those who refuse to accept that their biology does not allow them to have children – these are the selfish ones. I say why not adopt or foster?

Be silent with your judgement as I have had to be when I see individuals or couples having more than one child these days, what I truthfully feel is the idiocy of folks continuing to have children in light of the severity of today’s global problems. I must emphasize I have absolutely no regrets here.

Getting back to the bigger picture context, I have to question: how can the meaning of living on this planet be only derived from propagating oneself or the human species? This is just too depressing for me, too shallow, too perverse, too cruel, too simple.

The alarm bell of overpopulation has been sounded for decades. I find it fascinating that Paul & Anne Erlich’s book, the Population Bomb, is still so pertinent. The Guardian recently published an article, an interview with Paul Erlich, revisiting their book that was published 50 years ago, https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/mar/22/collapse-civilisation-near-certain-decades-population-bomb-paul-ehrlich.

When I entered the world of activism, I remember going on this massive learning curve about various social issues and problems, and overpopulation was identified as one of them. I never fully embraced the idea that overpopulation was THE problem, rather it was a contributing factor. However 50 years on, as we see the destruction we humans have caused and how this is leading to such horrific consequences, I am left wondering if maybe overpopulation is indeed the biggie, more so now than 50 years ago. As some joke, there is nothing that a good ol’ ebola virus outbreak can’t fix. I of course don’t wish more suffering at the hands of a pandemic, but … the possibility of this happening is a matter of when, not if.

I just can’t relate to folks who have wanted to have kids, to folks who have kids, especially to folks who have more than one kid. I have asked the following so many times: How can you want kids and it follows then that of course they want a good life for their children but then they continue to destroy the planet in doing so.? Stop the f___ing lip service. Stop the hypocrisy.

I get so fed up sometimes (often?, always?) with the ignorance of humanity, with the lack of awareness or denial of how much one’s actions impact the world around us. I am fed up with the cult of individuality.

I know life is all about compromise. There is no such thing as not having a detrimental impact on the planet by one’s very existence. I am reminded how awful those disposable diapers are and how these were used on me, especially when I find an used diaper in the forest, on the beach of a lake, or by the side of the road. I was polluting from the very beginning of my physical existence with all my shitting and pissing!! Now if only they had composting toilets in throughout modern industrialization, instead of using perfectly clean drinking water to flush in our toilets.

Throughout my adulthood, I have always tried to live simply. Mind you I wasn’t always cognizant of this; it wasn’t always intentional. It just sort of worked out that way since I wanted to live in different places. So guess what – I couldn’t haul a whole lotta shit around so I de facto ended up having a minimalist life. I didn’t get my 1st car until my 30s although I had motorcycles since I could legally drive. I also didn’t buy my 1st home until my early 40s.

So few are truly willing to live a life that would have a light impact on the planet, but that is exactly what is needed. Why can’t people live with less? Why do you need all that shit?? Why can’t you think long term? How can you be so empty and think that filling your void with stuff actually helps when in fact you know it doesn’t, all it leaves you with is debt. Just to note, these are rhetorical questions folks – I know the answers. I just can’t help but keep asking them since I am still dumbfounded by the utter stupidity of humans. I just love it that there is a clip circulating on social media where Vandana Shiva – one of my heroes, speaks to just this fact – the stupidity of humanity, “Our challenge today is against stupidity”, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TxALgtDruQQ.

I sometimes have wanted to climb a mountain and just scream at the top of my lungs hoping my scream will reverberate throughout the lands, that others will join in, that the scream will be a roar that will shatter the stupidity, the silence of obedience, of acquiescence, of denial, of selfishness, of individuality. Joanna Macy and her work with the Great Turning has been useful in enabling the release some of that rage. I used to have this hope that if others, the powerful people, truly felt the heart pain, then maybe things would change. I of course then remember that too many powerful people are sociopaths (some actual psychopaths), so screaming would do nothing, except perhaps damage their hearing.

How can any caring human not be enraged by what is going on? But why do so many not look at themselves as their first point of seeking change? Another tidbit I came across wasting once again my time on social media, thinking I would maybe stumble across something inspirational or prophetic, was entitled, “Conscious consumerism is a lie. Small steps taken by thoughtful consumers—to recycle, to eat locally, to buy a blouse made of organic cotton [hemp] instead of polyester—will not change the world.” https://qz.com/920561/conscious-consumerism-is-a-lie-heres-a-better-way-to-help-save-the-world/

I was like yes! This is so absolutely true, not least because these changes are still within the capitalist juggernaut. However, I was once again disappointed. She writes towards the end of the article, “Beyond making big lifestyle decisions such as choosing to live in a dense urban area with public transportation [yes], cutting red meat out of your diet [something that is too simplistic and not viable for wholistic sustainable farms] and having fewer children (or none at all) [yes!!],…” she then goes on to note a few things one could do. However it was such basic small scale stuff that it still won’t matter. And she suggests actions to do with changing politicians/politics, e.g. vote for… or lobby for this regulatory/law change…”. I mean really. Argghh….this is all she could come up with? Same old same old. More on politics and organizing for social change later.

I am not claiming to be perfect, not at all. I love to travel by non-human powered means which requires use of some non-renewable resource like for a plane or car. I live rurally and so need a vehicle if I want to go anywhere beyond bicycling distance. I compromise. I am a hypocrite. The difference seems to be that I acknowledge this and I try to mitigate impacts of my actions from this context.

In this world today, I know and have always known that I am fighting to save the non-human world. I have always felt humans are so arrogant to think we are the superior species. I feel so strongly that the truth is the exact opposite. Our purpose in life should be for us to serve mother nature, instead of us thinking mother nature serves us. I won’t apologize for the fact that if there is the proverbial burning house, I will go in to rescue the non-human animals, because I know most will try to save the humans.

These comments are thoughts I have been having for decades, some a few years. I used to believe that the way of nonviolence was a way to live in harmony with others (nonviolence will be a future blog post). Maybe it still is but there is no time to move towards this as this is a long haul project/experiment. I do see its potential usefulness as a way of living in the aftereffects of this end of current empire. There is great urgency now – we are in the beginning stages of collapse. All we can do now is try to buttress the blow that will be felt by all (the hit has already come to so many if we would simply open our eyes to our own denial of it).

I recently attended a discussion about next steps regarding the clusterfuck situation of the pulp mill located in the town of Pictou in Pictou County NS. A local writer, Joan Baxter, was the invited speaker, who recently authored the book, The Mill: Fifty Years of Pulp and Protest (Pottersfield Press, 2017), http://www.joanbaxter.ca/the-mill-fifty-years-of-pulp-and-protest/, which has risen to Maritime version of ‘star’ status thanks to the pulp mill pressuring a local bookstore to cancel a book reading & signing several months ago. Check out: http://www.joanbaxter.ca/2017/12/12/what-happened-when-the-mill-protested-the-book-the-mill-fifty-years-of-pulp-and-protest/. When will corporations learn that you shouldn’t try to prevent/block a public engagement or similar thinking it will all be kept quiet, under the radar, so no one will notice. I mean how stupid can you be? Media loves controversy. Actually I like it that they haven’t learned this lesson. The story was of course picked up by local media and it went viral with national and international press coverage, so her book sales have skyrocketed. Good for her, especially since nowadays it is difficult for the vast majority of writers to make a living let alone a buck or two from sales of their writing, and especially since one can easily enough become published in paper form or online – the bloggosphere and publishing world is just way too overcrowded.

Side note: I understand why so many folks take to writing, not necessarily as a career or to generate $, but there are missing perspectives, stories and similar so I do appreciate that more folks have the opportunity to put forward their voices which you don’t hear. However, it has become too crowded. And example although not really within a political context: I am stunned at how many folks blog about food/baking/cooking which I discovered when I would often go online to find a recipe (it seems too cumbersome to go through my cookbooks to find something these days). So despite this, I too am wanting to write with my blog and even possibly a book length treatise. Going back to my beginning comments, despite all this available commentary, I find it hard to find kindred spirits with whom I can connect, folks who represent my life story, my perspectives. (I’m sure they do exist albeit few and far between). Not surprisingly since I just don’t fit in. Side side note?: I do feel that you have to be careful of your motivation for writing. If it is because you feel that you have some knowledge that you think others are missing and should have, this might be all good but you better be mindful of a possible underlying or visible intention that you think you know best – you know your arrogance coming out for all to see. I once heard the comment that one should write first and foremost for oneself, and I believe this is true. If others are interested, and the information conveyed can be helpful to others, then great.

Okay back to my main point or rather points:

Where I live there are various issues that folks are organizing around. In the short time I have been away, there has been the development of proposed gold mining in the Cobequid Mountains around local watersheds with a new informal group meeting regularly called Sustainable North Nova Scotia. There is talk once again of fracking where our provincial liberal government has stated that if individual communities want to frack then they will consider this – talk about conquer and divide. And of course the issue about water & air pollution from the local pulp mill after more than 50 years of fighting this. I couldn’t help but be struck by the fact that Joan’s book could be viewed from two perspectives. The positive first: i) the amazing community organizing that has taken place around this issue, and the negative: ii) the utter failure of such organizing to realize any change after so many decades.

For several years now, I have decided I can no longer engage in activism which simply seeks to lobby government so that policies, laws and regulations are changed. I can no longer engage with others in protests, rallies and similar. For me, these are utterly useless when it comes to realizing meaningful impactful change. These actions are to create solidarity for those who want the change. I get this and know that this is useful for some folks, especially those new to organizing for social change. They need to know they are not alone. They need to know there is support for their concerns.

This bring me full circle to the beginning point of this discussion – the need for humans to have a sense of belonging.

My sense of belonging comes from those who are actively creating alternatives, living those alternatives. We are fortunate that we know of a few around us who are doing exactly that. There are others in other parts of the world. This is what keeps me going in the face of this shit storm coming down the pipe. What meaningful, impactful changes will you/are you making that will truly address the global problems?

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5 Responses to Overpopulation, social change and writing

  1. Lucrezia Borgia says:

    Thanks for the link to the Vandana Shiva video. She has a wonderful way of expressing complex concepts in simple language. As a society we consistently choose what’s bad for us over what’s good for us. That’s gotta be the definition of “stupid.”
    One of the things I find continually frustrating is people’s apparent inability to evaluate evidence in decision making, as demonstrated by our government’s promotion of destructive activities such as pulp mills, gold mines, etc. But maybe the people in power actually have a firmer grasp on reality than it appears – they know we’re royally screwed so they’re intent on looting the place (earth) on the way out.

    • wwolfvan says:

      You do have to wonder about the focus of our politicians on thinking big industry of whatever kind, e.g. big oil, big mining, big ag – my focus is here fighting for little ag to be the way forward, is going to help us in the long term. I guess because so many of them were part of big industry or hope to get go into big industry when they, if ever, leave political life. Let’s just get rid of career politicians for those whose focus on social change is within the system. I sometimes wish for the benevolent dictator… or is that an oxymoron… We definitely need a new system but there is no one blueprint. Let’s get this collapse in full gear so work on creating the foundations for the next human ’empire’, one that is actually based on compassion & cooperation instead of narcissism and competition, gets kicked into high gear as well.

  2. Linda says:

    The people have ceded their power to the least able to lead the way. Politicians. If there is anything I believe in, it is that what we call “democracy” is an utter sham. Politicians have no interest other than “political maneuvering” – self-preservation. They are like victims of the opioid epidemic. It is a power and influence epidemic/pandemic. Recently I began following the issues that are popping up again regarding the pulp mill in Pictou, an operation that I have reviled for as long as I remember. Now having read some of Joan Baxter’s book (it is a very tough read – I get so angry) and learning more about the conduct of all of the elected officials, it is time for action. Any kind of action that circumvents the political process seems the only solution at this point. As you stated Wilma, what is completely lacking is strong leadership to corral the resurgent energy of the electorate. Hope it is not too late.

    • wwolfvan says:

      Thanks for your comment. Alas I feel it is too late. The corporate gloves are off, and the handshaking with politicians is in full view, no longer behind closed doors which I guess is a ‘positive’ aspect of the dealings. Never has this been so apparent with JT (the Cdn PM)& the Lib gov’t. To think threatening the BC gov’t, threatening the Canadian people that if we don’t have the pipeline from Alberta to BC then we/Canada can’t afford the renewable energy path. (I just learned that supposedly China will not sign a ‘free’ trade deal with Canada unless they get the bitumen so there’s the bottom line really). For some odd reason, the phrase, ‘god help us all’ comes to mind even though I am not a believer.

  3. Linda says:

    Brings to mind the Second Amendment of the US Constitution: “A well regulated Militia…”

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