About

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This page contains my first blog post, written in 2009. You can click here to go straight to latest posts. (For ‘about me’, see Linked-In here or Goastelliou blog here)

Whether we know it or not, we live in traumatically uncertain times. Times of unprecedented threat to humankind and profound opportunity to re-invent our notions of progress.  Never before has humanity been so interdependent, so interconnected or so endangered. Never before has our consumption of the planet’s resources been so high or the depletion of these quantifiable in mere decades and generations. Never before has the scientific research been so widely accessible or its conclusions been so widely disputed and ignored.

The scale of the threats we face seems already to overwhelm our psychological ability to respond. We hear dire warnings of the impacts of climate change and some endeavour to act on these but many remain disbelieving. We rationally understand the consequences of our excessive consumption but still it keeps on rising. We are reminded daily in the news of deepening divides and injustices in both the developing and the developed world and some give charitable donations whilst others are motivated to make bigger personal sacrifices. But the majority of us remain unmoved and we continue to treat the symptoms, not the causes, seldom pausing to question what it is that we mean by human ‘development’.

And even those of us trying to act to mitigate the problems mostly feel powerless in our desire to remake the complex technological, economic and social systems that impel our lives and keep us insulated from the elemental eco-systems of which we are but one.

Converging Crises…

The realisation of how imperilled is our world is traumatic – and once understood calls into question all the fixed points by which we navigate our lives.

This is not a site that seeks to debate whether global warming is real or man-made or just a mischievous conspiracy perpetuated by vested interests. But it is a site that aims to join up the dots for the many of us who seem not yet to have done so.

So it is about climate change – and depleting reserves of natural and emotional energy and global food and water crises and population overshoot and seemingly reasonable human aspirations to improve our lot and limits to growth and political instability and ecological degradation and declining social capital and the burgeoning arms trade and how we as a species tend to react when we find ourselves squeezed into a corner. For these are the unprecedented anthropogenic stresses against which our grace under pressure is now being tested. These are the converging crises that the media portray as debatable and unrelated issues, but which are in reality the inextricably linked consequences of unsustainable industrial growth in world of finite resources.

When we look back on our past we are able to see how we came to our present predicament with the broad view of hindsight. But in determining how to respond in our own lives it is often hard to see beyond our own reduced individual perspectives. So this site is a personal attempt to navigate the complexities of our 21st Century world and to communicate  – in the same broad overviews by which we comprehend the cycles of history – the precariousness of our future and ways in which we might constructively prepare for it.

Voices of reason…

Many knowledgable others have already furnished the details and continue to do so far better than I can, so I provide links to those who inform me with their willingness to look the future squarely in the eye. Though I may not always reach the same conclusions, I am inspired by the positivism of the daunting but rational solutions they put forward.

George Marshall, for instance, whose efforts to extend plain-speaking of climate change to peer groups beyond the ‘usual green suspects’ are at once down-to-earth and incisive. George Monbiot, tirelessly throwing down a highly researched journalistic gauntlet to confront received wisdom and complacent spin. Dougald Hine and Paul Kingsnorth whose Uncivilisation manifesto has challenged the mythologies that underpin our Western-centric worldview and called for new artistic endeavours to confront what we perceive as culturally normal. The irrepressibly upbeat Rob Hopkins and his utopian vision for a low-energy future of happy and fulfilled local communities. Professor Tim Jackson and his clear-eyed assessment of the possibilities for ‘Prosperity Without Growth’. The determined Jo Abbess who, along with other climate campaigners, unstintingly faces down unreasoning abuse to opine and inform us.

I also include compelling communicators from overseas like Thomas Homer-Dixon in Canada, Lester Brown in the USA, and John Avery in Copenhagen who all write rationally and cogently on converging crises; Sharon Astyk who blogs from upstate New York about what can be achieved in these extraordinary times by ordinary people leading ordinary lives on ordinary budgets; David Holmgren in Victoria, Australia who has evolved Permaculture principles way beyond an organic approach to food gardening; Dmitri Orlov who brings insights from post-Soviet collapse into assessing the future for the declining West; and philosophical activists Vandana Shiva, who provides a Third World perspective, and Pierre Rabhi, who raises consciousness of Terre et Humanisme in the Francophone world.

And many more who follow a long tradition of ordinary people standing out against oft-repeated societal myths of convenience and expedience to espouse ecological truth, human humility and social justice.

Psychological paralysis…

Primarily, this site is about overcoming our collective paralysis – or ignorance or incredulity or individualistic self-interest or whatever else it is that accounts for why our predicament goes so widely unrecognised. It is about realising how our complex global connectivity has come to make us vulnerable and the wisdom of re-building local sufficiency and resilience into the communities in which we live. It is about getting real about the problems we face and telling it how it is.

So I provide information about the ideas and strategies that encourage me and I hope will encourage others to commit to the changes we must make to cease from exacerbating the problems and become part of the solutions. There is inevitably a ‘doom and gloom’ aspect to my purpose because the first step in any problem-solving process is to face up to the issues we seek to resolve. Sometimes frustration at the inertia of the status quo might make me seem despairing. Sometimes dark humour seems the only tenable response.  But ultimately I am aiming to communicate solidarity in our endeavours to remake our expectations for human progress and to accept with gratitude and humility our place in the natural patterns of the world.

Vernacular Solutions…

A brief glimpse at these pages will reveal my inclination to be towards low-tech measures which require neither affluence nor influence to apply. This is not to say that high-tech solutions have no place in our uncertain future but simply to state that these are not within the agency of ordinary people and anyway are not a panacea to shelter behind. There is some homespun philosophical and autobiographical stuff here too, because I have only my own life experiences to speak from. And I also link to my manuscript, Silent Memoir, which narrates the psychological realisation of what Richard Heinberg calls ‘peak everything’ and is an oblique attempt to communicate the urgency for collective engagement beyond the already converted.

hope?

It seems to me that the point of life is to try to make a contribution along the way. And that a truth once understood must morally be acted upon. I am hoping that before long I and others who share in this philosophy may feel less ‘outlawed’ in so believing.

Please have a look around. If you feel so minded, make a comment or contribute a post. Perhaps link up my site with yours. Because we are all stakeholders in the future and, whether we know it yet or not, we are all in this together.

Responses

  1. Greetings from fellow travelers in Victoria Canada

    My friends and I seem to have followed a similar trajectory to yours. We started with concerns about our democracy and now we look at what you call converging crises.

    A while ago we had a presentation by Bob Gifford ..

    We started a website as an educational exercise (same theme) and will get back to it as time permits.

    In the meantime, we have decided to work in our community with the aim of getting more people involved in public affairs. We think we need the numbers if we want to change things, here or anywhere.

    Best wishes,

    Ben

  2. […] Converging Crises Jon Barrett writes a personal response to the world’s converging crises. […]


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