Over the past decade that I have spent trying to get my head around the suicidal trajectory which modern societies seem to be locked into, I have struggled to understand how we turn this thing around. Human decision-making, especially for the really big decisions, is as much about emotion as it is about logic. So how can we access the emotions to help people and society as a whole to make the large, and painful, decisions and lifestyle changes needed to bring us back from the brink?
It struck me that in the season of giving the greatest gift that we can give to our children is one of a planet still teeming with the seemingly endless species of plants and animals that we currently enjoy, together with a society and supporting environment which will allow them to at least live a good life. So perhaps what every parent, aunt and uncle should do during the holiday season is line up the photographs of their children and younger relatives and visualize what conversations they will be having with them two to three decades from now. Will the next generation simply be disappointed that we went along with the “business as usual” flow, and helped piss away their future while we changed our cars every few years (a Prius of course!), and bought clothes we really didn’t need and may never even wear? The older of us could perhaps escape such uncomfortable discussions by feigning dementia, it may become such a widespread occurrence that the psychiatrists will have to add it to their list of disorders.
For the rich and the powerful it may not be just disappointment that is directed at them. What about the billionaire currently enjoying his new super-yacht while making sure that status-quo politicians are the only ones that society as a whole gets to vote for? Or the fossil fuel company CEO happily raking in the bonuses while fuelling climate change? Or the senior politician placating the people with superficial climate friendly policies that don’t inconvenience their rich backers? I have a picture in my mind of one of these “masters of the universe” jaunting from one gilded cage to another, but never being able to escape the reality of the world they helped create. What would their children’s thoughts be, perhaps not wanting to be associated with the people who brought them into the world while at the very same time destroying it? Perhaps hating the fact that they even share the same DNA? Wealth is wonderful, but it won’t make up for being disowned by your own children. It strikes me that this exercise would be so appropriate for the yearly meeting of the World Economic Forum, where the rich and powerful decide what kind of life we are all going to have. Hopefully, it would reconnect them with the reality of the physical world upon which we all depend, pulling them away from the shared hallucinations that allow them to continue on such a destructive path.
I don’t want to go down as one of the lucky generation that enjoyed the fruits of fossil fuel driven affluence while pulling up the ladder from future generations. The French have a wonderful phrase for such sociopathic behavior, “apres moi le deluge”, after me the deluge. I am lousy with my hands but seem to have a gift for seeing connections, and taking the complex and technical and making them accessible to a wider audience. So this will be my role; story-teller, educator and facilitator. What will yours be? Will it be one that the young in your family can be proud of a few short decades from now?