Rant and frustration

First I would like to clarify that this is basically a rant to express my frustration by the lack of useful action regarding the imminent threat of climate breakdown as well as the little it is actually referred to in this part of the world. And I am writing this to get it all out of my head hoping it will do me some good. Because the signs are all over. It is all over the news (in some parts of the world at least). No one seems to be actively denying it anymore. The Climate change crisis is real and here. But still, the world seems to want to continue as if nothing were happening.

It is long, so for those of you who do manage to read this, well, now you can be happy you are not in my head.

I am in an isolated part of the world of sorts. Our big neighbour Argentina has bigger things to worry about (or so they think) than the climate crisis. Things such as decades of economic crises that keep hitting harder for every time, slashing and destroying peoples businesses, savings, dreams and hopes approximately every ten years. They might think that inflation, corruption, hunger and poverty are more urgent matters and I can totally understand that, they don’t see the connection. A friend of mine who is very pragmatic said to me once when we were talking about local communities in northern Argentina suffering from water scarcity and water borne illnesses: “how hard can it be to drive a truck full of clean water? I don’t get it?”. I tried to explain to her that it is not a matter of sending truck loads of water. Rather, more about considering the whole way these communities have been constantly pushed away, marginalized, ripped off from their traditions and knowledge and made to believe that working with nature and the land and building your own house of mud and straw is primitive and wrong. Also simultaneously being deprived of their means of sustenance via deforestation and pollution of their clean water sources. Their forests, their water, their customs, their ancient knowledge, all gone in one or two generations. Genocide never stopped happening, it’s just we who are blind. It is WHY they only have little and polluted water that matters, not the fast, one time palliative solutions to the problem that do. Truckloads of water won’t solve the problem. She sort of understood but did not seem convinced, and she is a smart person mind you. On the other hand, the few times I venture reading Argentinean newspapers I am appalled by the amount of gossip, political back lashing and nonsense they write about. I might be choosing the wrong papers, or not. The thing is that nowhere do I see any signs of distress. Well, actually I saw one recently, and it happened to be a frustrated reporter writing exactly about the same thing I am writing right now one day after I started writing this very text (https://www.clarin.com/opinion/importante-importa-nadie_0_sNd-85HJP.html it takes me a while to finish these entries so when you read this, it’ll be a while ago now). That is it for our one big neighbour to whom I can relate to, being Argentinean and all that.

Then there is Brazil which I know little or nothing about other that the people making decisions don’t seem to care much. I know even less about the rest of our neighbours, but the little I hear is “cri-cri” (crickets, like they say here, or nada)

And here I am, in “el paisito”. Tiny, tranquilo Uruguay where I have spent the last six years (the last two not even getting out further than 20 km from here). So yes, I am quite isolated here in this small town in my own even smaller universe. In this small universe nobody seems to even know about the climate crisis. It is always me who has the pleasure of introducing the concept and the whole problem for them. The one thing they do think about is pollution, particularly plastic pollution. Now, even though the urgent subject of preserving the natural world with all its cycles and complex systems of which we so much depend on is looming upon us, they know nothing about it. But they are indeed all-in for recycling, reusing, hybrid cars and solar energy. I want to make it clear that I am not personally attacking this specific group of people, I am just trying to illustrate my point. My point being that because so much attention has in previous years been directed to plastic pollution and tons of campaigns have been launched (earth day, water day and so on) and promoted, people only seem to be able to concentrate on that and are having a hard time snapping out of it. And now all the same and even more energy is going into green propaganda. I find myself deeply worried because If they manage to snap people out of the plastic issue and onto the “green wagon” we are so screwed. You might think am soft in my head, but think about it this way: where do you think all the raw materials for all this green future come from? And how do you think they are obtained? Simple answer: in nature, using oil, pushing more people even further. This only means an increase in habitat destruction, biodiversity loss and heating. An increase in misery and marginalization. Increase in the very stepping stones of this crisis.

So I am the evil “hippie” (not), extremist-crazy-exited person standing there trying to calmly get it into peoples heads that we are BEYOND recycling. It makes absolutely no difference whatsoever how many plastic bottles you make into robots, flower pots or mini greenhouses. What matters is to look beyond that and realize that not only will the once produced plastic never disappear but we are missing the point entirely: we need to stop filling our existence with STUFF. You can make as much composting and glass recycling as you want, but it will never make up for buying a mini plastic halloween lantern with a tiny led lamp in it, a portable solar driven mini fan for you car nor a brand new electric or hybrid car. Am I making sense? Is it only me who can hear the screaming inside my head?

And then there is the kids. How are we actually preparing them for what is coming? We are not. We are feeding their brains with you tube, facebook, tiktok and kardashians and their bodies with nutrient devoid ultra processed food, chemically grown fruit and vegetables. They are encouraged to believe that all you need is to succeed on some TV show, become famous, glamorous or all of the above, and all will be fine. No one is telling them that they are the unfortunate generation that will have to sacrifice and probably live without travelling, comfort, excess and luxury. We are not teaching them ANYTHING. We are not teaching them to make clothes, grow food, build comfortable and safe homes, enjoy nature, be fascinated by it. We are not even teaching them to knit for crying out loud! All these things: basketry, knitting, mud house building, old agricultural techniques (including pest and disease control and treatment), food preservation, basic medical skills, what else… So much! Because every corner of the planet has different needs and its people different knowledge. But we all need water, food and shelter. And these three very basic things, we are not teaching them. And all that knowledge is still available, it has not been completely lost. Only here in this town there are people who master agriculture, house building , water management techniques, animal care, food preservation, seed saving, all kinds of useful and even essential survival know-hows that do not depend on oil. But if they don’t get passed on, they will have to re-invent all of it. And that would be such a shame.

It pains me so that Uruguay is such a fantastic country. It could be – I dare say- totally self sufficient as a country. Here you can grow rice, wheat, sugar, barley, corn, beans, fruits, vegetables, cotton, hemp, trees, there are stones, lime, silt, there is plenty of WATER… It has a coastline, flatland, subtropics, rocky areas, it has so much. You name it! It is small, relatively little corrupted and most people still favour a simple quiet life with mate and some shade. The only thing they don ‘t have is oil. That is one thing that Uruguay does not have and probably never will. But the thing is, we should CUT THE OIL!!! I love having running water and not having to bike with my kids to school back and forth every single day come rain or come sun (and I do love my BIKE and its not made of bamboo). Of course. But I still believe we really need to cut the crap, get out of our comfortable lives and stop consuming this lie that we have been fed for more than 200 hundred years soon. I love my washing machine and it would be a pain to have to wash by hand, but hey, we probably would not be expected to be so clean, shiny and new all the time. Because we do live in a society, and some of us try to fit in this society and one of the things we need to do is wear clean clothes to work (well, paid work at least). But how was it not so long ago? Before washing machines? We had Sunday clothes and “rest of the week clothes” maybe? I know it was like that for Laura Ingals in the “Little House on the Prairie”, maybe it actually was like that back then before the industrial revolution took off completely, or even before that. Maybe people just had more TIME to do the washing as well (not that this makes it any more fun). This is just an example, there are so many other self imposed things that could change. We have learned so much. We can build super comfortable AND beautiful mud houses, we have domesticated plants and animals that can feed us for many, many decades or more. If only we would stop being so greedy, success oriented (whatever success means) and unable to connect with what and who we are.

I am sure you have all heard or read about how things like walking out in nature improves your mental health. Same goes for meditation, cuddling with animals, fresh air, swimming in the ocean, gardening or getting your hands in the soil just to mention a few. So why on earth are so many of us trapped in cities, alienated, living cramped, sick and eating starch, sugar, additives and conservatives out of plastic packages???? WHY?????????????????

So many people come to our place and praise the silence. The beauty. The plants. The air. The pace of life. I say they are either being polite and actually can’t wait to hurry back to their cars to drive off to the usual crowded surroundings or they are trapped, lost and/or scared. Because why say one thing but do the other? I know, you have to earn a living. But does it have to be like that? Well, maybe only if you don’t dare do differently.

When it comes to the fear, I think of it a little bit in the same way as when I get upset about what a lot of people feed themselves and their kids. I see children consuming ultra processed food out of noisy packages, fried white and brown lunch and dinner. They frown upon fresh fruit and coloured vegetables. Maybe changing this is too hard because biscuits, chemically designed foods and salty-greasy food is socially accepted or even expected. Changing the way you eat means changing the way you think about food and society, because in its core, eating can be a political act. When you shop for food you are being part of a bigger picture that ultimately determines what gets planted, produced and put on the supermarket shelf. And it might be scary to walk out of that mainstream and serve water, fruit brochettes, home made fruit ice cream, wheat buns, focaccia and kefir at a birthday party. What are the parents going to say? How will the kids react if they don’t get a candy bag as a take away after the party? How do I deal with my kid when he/she only wants me to give him/her the same food all the other kids take for lunch instead of boring healthy food? Well, you deal with it through conviction. A strong one. Because you know what is best for your kids, your family and the rest of the creatures sharing this planet with us. You have to be convinced to stand against society and the mind numbing factory bombarding us through various screens. But only you can do the switch, governments have repeatedly shown that they are not going to do anything about it. What is more, the little they do is even worse.

This is the part where I get really scared. Before it was all about trash and plastic. Now its green this, green that, sustainable, renewable and all kinds of pretty lies and solutions to keep us going just like we have done so since 1820-40: extract, extract, produce, use, trash and abuse. Greta Thunberg and others have said it already: we need to overthrow the system. It is the system that is wrong. We cannot replace all oil energy with solar/wind or nuclear energy, because it will still mean that we will continue with an extractive model and because it will already take too much energy to build all these new things in the first place. Obtaining all those materials and the energy needed to build these high tech “solutions” means destroying more habitats and killing more cultures than we already have. George Monbiot explains it very well in several of his articles. He writes : “The mining of the materials required for this massive deployment of batteries and electronics is already destroying communities, ripping down forests, polluting rivers, trashing fragile deserts and, in some cases, forcing people into near-slavery. Our “clean, green” transport revolution is being built with the help of blood cobalt, blood lithium and blood copper.”(https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/nov/14/cop26-last-hope-survival-climate-civil-disobedience). Not much one can add to this.

I have been told to be milder, less extreme, more careful. I am not so sure at all. The time for that is long gone. We have to see things for what they are: climate change and biodiversity loss are here and are for real. And they are driven by the burning of fossil fuels and habitat destruction which result from the extractive, exponential growth based capitalistic model. We need the stable climate in which we have been thriving for thousands of years and we need biodiversity. I think we as individuals need to become small, humble and pragmatic. We need to make sure we have water, food and shelter by taking care of the natural resources that are left before things get worse.

We need nature, nature does not need us.

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