Cycling into a head wind on your way to the local farmer to buy organic fruit and vegetables, you wonder why you didn’t just buy them from the supermarket around the corner. That would have saved you a long chilly bike ride. Instead of fussing with your recycling, you could just dump it all in one bag and be done with it, couldn’t you? One garbage bag doesn’t make any difference, does it? Twenty-four hours into an over-land bus journey you are annoyed at the smells and recurring, often loud, phone calls from fellow passengers and you wonder why you didn’t just take that damn plane, you would have been sitting in the sun with a nice glas of wine by now, AND it would have been cheaper!
Why make your life so complicated? For whom or what are you actually decreasing your energy consumption (other than to save money), conserving water, buying as little plastic as possible, installing solar panels and banning animal products from your life? And all this while being made out to be a hypocrite or gutmensch by people living with ‘after us the deluge’ as their motto.
Maybe you wonder why on earth you’re doing these things, while polluters continue polluting and our governments keep helping them.
Pretty frustrating, right?
Click here if you’d like to read my story:
First story on MEDIUM. Let’s connect! I keep on writing here as well.
We speak a different language. That’s what’s going on right now. Some people think it’s hysteria and scaremongering, others sound the alarm. Bottom line: the next ten years will determine how our world will look like in the much longer term. The IPCC – The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – Report, which was presented a week ago is grim.
On track to 1.5°C global warming
The IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report shows that greenhousegas emissions by human activities are responsible for about 1.1°C of global warming since 1850-1900. Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C (2.7°F) or even more over the next two decades. Whether we limit the rise in temperature to this level and avoid the most serious climate impacts, depends on the actions taken this decade.
He must have lived on another planet. The praised novelist and columnist considers the warnings as a trump card in the hands of a coming world government, a certain elite, who wants to control and exploit ‘us’. Consequently we, ‘the ordinary man and woman’, will live in poverty – except for that elite group. A reference to the famous dystopian book ‘1984’ is, of course, not to be missed. Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ would also have sufficed here. Brrrrr, you feel the shivers down your spine.
By now, the criticism of how current crises are being fought has become a predictable read: we are losing our freedom; globalist power-seeking elites want total control; we are fucked when you and me have to pay for all those green, unrealistic measures.
But who am I? Maybe there’s a certain truth in this. To stay open to other convictions and doubt your own, keeps you sharp. That life is uncertain anyway, there’s no doubt about that.
Terrified of change
I rather suspect that those, who find all of it exaggerated, who dismisses the climate debate as scaremongering and behavioral manipulation, are scared to death. They are terrified of change, prefer to go against it, and just want to continue on the same track. As long as nothing has to change and a comfortable life won’t be disturbed. Flying to exotic vacation destinations, the medium rare steaks, the visits to MacDonalds, and the Friday night sushi will never be sacrified. Leaving the thirsty car at the door and taking the train or bike more often? Not a chance. Paying more for green energy, certainly not, let alone turn the heating down a notch and put on a warmer sweater – because that would be poverty. Imagine, suffering from cold, you don’t want that! And consuming more consciously will make your life miserable. No, there is no question of a climate alarm!
‘We are influenced by elites, who have set themselves the task of saving humanity,’ says Leon de Winter, whose fantastic books I devoured as a twenty-something. ‘Wanting to control the climate, as the climate alarmists set out to do, is an illusion,’ he writes in his latest column.
No, it’s about the activities that have a harmful, potentially irreversible impact on the climate, on the health of our living environment. Those activities need to be controlled and because this isn’t happening or not happening sufficiently, scientists, activists, and a part of the population are worried about the health of our planet.
Disconnection from nature
What’s wrong about living more in harmony with “nature,” as climate activists insist that humans should do? The modern human is miles away from it, totally disconnected from nature. You only have to go to the supermarket and look in any shopping trolley that rolls by.
Or in the shelves where practically every product is wrapped in plastic. The fact that plastic disappears into the stomachs of animals and they succumb or become entangled in it, is consequential and secondary to still plenty of people.
Or the miserable lives of cows and chickens in agro business, and then their slaughter to satisfy our hunger for meat. And the gloomy trade in wild animals at Chinese “wet markets,” which may be the origin of the pandemic.
The way our food is produced and the harmful pesticides that are not shunned in the process. This is caused by the total disconnection of human from the natural world. A material world with trade and profit as its absolute number one, that’s what he knows. Ecology and well-being dangle somewhere at the bottom.
You’re not a dreamer when you say that humans are part of nature. As filmmaker David Attenborough, among others, says in his documentary A Life on our Planet: “Humans are a part of nature, not apart from nature.”
To see humans as separate from nature, and that is to place humans above nature, as ruler over the plants, animals, oceans and forests, this is exactly how it went wrong. This process of separation was set in motion centuries ago by the Industrial Revolution.
So when climate activists say that our way of life needs to be more in harmony with nature, it’s rather odd to be opposed to this, unless you don’t think life is worth that much and death and destruction have a certain attraction to you.
A different language
So on top of the fear and loathing of change, there is a kind of death wish. Those who find climate activists to be “bullies” or “fascists” are denying that they are part of a larger and magical whole. They thereby reject their own existence. Another language is spoken, we live in different worlds. A world that is foreign to me, because life is there to be embraced, not rejected.
On this small globe, this blue dot in the universe, people are fussing about who is right regarding the existence of climate change, and where Shell is challenging with armies of expensive lawyers a court ruling in order to be able to reduce CO2 emissions less quickly and less ambitiously, so harmful business and huge profits just will continue. Isn’t it a waste of precious time and energy? Meanwhile, we are in the middle of it, already seeing the consequences of dangerous climate change. Although at the moment we may only see the apocalyptic images on a mobile phone or TV.
Climate debate on a polarizing path
It is frustrating to see why there cannot be more consensus in the climate debate without thinking in labels of left and right, deniers and bullies, ideological elitists and populists. It polarizes. It completely distracts from what concerns everyone: the pollution of air and water, the loss of biodiversity, oceans more dead than alive, extreme drought, heavy rainfall, massive deforestation, and villages burning down. It completely distracts from the climate and ecological crisis we are in the midst of. This year alone, 355,754 hectares of land has been burned down in the EU, an area the size of the island of Mallorca. The brutal result of prolonged drought and heat waves.
If we continue to emit harmful greenhouse gases and maintain our modern, excessive consumption behavior, we will end up living in an unsustainable world. That is precisely what will cause decline, scarcity, poverty and struggle.
Heads in the sand
The climate is changing, but this is not necessarily due to human activity, according to skeptics. Natural causes also play a part. There is no climate crisis at all, they say. In other words, the status quo is not going to change. Just sit back in your chair, look away from the raging fires in Southern Europe, North and South America, Australia and Siberia. Stick your head in the sand for the excessive floods in your own country, Belgium and Germany. Vote for politicians who say climate policy is ‘sustainability nonsense.’
Keep mocking and accusing concerned scientists and citizens of hysteria and fear-mongering. See conspiracies and hidden, evil agendas in scientists’ reports until you, too, are up to your eyeballs in water.
A brief swallow and action
But note, fear stagnates. Frightened by the bleak picture painted by IPCC in its latest report? Don’t be. Better to swallow that lump in your throat and think about what you yourself can contribute to restoring the climate – if you have not already done so (blogpost on this topic on the way!). The fact that governments continue to heavily subsidize the oil and livestock industries, and have plans to expand airports, and banks that keep injecting money into the construction of new factory farms, is no longer acceptable. Making citizens pay for sustainable proposals will also cause problems. Governments must therefore contribute – like they did when saving the banks.
Yes, my individual choices (plant-based diet, solar panels, tiny home, compost, bicycle, etc.) make sense, but there is a big chance they won’t save the world.
Whether I should then be tempted into nihilism and doom and gloom, or conspiracy theories? Stagnation is almost as bad as decline. And that is what many, including the climate skeptics, fear most.
A sustainable world knows prosperity for all. In an unsustainable world, prosperity for all exists only as a goal on paper. A society with prosperity for all is precisely what climate skeptics are always raving about.
Clearly, a requirement to create a sustainable world is that climate change must be addressed at political -, individual -, collective -, and corporate level.
And it is realistic to say that this will be a tough battle.
As Wouter Louwerens writes here , I too am glad I don’t have children. I wouldn’t sleep so well anymore, worrying at night about what kind of future they would have….
Summer is here, time for BBQ parties! The more, the better, no?!
Julia, a woman who I had just met, wanted to thank me. I found her dog that escaped the day after she had adopted her. This lost dog was roaming on the streets, looking at me with a please-don’t leave me look in her-eyes, so I stayed with her the whole day and took her home. With help from the local police I was able to find her owner, Julia.
Happy she and her new adopted dog were reunited again, Julia invited me to come to her BBQ that Sunday. “We would love to have you there,” she said. I felt some hesitation, but appreciated her spontaneous gesture. We exchanged telephone numbers and I said I would write her a message. Her Spanish words left her mouth so rapidly, that I had to do my utmost best to understand her.
The flow of Spanish words wasn’t the only reason. I noticed that I just wasn’t sure if I wanted to be at a BBQ, where — of course — meat and/or fish are served. I can’t even remember when I was at a regular BBQ since I have decided to stop eating animals.
Days passed by without thinking of the invitation until I received a WhatsApp message. Julia asked me if we wanted to come to her BBQ and therefore she wanted to know if my partner and I eat meat. Reading her message I decided to just share my feelings with her. I thanked her for the invitation and said we don’t eat meat, as we follow a vegan life style, in which we only eat plant-based food. I wrote her that I (I didn’t want to speak for Dorus), prefer not attending BBQs where animals are eaten. I didn’t want to be rude, or unthankful, so I weighed my words carefully.
Spain has a true meat- and fish culture.
Spaniards eat more meat than any other EU country (the average Spaniard puts away more than 1 kg a week), slaughtering 70 million pigs, cows, sheep, goats, horses and birds each year to produce 7.6 m tonnes of meat. In a country facing rapid desertification in the coming decades it makes little sense to use 15.000 liters of water to raise each kilogram of meat.
Recently the prime minister of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, said on television in very precise words that to him a medium steak is “imbatible” (unbeatable), in reaction to the brand new nationwide campaign “Menos Carne Más Vida” (Less Meat More Life) of the Minister of consumption. This campaign has been launched to make Spaniards aware of the need to reduce their meat consumption for health and environmental reasons. It has found a lot of resistance by the Spanish agricultural industry, as they are afraid of jeopardising jobs. Sánchez’ performance certainly won’t help to change the meat- and food industry, which is a hell of a rotten system.
“I can’t come, Julia.”
“OK,” she said, “if you ever need anything, you have my number.”
Since I have learned more about the environmental impact of meat and fish and what harm and suffering humans cause to animals, in Big Agriculture and in the slaughterhouses, I have changed. I’m done. I can’t go back to consuming products that contain suffering, stress, torture and death. I can’t. I don’t want to be part of it.
A few years ago friends and family from the Netherlands and New Zealand came to visit us in our new home on Ibiza where we lived back then. It happened to be my birthday too. New Zealanders love to barbecue, and I knew they would love to eat some good meat and fish. Our friend, who is chef, organized the BBQ. I wanted everybody to enjoy at our BBQ party, and I thought that was only possible when animals were eaten. So we served lots of chicken wings, steak, beef, sausages and salmon. Because that’s what you do at a BBQ, right? Coming together, having beers, wines, and fun, while there’s meat on the grill, causing that particular scent of grilled flesh. To me it has always been the scent of summer afternoons. But not anymore. I was a pescarian back then, and I already read a lot of the industry, but still I wanted to please my family and friends.
When I said to Julia I couldn’t come, I wondered: Am I too sensitive? I, who occasionally shivers reading of woke and cancel culture that is inclined to censor those, who don’t think the same. Freedom of speech that isn’t so free anymore.
In these current times of polarization, it seems we can’t discuss differences in opinions in a healthy way. We often feel insulted, hurt, attacked even, when important topics as racism, discrimination, and inequality arrive to the — heated — conversation as we express our political correct opinion.
We live in our own bubbles, the environment in which we interact with people who all think moreless the same. Both in the real and in the digital world, enforced by the pandemic.
I’m aware I’m living in an ecological and vegan bubble and I know damn well, veganism is a lifestyle not everybody agrees with, because we simply aren’t preoccupied by the same things.
We will always live in a world where animals are used and killed for human consumption, because for many people animals are objects and food, not autonomous creatures that feel emotions, like pain and stress and even grief. And giving up meat for environmental reasons, is for the majority of people still non-negotiable.
Once I was at a BBQ for which our friend slaughtered one of his lams. One of my friends, who was vegan, was also invited. I said to her that I would understand if this wasn’t her kind of party. I also had my doubts. But we decided to go anyway. The lady of the house was surprised to see us not eating anything. We could see with our own eyes where the meat came from: a healthy and loved animal of which she had taken good care of since it was born, right? So why didn’t we take some of the meat? We said we just wanted to enjoy the company of the people and some drinks, not the food, as we were vegetarian (I) and vegan (my friend). My friend asked if the little lam perhaps had given a name. The lady of the house replied indignantly “Oh no, of course not. If I had given the lam a name, we would never ever have killed it.”
Uhhm okay..right. My friend and I, we finished the bag of chips.
If I had more energy left in the summer heat that Sunday, I would have spent some time in my tiny kitchen and would have taken a few vegan dishes to Julia’s BBQ. Lentil burgers and almond cheese, home made humus and veggies from the garden. But I rather stayed home in my own vegan bubble and didn’t want to be confronted with tortured flesh on the grill and people enjoying it.
Maybe BBQ loving friends and family are reading this, and think oh no…what is she being silly. Totally in her own vegan world!
If I am in a James Aspey kind of mood, I decline the invitation to your BBQ party and we will catch up another day.
Oeff! That’s quite harsh, isn’t it? Maybe yes, but like the American feminist and political activist Gloria Steinem said:
“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off!”
A second way to respond is this: I say yes, and bring good, tasty food to your BBQ no animal had to be exploited and killed for. We would drink and dance together till the early morn. Patience and stepping out of my vegan world, is what it takes.
Happy Summer – with lots of meatless BBQs!
*The name of the person Julia is fictitious.
**James Aspey is an Australian fitness coach and animal rights activist who speaks of an animal holocaust. He is known for remaining silent for an entire year to raise awareness of animal cruelty.
With disgust we speak about a people. With contempt we speak about a country, whereas we need to aim the arrows at their leaders.
We worry about our next holiday, while half the world is on fire.
We talk about left or right as it is it the one and only truth.
I yell at her, like I am the one who’s throwing bombs.
But I only defend my kingdom, my overgrown garden of thoughts.
As she is protecting hers.
We all live in our bubble.
It’s true, I like to be around like-minded people.
Men and women, who share somewhat the same values.
Idealists with dreams, talking and doing, who are not afraid of change.
Admit they were wrong before, and can change their minds if they have to.
As we are evolving humans.
Those who know we should rather hold back and not always give ourselves priority. In our consumption, flying, travelling, living, polluting, having children. Our industry everywhere. This isn’t a step backwards, but a step forwards.
Men and women, who know that simplify our lives is easier than we are supposed to think.
I still hear myself saying to an Ibizan yogi that veganism is extreme, but meanwhile I admired a friend for being one.
No, I’d rather stay vegetarian and allow myself the pleasure of a pink piece of salmon in a beachy restaurant if I want to. That was my excuse for a long time. Or the tasty Spanish sheep cheese. I just needed to have that every now and then.
Now I understand veganism doesn’t mean sacrifice, but to me it means a richer life. A fuller life, because I’m complety aware I’m a part of a larger whole. I feel interconnected. I am not the only one with interests.
I don’t want to be the cause of suffering. I couldn’t stand by anymore. I couldn’t turn a blind eye to the animal holocaust, normalized by our culture.
We need a political and cultural change if we want the keep the natural world alive – if we want to live on this planet. To rewild our world, changes must be radical. We can wait for our governments to act, but if we -for example- see the amount of livestock won’t shrink, big agriculture being in control, the production of meat still on the rise, and as a result deforestation everywhere, we need to change ourselves.
There’s still no political desire of governments to drastically reduce the amount of livestock, to end this miserable, polluting and wrong industry, and to stop the intense suffering of animals. Commercial interests always have priority. Farmers who feel trapped in a wrong system and take their lives, as it is the only way out.
Until governments finally have the guts to make radical changes to protect our natural world and environment, we have to step away of this fear to change and be our own change. Fear to change paralyses and nothing happens.
Meanwhile, we can be change-makers. You and I, let’s be one.
“Make a difference about something other than yourselves.” ~ Toni Morrison
If the COVID-19 crisis hadn’t started one year ago, we wouldn’t have discovered how fragile our systems, such as economy, healthcare, food and livelihood, are.
Also, in my case, I wouldn’t have recognized how life on the countryside is the best what happened to me. In fact, I have become very grateful to live on the countryside. I see it as a step closer to becoming more resilient to crises.
When I read about families cramped between apartment walls in the city as we were forced by law to stay in our homes, I knew this would be a huge challenge for all these families and particularly not without danger. Not being able to go outside jeopardizes people’s (mental) health.
Many times we said to each other how lucky we were to live on el campo — the countryside — and to be able to be outside in the garden and to walk around. It always seems to be the case when a dramatic event happens, suddenly we come to realize a few things which weren’t so obvious before. We see what’s really important in life, the things that truly matter.
In that sense crises aren’t always bad. They offer new ways of thinking. New ways of being and doing.
The fact that the health of our planet is suffering, that we breathe polluted air that kills us, that wild life is dying, and that we see forests and its inhabitants devoured by ferocious flames, are no urgent reasons for our political leaders and for us to massively reconsider our choices. They haven’t been urgent reasons to make pressing regulations and to slow down for a change.
This pandemic is/was an immediate danger to humans (well, mostly to those who already have health problems, but there certainly have been exceptions too), whilst apparently climate change, the loss of biodiversity and forests aren’t. Because, we don’t see the effects in our daily lives. Not yet. But this could be — again — a new reality in the future to come.
Obviously, the corona-crisis is about human fragility. We are fragile, but so are our systems — health, food, economy, livelihood. I have come to realize that it makes sense to learn about growing our own food, to start community-gardens, or, if we can’t, to make connections with local farmers or shops which sell their products. The huge dependence on supermarkets isn’t a healthy system.
It makes sense to become self-sustainable and to build communities/networks where we can look after each other. This doesn’t mean that viruses won’t kill us, but it makes us less fragile when we need to live through even bigger crises. Yes, it makes sense to become resilient beings, to become more self-sustainable and free.
So, how do we become more resilient, self-sustainable and free people?
Move to the countryside, go completely off-grid, install solar panels, harvest rainwater, grow your own food, poop on a wooden box, make compost, and build yourself a tiny house and live a debt-free life.
Man, that sounds far too drastically, doesn’t it?
I can imagine it does, but I know it is possible. It took my partner and I some years to arrive here. Over the years we completely transformed our lives and we are now those off-grid people, living on 12 square meters. I’m not saying it’s always easy and I never long to a warm, indulging bath.
Of course not everyone likes the idea of having such a lifestyle. But for those who are interested, know you can start by taking small steps.
1. Buy from local market gardeners
We need to eat everyday, so changing the way we provide ourselves with healthy food, is an important step. See if there’s a local farm where you can get your organically grown veggies from. Or a local market where the farmer sells his products. Maybe there’s a community garden nearby or start one with neighbors and friends.
Buying in bulk, such as oats, chickpeas, beans, flour , etc., is cheaper, eco-friendly and makes us less dependent on supermarkets.
2. Live with less and buy less stuff
Things don’t make us happy. Well, maybe they do for a short moment. In Spain the shops were closed for months, so shopping wasn’t an option. I realized I didn’t really miss them, and it even felt life is more simple that way, to realize what’s essential and not.
Ask yourself before buying new stuff, “Do I really need this?”
3. Start saving at a young age
To have a financial buffer is a peace of mind and reduces the stress in times of change. Start young and the benefits come later. I wish I’d been more aware of this when I was younger.
4. Radically cut down expenses
* See if that telephone contract can be cheaper.
* Do you and your partner really need two cars? Public transport is much more economical (and better for the planet). Or, take the bicycle to work.
* Celebrate holidays closer to home.
* Be your own restaurant and cook a nice homemade meal, have dinner parties with friends at home instead of going to a restaurant. I used to go to restaurants a lot. Now it’s only for special occasions.
*If you’re living costs (rent, mortgage) are relatively high, see if changes can be made. If not, consider to move to a more inexpensive, and smaller, house or apartment.
*Invest in that what matters (to you), such as solar panels, a piece of land, trees for wood and fruit, knowledge, such as permaculture and regenerative agriculture or whatever rocks your world.
When we lower our expenses a crisis will hit us less hard, and therefore we’re resilient financially.
5. Work remotely or do “essential work”, but most of all do that what gives you purpose
The bullshit jobs are leaving first, as we could see with this health-crisis. The “essential workers” kept their jobs. The nurses, (mental) health professionals, doctors and all those caring for vulnerable and ill people. Of course, society needs them. The same goes for market gardeners, teachers, some lawyers, some politicians (really just a few, most we don’t need) and engineers. But also the healers, the inventors, the creators, the creatives. Without them the world will be a poor place.
Basically, it all boils down to meaning. With meaningful work, where our heart is, the financial means will follow sooner or later. Honestly, I’m not there yet. I’m investing time and money in the work I believe in and it can be hard sometimes to keep the faith that it will bear fruit any time soon.
6. Find support by having healthy relationships and family and friends who want the best for you
Being connected to people who care, increases resilience. We all need a support system we can rely on and they are those people, they are our community. We can’t do it all on our own. Care about each other, and share resources or exchange goods.
7. Cultivate personal resilience
We are much stronger than we think we are. When difficult times hit us hard, for example the death of a loved one, illness, a divorce, the loss of a child, we will discover how we live through those hardships without losing ourselves if we only see ourselves as victims of the hard circumstances.
To boost resilience we can use these three, powerful strategies mentioned in this beautiful and helpful TED-talk by resilience expert Dr. Lucy Hone:
Acknowledge that shit happens. Human existence means also suffering. Life mostly isn’t shiny, happy pictures on Instagram.
Make an intentional, deliberate ongoing effort to tune in to what’s good in our world. Focus on the things we can change and accept what we can’t.
Always ask ourselves: “Is the way I am thinking and acting helping or harming me?”
Know it is possible to live and grieve at the same time.
I hope these tips will help you to be more resilient, self-sustainable, and free.