where we are right now

by john

NASA / JPL / SwRI / MSSS / Gerald Eichstädt / Alexis Tranchandon / Solaris © PUBLIC DOMAIN

“This image of the North polar region of Jupiter was captured by the JUNO spacecraft during Perijove 6 at an altitude of 12578.8 km on 19/05/2017…” – the image has nothing to do with what I’m writing about, but it does give us a sense of perspective. Earth would fit into one of those swirly things. Also, it’s quite beautiful.

I am lucky to have had time to reflect upon the current state of things around us. Here’s what I’ve been thinking about.

Anthropogenic effects on the environment are increasing. Our daily actions do affect the world around us. Something like buying a bottle of water(the water used to create the bottles may be greater than the actual water in it, especially those tiny bottles that you can take a single sip from), for example, or the type of shampoo we use (see: micro-beads), or how often we drive a car (I’m quite guilty of this one!) can have a small, but cumulative effect, especially when a lot of people do these things.

Our forests and coral reefs provide us with the necessary oxygen we need to survive. However, deforestation for food and lumber, along with acidification of the ocean means that the cost of living (in terms of planetary resources) is the health of our planet, our home.

In addition to these problems, there are also the economic problems we created for ourselves. Current humans work on average, more than they have before. This creates an atmosphere of living where we are too tired and fatigued to see and even act upon what is happening on a larger scale.

It can be difficult for any person who is a human being to make changes that you can’t really see the effect of. Our whole economy was inherited from a previous age where we didn’t know what we were doing. Everything is in plastic wrapping, and we are geared up for consumption. After all, once the rubbish is in the bin, I can’t see it. It’s an SEP (Somebody Else’s Problem).

One actually must consciously act, being very careful to avoid any unnecessary waste. There are opportunities everywhere to consume products, entertainment, services. This is extremely difficult for any average person. Self-restraint is a quality we’re not known for. And, you may even say, consumption is good for the economy! We’re moving capital around. If we spend money, everyone gets richer – people do get richer, in terms of monetary terms. Lets look a bit deeper at why people think this.

Back a couple of decades, we decided to walk down the path of “growth”. Growth, it was believed, would answer our problems. If we increase the amount of resources available for everyone, then everyone would benefit. The problems then were (to name a few) of poverty, lack of security, education and low quality of life (famine, infant mortality, early death) – if you can call these things “bad”.

It was found that if everyone created products and services, and everyone consumed the products that other people created, the economy would have “grown”. It has been a success in terms of the standard of living that many people enjoy now, which would not have been possible before. Fewer people died, and they also lived longer. We also got television, entertainment, air-conditioning, vacuum cleaners..etc. etc. Whether or not these things actually made our lives “better” is another story.

It was found that if we took what was in the Earth and transformed it into products that made people’s lives “easier” (I say “easier” because it seems that the products usually end up making our lives more complicated e.g. cars – getting from point A to B faster – gave us traffic jams!) or made people “happier”, and then we purchased these products, then we could say that our economy had “grown”.

However, this “growth” has not entirely been without cost. Our “growth” has come at the cost of our environment, our societies and communities and mental and physical health. We have measured our progress in terms of “growth”. Have we really grown when we work longer hours, spend less time with family and friends and natural landscapes give way to development projects?

The system that we are in to solve our previous problems have created new problems of their own. Income inequality. Rising cost of living. Waste. Pollution. Overcrowding. Also, the system we take part in tends to concentrate wealth in the hands of the few.

Lack of government and family support create an atmosphere of fear which keeps people in the system, working for the “greater good” of growth, which keeps the Man in power. It is actually we who create the Man. The Man doesn’t really exist. We choose to let him exist through our actions.

We’re now here, in 2017, and the things that people want seem to be greater in quantity than ever before. We want meaning in our life. We want internet access. We want to look good. We want experiences that will change us. We want to be happy and entertained. We want a lot of stuff. All of this stuff needs to come from somewhere.

It may be entirely boring to live a life where we try to reduce our use of energy resources to a minimum. It would mean relinquishing all our desires and aspirations. It might even mean giving up our identity, which is something that our modern culture has deified. This is the generation of YOU – the hero of your story. God forbid you live a mediocre, glamourless and boring life. What would be the point of living? Major FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) would be had.

It is often that I see people around me talking about the food they ate, or the places they went, or the experiences they had. I have found that it is the reflection, or thinking about the experiences, which is more valuable than the experience, as it is that which leads to wisdom. It is possible to go everywhere, and arrive at nowhere at all.

I myself have fallen into this trap of trying to find meaning in my life by pursuing “experiences”, and also consuming more resources than absolutely necessary. However, I try to live as simply as I can. Pursue activities which are not resource-intensive, for example.

I suppose the only thing we can do is we can choose the things we do, and be conscious about the effect we have on the world around us.