“Sustainability is too hard, there’s nothing I can do!” It’s easy to throw your hands in the air and just give up. The plight of rising prices and rising risks makes ‘saving the world’ seem like a job left for superheroes. It’s a common excuse. But that’s all it is: an excuse. It is not a fact and it is not a justification to carry on blindly. Of course, it is a fair question to ask whether one person can really do anything to make a better world, but let that not be the end of your questioning. Do not let the scientific disbelief suppress your artistic faith. No-one asked you to make a difference, but you want to, don’t you? I want to urge you to engage with that restlessness you feel, and to follow that desire to do good.
The game of sustainability doesn’t seem like a game we can win. This is true. Things seem to be getting worse, wherever we look. But why? It’s not like we don’t have the technologies – we do! And it’s not like we don’t want to either – why else would be complaining so much? I think it is because we have decided to not face up to the challenge. We have acknowledged the difficulties and have given up. It’s quite pathetic. The whole thing about sustainability is that it is unreachable, so get over it. No-one knows what a perfect relationship between nature and society looks like. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t get better. We can, and so we should never settle. We may never win, but we can certainly lose – if we quit.
Self-doubt comes from being overwhelmed by the complexity at hand. Everything seems bigger and out of control – out of reach. This knowledge of the world comes across as something new and chaotic, but it has always been there. If you don’t confront it, it can confuse you and complicate things that are already complex. Chances are you’ve been thinking too much. And as a friend often says to me, ‘with over-analysis comes paralysis’. Complexity is a beautiful thing, but at some stage we are going to have to put a frame on it. We are going to have to take the chance and back what we believe is the right thing to do. Taking that risk will be the most responsible thing that you have ever done. Once we get exposed to these complex things – these twisting and turning interconnections and interactions, these rich relationships between structures and systems – we cannot escape the ethics of our decisions. So let’s be positive.
Give in to intuition! We are still so hung-up on glorifying rationality and reason and rules and all that rubbish. Well, it’s not rubbish, obviously, but on its own and without a bit of individuality and feeling, these are things that are not adequately matched in our forever-changing world. When we wrestle with the complex conflicts that we face in times of transition, our moral codes may not apply – what we once thought was Godly and absolute, may turn out to be just religious and absent. There’s no denying the multiplicity of perspectives and procedures when it comes to things like addressing food security or education. But, after your worries have relaxed, what does your intuition tell you? Let your heart balance out what’s going on in your brain. Let’s start engaging more with our consciousness. Let’s exercise our soul. Albert Einstein is always a good person to quote when arguing these kinds of things. He said: “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.” Sounds about right.
The world is changing, our societies are changing, our whole global systems are changing, and if we don’t embrace this then, well, we die. There are two things to remember from this. One, we cannot let apathy get the better of us, so let empathy take over for a bit. Surely, we would want to be remembered for taking on these crises in a positive light? If you don’t want to make a change, you will find an excuse, but if you do, you will find a reason. So let’s! And speaking of reason, this brings us to our second point. We will continue to rationalise things – this is how we make sense of the world, this is how we make meaning. However, it takes a lot of energy. So give this a break every now and then, and just let your thoughts flow and feelings follow. Don’t underestimate your imagination. Where do you think all our rules come from? From experiments that were guided by intuition, perhaps? It’s just a hunch.