UNDERSTANDING A BROKEN SYSTEM: THE FIRST STEP TO LIVING IN TRANSITION
When I have conversations with friends and family about changes that I’ve made in hopes that I can live more lightly on the planet, I often don’t know where to start. I don’t want to seem preachy or pushy but also want to be encouraging. For the time being, my community and I are still pegged as “hippies“, “tree huggers”, or just plain old crazy. But I am hopeful for our society to reach a point when our kind of crazy becomes the norm and the excessive and wasteful culture becomes the crazy one.
Until we start to see that type of cultural shift, people are pretty much on their own to find their own entry point into theTransition Movement and discover their own path to resilience, but having worked in this movement for the past few years and sharing stories with others, there is definitely a pattern of behaviour that seems to lead people to action.
The first step to making change in one’s life is often inspired by the realization that whatever is currently in place no longer works.
Doesn’t matter where you start, it’s not hard to see that our institutions are failing us. Looking at the factors that have shaped our first-world culture, particularly in the North America in the last 50–60 years, it’s pretty clear how our choices have led us to our current state of affairs. It’s easy to point fingers and place blame, but I think what we need more than that is a clear picture of the current state of affairs so that we can start to make change. I’ve outlined a couple of articles across a variety of topics. I would argue that our culture in North America is in need of change in the following areas:
- Fork the Economy by Douglas Rushkoff: “We have to stop looking at our economy as a broken system, but one that is working absolutely true to its original design. It’s time to be progressive — and this means initiating systemic changes.”
- REconomy Project: Building Resilient Local Economies by Transition US: “We believe it is both possible and necessary to build a just, regenerative economy that enhances ecological stewardship and quality of life.”http://www.transitionus.org/reconomy-project-building-resilient-local-economies
- Building a Resilient Economy by Matt Stoller: “Today’s economy relies on a globalized supply chain — where a single broken link can lead to widespread financial catastrophe.”
- Our Broken Environment Kills a Quarter of Us by John Tozzi: “Pollution and other hazards caused 12.6 million deaths worldwide in 2012, the WHO says.”
- March temperature smashes 100-year global record by Damian Carrington: “Average global temperature was 1.07C hotter — beating last month’s previous record increase.”
- The Trouble with Cheap Oil by Michael Specter: “High oil prices would force us to find another way to power the world. It was a nice dream, but it’s over now. We are awash in cheap oil.”
- Mental disorders affect one in four people by WHO: “One in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. Around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.”
- Our planet, our health: Report of the WHO Commission on Health and Environment by WHO: “The maintenance and improvement of health should be at the centre of concern about the environment and development. Yet health rarely receives high priority in environmental policies and development plans, rarely figures as an important item in environmental or development programmes, despite the fact that the quality of the environment and the nature of development are major determinants of health.”
- An Epidemic of Mental Disorders? by John M. Grohol: “Every month, I run across a newspaper or online article about how such-and-such mental disorder is an “epidemic.” I can rattle off the disorders that have been paired with this word so far this year — bipolar disorder in children, ADHD, depression and anxiety, a lesser form of schizophrenia… and the list goes on.”
- The end of neighbours by Brian Bethune: “How our increasingly closed-off lives are poisoning our politics and endangering our health”
- Does knowing your neighbours make you happier? by Jillian Glover: “A recent Statistics Canada study confirmed that there is a positive relationship between life satisfaction and individuals’ feelings of belonging to their community and whether they know their neighbours.”
- It’s Time To Fix The Broken Food System by Gunhild A Stordalen: “It is the common denominator running through all the challenges we are trying to tackle with these SDGs: hunger, poverty, climate change and ecosystem degradation.”
- The food system is broken — who can fix it? by the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition: “Inviting all actors to work together is the only way to reach the goal of ending malnutrition in our lifetime”
- 10 things we should do to fix our broken food system by Tamar Haspel: “Over the past couple of years, I’ve gotten ideas about food from a lot of people who grow it, regulate it, supply it, cook it, study it and just think about it. And the list of potential improvements, from farm to table, is long. But making the changes necessary to fix the problems in both our agriculture (pollution, greenhouse gases, soil erosion) and in our diets (too few vegetables, too many calories) requires a fundamental shift in attitude.”
Now that you’ve done your reading on how broken everything is, you probably feel pretty shitty. I know I do. But you know what? There’s a next step.
What’s next? Despair? No friend — there are solutions out there that even some of the articles touch on. The reason I love the Transition Movement is because it’s solutions focused. We’ve all heard how bad things are. We all (hopefully) know all the bad things that we are doing every day that contribute to this broken society. What I think we all need to do is focus on the solutions that are right in front of us.
The solutions might require a change in our behaviour, but more than anything else, I think they require a change in perception, which is sometimes the hardest part.
It truly is hard to change our perception. After 50 years of associating personal wealth with personal happiness, it’s hard to break those two concepts apart. Harder still is to see how personal consumption has anything to do with environmental and social issues. We have been brought up to believe that disposable products that make our lives more convenient are a necessity, and that working harder is a sign of lower class. Or maybe we still hold fast to the response that “I can’t do anything to resolve these problems on my own”. I cry bullshit and I hope you will over time as well. When you’re ready to make the shift, here’s some videos to get you started:
Originally published at livingintransition.com on April 27, 2016.