A Manifesto for Change, Part I, Extreme Draft Version 2.0

[excerpted from a longer draft essay on making leaps into and out of and back into academia with renewed purpose and sense of meaning and value]

After awhile it becomes easier to just keep going than to stop and go back. That’s the way it was once I began this whole thing — I had more momentum going in what I thought was forward than I had energy to stop, retrace my steps, and start up again in the same direction I’d been going. There was no sense of “To hell with this and all of you, I’m going this way,” but rather a sort of reluctant anticipatory excitement of stepping off the buzzing highway for a scratched-out trail along the side. Who knew what it would bring, but the scenery looked awfully better down here in the ivy and nettle and rags of civilization than it did up there on the asphalt.

Once you go, you go, and don’t look back. At least not before you’ve had chance to form some new habits and let go of the draw of the old life you left behind. I’ve had some practice at it before, but really, it may actually get more difficult (in some ways) than it starts out : the first time, you have an inkling about how hard it will be and a whole lot of faith to carry you through that in the firm belief that it’s better on the other side. The times after, you have full knowledge of how hard it will be and not quite so much faith that it is so much better, just more certainty that it will be better in a lot of ways, and hopefully better in the right ways, and a whole lot of not so much better or even worse in a bunch of other ways. And there’s no way to tell which way it goes from the outset when you first set out. So you go. So it goes.

I’m waxing pedantic and stalling for time. I hate to make a decision. Always have.

So here I am having just finished a double Masters degree in a subject that half the United States of America believes shouldn’t be taught in elementary school. I’ve been groomed and self-taught and encouraged to grind myself down to the nub for the clean, hard truth; the virtuous pursuit of knowledge. I’ve believed all of it, until I woke up one year with the back of the camel broken. Nietzche’s lion had been born; I had been a beast of self-imposed burden long enough.

Setting out on what I gratuitously think of as some kind of new life is fraught with anxiety. It’s a presumptuous undertaking to make a sharp left turn from what you’d been doing all along. The things I thought about doing when I started out have been done, have been being done for 10 years by people that started later, younger, more naive than I did. The difference is that I didn’t do them: they were in the future, for when I had sufficiently prepared myself. Armed with a bachelor’s degree in ecology I suppose it wasn’t altogether a bad idea; perhaps when this whole movement thing is fading out I’ll still be worth something, if I start now to put some groundwork and real skills behind the paper.

By habit it quickly feels like a race — I’m late, I’m late, I waited too long and am just another 30-something refugee from city living, now joining the farming crowd as we’re flocking to land that was cheap ten years ago before anyone was really scrambling to get at it. Way back before farming was cool.

They are buying up land like mad now, grabbing at the arable spaces, expropriating our food production before our very eyes. We roll through rolling hills of Belgium, northern France, fields of nodding wheat drying under the hydro towers and windmills, rows of green oaks and beech, great stretches of corn with their yellowed tassels hanging out like tongues. Where do you start with this kind of automated landscape, this space tailored to the tractor and plow? Carve it up into patches and farm it all by hand? And what could be so wrong with that, if people feed themselves and live a better life?

What will the next trend be? Surely sorting that out first is the trick to deciding what to do first, next.

We will grow plants on the sides of buildings; that’s nothing new.
Will all these people tire of farming, go back to yearning for the comfort of a capitalist life? I think the movement will continue but it always changes — in which direction, then?

Banks will be gone. Credit unions will be the way out. Move your money.
We will eat small things; microlivestock will proliferate, taboos struck down first as novelty and then by necessity. Mealworms, earthworms, crickets, larvae. Invasive species will become an increasing problem, particularly with the explosion of the permaculture movement: although there will be increasing awareness of the impact of non-native species, the damage is being done already. Novel ecosystems, urban ecology, altered landscapes will become the norm. In the bid to save ourselves the extinction of species will become passé.

The gaps will widen. Airtravel will become the realm of the upper middle class and rich; the poor and off-the-grid will proliferate as we colonize Mars, which will happen in the next 10 to 25 years. It seems inevitable. Biobubbles will become increasingly common as a means to escape the rampant pollution. Look to what China is doing, the Asian countries. How are they protecting themselves, innovating, changing ways in order to cope?

The Arctic will be plundered, tankers will foul Hecate Strait and the Northwest Passage. There will be continued uprising and people will be disappeared. The north will be the new South American tropics; Nunavut and the Northwest Territories and the islands, the new Ecuador, Colombia, Chile, Venezuela. They will be military zones run by cooperating US-Canadian military. What Russia’s role, China’s, remains to be seen. Brazil, even?
Indigenous languages will continue to wink out one by one, mostly unheard. In Canada and other colonial nations, indigenous lands sold off piecemeal as they become private property, advocated by chiefs raised in colonial systems, by residential schools, bearing the Christian mark of capitalism. On it goes.

The top five things?
Food security. Criminalization of food autonomy.
Water security. Criminalization of water autonomy.
Peak oil. Fossil fuels. The Arctic, drilling, tankers, pollution.
Desertification, fires, drought. No water where there was never enough.
Flooding and landslides. Too much water where it was always plentiful.

And a growing split between the super rich and the extreme poor, but with growing cohesion between the latter and fierce and brutal competition between the former. Wholesale slaughter of the poor by the rich for the last of the resources, expropriation, lawlessness, exploitation. The only ways to fight it?

Fight ignorance. Know your legal rights, in the sense of both laws and real personal freedoms. Build a network. Know who is fighting the same battles, and support each other.

Educate yourself, educate your children, educate others and others’ children. Read, criticize, ask questions. Learn to read scientific literature and know the difference between a well-designed and a prejudiced study. Get your information from reliable sources and know what constitutes a reliable source. Know how to discern the parts that may be reliable and those that aren’t: few, if any, are wholly one or the other.

Recognize the incremental erosion of personal freedoms when you see them. From a single health inspector at a community market to politically-motivated funding cuts, know when your freedom to live as a healthy, educated, happy individual, in control of your own livelihood and well-being, is infringed upon.

Get outside your bubble. Talk to other people. Learn languages, talk to the elders in your community, learn from those around you, and teach them. Spend more time outside, in your garden, with your kids, turning soil and cleaning water and keeping a close eye on what is going on around you. Know the wildlife in your backyard. By recognizing their names you will know instinctively when something changes, for the worse or better.

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