Momentum, not direction: thoughts on changing society

I was thinking that many people focus on direction when it comes to climate change. By this I mean that the focus is too much on what we are doing now, and how we should change it. For example, we are outputting this much carbon into the atmosphere. Next year, let’s output less and find ways to do it.

Yes, this is necessary but it is far from sufficient because strategies to change rarely focus on momentum, or why we are heading in this direction in the first place. You know, I recently took a look at rental prices in my home country of Canada, and they’re quite high. Even cheap cities are approaching $2000 Canadian dollars for a small apartment. When I lived there a few years ago, $2000 would be enough to rent a nice house.

What this says is this: the cost of living is still going up. In order to afford this cost, people need to work harder and the only reason why this entire system works is because we are pushing “the economy” forward. This push forward is entirely based upon consumerism, because aside from some special cases, we already have everything we need. Therefore, we are all trying to convince everyone else that all this “new stuff” that we are doing is really making life better, when in reality it is making life worse because it is based upon an unsustainable economy.

Therefore, although we can do things here and there to slow our climate destruction, and doing so is great, the economic signs point to an ever increasing spiral where we are seeping forward through the cracks of sanity, scorching and dissolving everything in our path.

We are headed towards annihilation. People who have some sense of this fall into two categories: either they are too poor or powerless to do anything about it, or they have enough money to escape into nature preserves or other nice places that safely ignore the forseeable future. In reality, we are locked into a direction through our massive momentum to bring up the economy. It is the global economy that is the problem, and as long as it exists, we will have a serious problem because everyone can only exist within it by pushing the system farther up.

For example, if I wanted to move back to Canada, the only possibility would be to further grease the wheels of consumerism in some way. “Go into the woods” you might say. But it is getting increasingly hard to find a place where one can subsist on the wild earth independently. More land is being converted to residential land, which really equates to “land with a house” that requires large sums of money to purchase—money of such quantity that it would be hard to obtain it without contributing significant effort to pushing up the economy.

One of the cheapest alternatives is to buy a tiny house or trailer and set it up off-grid, but one of the main problems is to find land. Although it is possible, there are fewer and fewer places where this is allowed. Of course, there are possibilities, but if it were sufficiently easy, more and more people would do it and eventually there’d be a critical mass of people to do it.

This critical mass would be extremely irritating to property owners and investors who want the price of houses to go up as fast as possible. Since they have most of the money, they would influence laws to make alternative, cheap lifestyles harder. It would also be irritating to big business, who are the most powerful of all, and they will do anything to prevent their empire to fall.

From this discussion, we come to the inevitable conclusion that the world will have a very hard time changing. If we are to have any chance of changing it, we need to fight the foundation of the system at every turn: find ways to make it easier to live sustainably without pushing the economic system higher. Trade instead of buy, buy locally instead of internationally, work less, etc. But even then, we will have a huge fight on our hands because the entire system is kept going by people with immense power who want even more power. Still, it’s something of a chess game: there is intricacy but it only takes one mistake by our opponent, and maybe, just maybe, we can create something new.


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