Tag Archives: happiness

Playing for Change: “Stand By Me”

This is a video of street singers from around the world being recorded, overlaid and mixed with one another while singing “Stand By Me”. Truly inspirational and shines a bright light onto the key question of our times: what do we truly value?
So turn up the speaker volume and go to widescreen!

Stand By Me | Playing For Change | Song Around The World from Concord Music Group on Vimeo.

Playing for Change is a multimedia movement created to inspire, connect, and bring peace to the world through music. The idea for this project arose from a common belief that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people. No matter whether people come from different geographic, political, economic, spiritual or ideological backgrounds, music has the universal power to transcend and unite us as one human race. And with this truth firmly fixed in our minds, we set out to share it with the world.

Reclaim Your Mind

EcoHustler is inspired by Adbusters. Not least for their refusal to allow our shared space and reality to be owned and controlled by corporations who exist solely to sell shit and make money. Much is made of the corporate take over of nature, our lives and our economies but what about the corporate take over of our minds!?

Photo by James Porto, jamesporto.com

Our sensitive brains are bombarded with negative and unsustainable messaging as soon as we walk out the door. People in cities can be hit with up to 2000 messages a day urging them to buy shit they don’t need. No wonder well-being is declining and the natural world is collapsing. Reality is a mass, shared hallucination and with this relentless onslaught of carefully crafted messaging human behaviour is normalized in a pathological state of endless wanting.

It is not just nature we are paving over but our minds.  the practical and proactive response is to ‘culture jam’. That is to compete with an alternative narrative that  can help people see that another world is not only possible… it is preferable, imminent and will be co-created by us. To spark a wave of epiphanies that shatter the consumerist worldview. We must all fight against pro-consumerist advertising wherever it rears its ugly head.

Ads Work by Ron English

Responding online is all well and good…. but there is a danger we just preach to the converted. How do we reach the people out on the street, walking between the invasive advertising hoardings? How can we offer an alternative message?

Positive urban messaging by Paula Chang http://www.quitecurious.com

Not: drink cola to be happy or drive a car to have status or spray this chemical to get laid. But: breathe, exist, create, grow, resist, love and be a part of something bigger than ourselves; something with meaning.

To reach people we have to be brave and head out at night with our faces covered. We have to find the shadows and upload our home-grown messaging to the urban fabric. We need to give the human beehive a repaint.

Problem Me, Solution Me by stevele7

This is your invitation to get involved. Download an eco-propaganda poster and stick it up in your neighbourhood using the wheat pasting instructions below. Even better, design your own poster and send it in. The best posters submitted will be featured on this site available for others to use.

Useful links:

Banksy: Napalm

Turbo Charge Your Love This Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is the culturally appointed moment when we affirm our love and appreciation for our partner. En mass we get amorous and consummate our passion. Naturally capitalism feasts on this kind of mass behaviour. In today’s world Valentine’s Day comes with a price tag and the costs are not just financial.

Many of the things marketed to us come with unpleasant impacts that we may not be aware of. By causing harm elsewhere these gifts dent our karma and unbeknownst to us muffle our mojo. Buying imported Kenyan roses, any kind of disposable tat or, god help us all, a diamond, actually reduces the total amount of love in the world. Is this what you want!? If it isn’t… avoid the dodge and go with the natural, free and sexy alternatives listed below.

Valentine’s Gifts that harm

  1. Roses: Roses bought in UK supermarkets at this time of year are almost exclusively from Lake Naivasha. It is drying out like the Aral Sea, the hippos are gone and the people are denied access to the lake. Full story here.
  2. Disposable tat: your partner may giggle when you first give them the plastic: heart, teddy bear, balloon… whatever… but it ends up in the Earth poisoning nature. Buying less stuff is the only real way to consume sustainably.
  3. Diamonds: there is no such thing as an ‘ethical’ new diamond… even if De Beers says there is. They probably have human blood on them. If they don’t they have almost definitely been torn from the guts of the Earth from one of the biggest holes ever dug . Not nice.

    Lesotho mine in South Africa (world's biggest)

Valentine’s gifts that turbo charge your love

We cannot ‘ethically shop’ ourselves out of the collapsing biosphere. We must buy less stuff. But don’t sweat! Research shows this makes us happier. Maximize your mojo with these cunning manoeuvres:

  1. Massage: the benefits of massage are manifold and on Valentines day the chances of a ‘happy ending’ are high! If you are not the massaging type get down to Wahanda to get you and your partner a bargain massage.
  2. Local Food: tastes better, fun to cook, better for you. Can’t be arsed to cook? Use this website to find a local restaurant serving local food… lovely!
  3. Home made: cards, poems, pictures. Being creative boosts your well-being whilst showing you do actually give a shit.
  4. Vintage: if you need to buy a ‘thing’ make sure you are reusing. Vintage diamonds and more can be bought at the enchanting Grays Antique Market in London.
  5. Plant a ‘love tree’ together. If your partner won’t plant a ‘love tree’ with you… this probably means they are planning to dump you or that they are shagging your mate. Buy a native tree, grab your lover, find a good spot and get planting. Feels good right? that’s Gaia blowing you a kiss.

The Love Tree by Isdelth: http://isdelth.deviantart.com

GO ECO… work less!

Are you tired of the 9-5 grind and stressful commuting? Are you fed up of not having enough time for friends, family and interesting pursuits? How would you like a 3 day weekend? Well the good news is that a less stressful, more pleasurable and more fulfilling lifestyle could be just around the corner. This post outlines a proposal for a new campaign to reduce the working week to 4 days.

Crisis in Chinese is danger and opportunity

The Triple Crunch of an economy in meltdown, declining well being and a collapsing biosphere requires us to work less to slow down and rationalize the economy and to provide space for ourselves and the planet to breathe. As we work less we can make time to nurture our environment, communities and selves back to rude health and orient society away from its current pathological trajectory.

The ‘green movement’ is evolving into a popular mass-movement that is seizing the opportunity presented by the multiple crises of a changing world to co-create the future that we want. This rapidly expanding new agenda presents the opportunity to reinvent how we spend our most precious commodity… our time.

Sections:

  1. Work Less; Live More; the case for a shorter working week
  2. The New Monday
  3. Environmentalism is dead… long live the environment!

1.      Work Less; Live More

I must create a system or be enslaved by another man’s

William Blake

Wlliam Blake's Angel of Revelation

To succeed a campaign must have at its core a sound argument making the case for change. Fortunately, the brains at the New Economics Foundation have done all the hard work and produced a bulletproof case for why people, planet and the economy all benefit when we collectively agree to work less. The vision section of their report ‘21 Hours’ states:

A ‘normal’ working week of 21 hours could help to address a range of urgent, interlinked problems: overwork, unemployment, over-consumption, high carbon emissions, low well-being, entrenched inequalities, and the lack of time to live sustainably, to care for each other, and simply to enjoy life.

The report also looks at the necessary conditions for shifting to the 21 hour week and how to overcome transitional problems. In a little more detail here are the 3 main:

Planet: moving towards a much shorter working week would help break the habit of living to work, working to earn, and earning to consume. People may become less attached to carbon-intensive consumption and more attached to relationships, pastimes, and places that absorb less money and more time. It would help society to manage without carbon-intensive growth, release time for people to live more sustainably, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

People: a 21-hour ‘normal’ working week could help distribute paid work more evenly across the population, reducing ill-being associated with unemployment, long working hours and too little control over time. It would make it possible for paid and unpaid work to be distributed more equally between women and men; for parents to spend more time with their children – and to spend that time differently; for people to delay retirement if they wanted to, and to have more time to care for others, to participate in local activities and get their groove on.

Economy: shorter working hours could help to adapt the economy to the needs of society and the environment, rather than subjugating society and environment to the needs of the economy. Business would benefit from more women entering the workforce; from men leading more rounded, balanced lives; and from reductions in work-place stress associated with juggling paid employment and home-based responsibilities. It could also help to end credit-fuelled growth, to develop a more resilient and adaptable economy, and to safeguard public resources for investment in a low-carbon future.

Time to get out of the Rat Race?

A quick word to the ‘traditionalists’ out there, the ‘tradition’ of working a 5 day week is a product of industrial capitalism which is about 200 years old. For millennia preceding this people would not have worked 9-5 (unless they were slaves). People would have spent the majority of their time living in local communities raising families and together ensuring they have enough to live. Also, it has already has several times already:

  • The US state of Utah became the first state in the U.S. to mandate a four-day workweek for most state employees to widespread acclaim as described in Time Magazine and the Independent.
  • For the first two months of 1974, the Conservative government under Edward Heath imposed a three-day week to save energy during a time of soaring inflation, high energy prices, and industrial action by the National Union of Mineworkers.
  • And of course the French took a big step in the right direction when they legislated for a 35 hour week. Of course Sarkozy with his sad desperation to be just as ‘free’ market as his western allies reversed this. He probably said it would make France more ‘competitive’, which, of course, is exactly the problem. Nations competing to be richer than their neighbours leads to a global Tragedy of the Commons. In the end we all lose out. This illustrates why a successful campaign must be international… which could easily be achieved by an alliance between international green groups and the international labour movement. A directive from the European parliament could bind this influential continent together as a start.

Machines do the work so we don't have to

Europe is the natural place for this campaign to start. This is where the industrial revolution began. At the time it was understood that machines doing man’s labour would provide for more leisure time. John Maynard Keynes, called it ‘technological unemployment’ and Nobel Laureate Economist Wassily Leontief wrote:

“The role of humans as the most important factor of production is bound to diminish in the same way that the role of horses in agricultural production was… diminished…by the introduction of tractors.”

Whilst nationalists, racists and other fools blame unemployment on the natural human phenomenon of immigration the real cause is going unaddressed in the public debate: Technological Unemployment.

But wait a second… isn’t Technological Unemployment a good thing? Unless you think you were born to work; machines doing work frees up our time for other important activities. We don’t have to rigidly fill our lives with work and there is no point sweeping the decks of the Titanic as it heads straight for an iceberg. Better to storm the cockpit and head for open water!

Apocalyptic urge? image credit azrainman

Why are we working 5 days a week? To what end? The puritan work ethic is fundamentally inverted when the work you are doing, by driving economic growth, is actually driving environmental meltdown and pushing our species to extinction. Once we accept that endless growth and wealth accumulation are both impossible and undesirable we can shift our work habits to better suit our needs and values.

The material economy must shrink. To think this need be restrictive for the human experience is the essence of the problem of the modern age. There is far more to life than stuff. Limitless growth is achievable in science, ideas, knowledge, art, music and sport. We already control too great a proportion of the material flows of the planet and so all future growth must be dematerialized. One popular and practical step in the right direction is building into the week a day which is not for work-for-money and not just a ‘day off’. In doing so we create space for other activities of critical importance to society such caring for relatives, growing our food, helping in our communities, keeping fit, having hobbies, being creative, playing sport developing skills and shifting to sustainability and all the other things we like to spend our time on.

Reach for the stars

Anyone who thinks this change is unrealistic needs to broaden their perspective. The 5 day week was totally arbitrary. It could have been 3 days! Furthermore it is a human invention. This is in stark contrast to the planet, biosphere or atmosphere. All of which we depend on, we cannot create and which our human experiment in endless work, economic growth and waste production is currently destroying. Reinventing the work week is far more practical then reinventing a stable biosphere.

There are many things in our lives we cannot change. Things like the laws of physics, the size of earth and the amount of oil underground. Then there are the things we can change. Culture is the sum total of humanity’s attitudes, opinions and knowledge. This is easily changeable. It can be transformed through stories, art, conversations and by forwarding the link to this blog. Start telling your friends, colleagues and neighbours… we don’t need to work 5 days a week. It is stressing us out and it is destroying our world. So let’s stop.

2. The New Monday

The beauty of creating a new Monday is the opportunity this gives us as individuals and a society. This should not be another day of burden but can we invent a Monday that draws out the best in us? How this day works should clearly be a national debate which could be a core part of the campaign. However, to get the juices flowing here are some options for Mondays, perhaps they could be on rotation? Some ideas:

Community Monday: people contribute some of their day to local community initiatives. This could include caring for the elderly, running projects for local kids or overcoming a local challenge with neighbours.

Eco Monday: it’s time to get together and give nature a helping hand! Teams of switched-on humans can trek out and get: tree planting, litter picking, ecosystem surveying and building: nature reserves, bug houses, bat boxes or green roofs.

Farming Monday: city folk and others travel to local farms to help with food production. Helps people to understand where the food comes from and has the added benefit of reducing the carbon intensity of agriculture.

Lifelong Learning Monday: adults descend on universities, schools and colleges to further their education. Not for professional development… just for the sake of learning. Courses in cooking, pottery, Tantra and Zen can run alongside astro-physics and ecology.

Loving Mondays: love, nurture, care, heal, get jiggy.

Need more? Check out http://idler.co.uk/
Still
not convinced? Here are: 16 reasons for a 4 day work week.

3. Environmentalism is Dead… Long Live the Environment!

Dream no small dreams for they have no power to move the hearts of men.


Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

As far back as 2004 with the publication of The Death of Environmentalism the traditional approaches of the green movement have been criticized for its failure to create significant widespread change to the way we live. We have known about species extinctions, toxicity, resource depletion and even climate change for over 50 years… so why aren’t we all living locally in human-scale communities enjoying life and living in harmony with the natural world?

Well it seems some historical trends are hard to argue with. There are 6 billion humans sharing this planet; population is totally unregulated and rapidly expanding and the industrial capitalist juggernaut is relentlessly commodifying every aspect of our world (including time) and with ruthless efficiency, systematically training our children to become ‘normal’ i.e. rabid workers / consumers.

The Red Queen

Environmentalists are badly outgunned. The ‘conventional economy’ we are seeking to change is the ceaseless competition of 6 billion individuals seeking resources. This competition, driven by self-interest maintains the cut-throat economy. However, the triple crunch turns everything on its head; as explored in Racing the Red Queen to Oblivion, if humans cannot consciously overcome the genetic urge to compete for resources then civilization will collapse. To rapidly get the message out and create the necessary change to move to a scientifically grounded, resource based, sustainable economy we have to get smart, pick our fights carefully… and learn from past mistakes.

The classic mistake, discussed in Death of Environmentalism, is to be too literal and too narrow in focus allowing the agenda to be pigeon holed as special interest; a bitter irony seeing as nothing in the human domain can exist without the ‘environment’. We need to reframe the argument. Or to put it another way, we should stop talking about the environment altogether.

To succeed we must reframe sustainability as a journey to increased freedom, happiness, more and better quality time and stronger communities. We need to build our campaigns upon values that run deeper then the distorted values (use a different word for values?)  that have emerged from the temporary aberration of industrial capitalism and its associated distorted culture. For example, rather than being anti-car lets be pro healthy, local communities where people can live and work without the need to regularly commute long distances.

Aside from the overarching problem of talking as though the environment was special interest or peripheral to the ‘serious reality’ of human affairs. 2 (two) critical mistakes that we keep repeating in campaigns are 1) being negative (or unpopular) and 2) not being ambitious enough.

First up, Nic Marks explains clearly in this very important Ted Talk how describing nightmare scenarios does not motivate people to change. It leads to a fight or flight response. Either: fight the environmentalist, run a mile, or ease yourself gently into the cool, slow waters of denial.

Falling polar bear

Environmentalists have made the mistake of telling people the world is going to end and then telling them to stop doing something they like. A classic case is the sustained, high profile attack on aviation. Campaigning against flying in general (as opposed to new airports or short haul) alienates people in the middle ground who may be sympathetic to environmental issues but not so much that they are not prepared to stop flying altogether. It allows the media to portray the green agenda as detrimental to the happiness of the masses when societies happiness is actually fundamental. The infamous Plane Stupid video of polar bears falling from planes is a case in point. This isn’t going to stop people flying it will just confuse and upset them and possibly make them angry.

Furthermore, aviation clearly serves an important role for humans above and beyond holiday travel. Ask anyone with a lover or family member on another continent how they feel about aviation being banned and you will see why this is always going to be an unpopular ‘victory’ at best.

Technically the argument is weak too. We can make space for well regulated aviation in a future sustainable world. It just requires we take a global perspective on resource use and ensure that the eco footprint of aviation is an agreed proportion of the total human eco footprint that we have scientifically ascertained the atmosphere / biosphere can tolerate.

Not a chimney

In contrast, there are many parts of our bloated, inefficient, unscientific economy that do nothing for human well being but have vast ecological footprints. The most obvious waste of resources resulting in declining well being is war as explored in ‘peace… or die’. Much of our infrastructure is inefficient by design as explored in ‘this is not a chimney’. What about the fact that we import and export the same amount of lamb and apples to New Zealand? This vacuous element of globalization is monstrously dim-witted. Even the free market apostles who relentlessly sell us myths standing on a smoking planetary pyre must have trouble explaining how it in any way makes sense to endlessly ship products around the world when local alternatives exist. Or why we should create something called ‘waste’ which we return to nature by the billions of tonnes?

Looking through this lens we see that the environmentalist obsession with attacking aviation is misguided. Our priority should be stopping behaviours with big eco footprints but low utility. Aviation has immense value and attacking it will make the green agenda unpopular at exactly the time that we need to be igniting a poplar mass movement.

'I have a dream'

Greens are waking up to the fact that Martin Luther King changed history by saying ‘I have a dream’ (not nightmare) and that rather than beating with a stick we should be luring with a carrot. For example: if you live / work locally you will have healthier communities and more time with you family; if you cycle or walk to work you will be slimmer, healthier and save money; if you have interesting hobbies using your creativity you will be saner and happier than if you spend every weekend in the shopping mall.”  These are the hallowed sustainability double dividends explored in more detail on the Green and Happy page; ways in which we can boost well being whilst reducing our eco footprint. Collectively these activities make the happier, healthier world we are trying to move to and should be the first behaviour changes to go for. HRH Prince Charles is ahead of the game (again) with the launch of his new Start Initiative which promotes positive activities.

The next campaign issue to address is low ambition. We have been watching with dismay as the UK 10:10 campaign (which started with such a flourish) seems to have shrunk in ambition so low to a point that it has now morphed into a campaign simply to get the UK government to shift the daylight savings times. Even this small, logical change apparently requires a campaign (with requests for donations and fax-your-mp click-throughs!). Couldn’t this kind of small step be achievable through a well presented argument or report put to the right parliamentarian? There are only so many times we can mobilize people to take an action so when we do we should make sure the outcome is worth it.

So let’s dream big; imagine the future we want; be ambitious and go for big popular issues that will make a significant difference to our world. First up… the Work Less; Live More Campaign.

NB: Before launching any campaign it is highly recommended to check the excellent Campaign Strategy website.

All you really wanted
Was enough.

Which is to say
You only wanted more.

Ram Tzu knows this…

What you now have
Is all you’ll ever have.

Ram Tzu

A Critical Mass of dissent… on wheels

Critical Mass, June 2010, London

On the last Friday of every month something strange, spontaneous and spectacular happens on the streets of central London. The roads are congested (as always) however; they are not filled with big, heavy, dangerous machines that spew out poison gas. They are filled with cycle fanatics who insist on propelling themselves around the place under their own steam; powered by whatever they last ate. This is Critical Mass and it’s a wonderful improvement to the city.

The rendez-vous

Meeting on the South Bank

For a brief time this enthusiastic, motley assortment of London residents join together to reclaim the streets and celebrate their freedom of movement. The giant mobile herd is diverse composed of people of all shapes, sizes, colours and affluence; bound together by the shared love of self propulsion.

This melange of misfits meets up on the South Bank at 18.30. The air is buzzing with excitement as friends reunite. Beers are cracked open, bikes admired and tales of surviving on the mean streets of London traded.

Riders crossing the Thames

Soon the crowd swells like water behind a damn and the air is filled with the dinging of bells. Anticipation gives way to urgency and the cracks in the damn start appearing as the first brave riders head up the ramp to the Imax cinema roundabout and off into the heart of the city. The hive-mind has been engaged and without an agreed route or leader the peloton surges forth to find its way to an unknown destination.

Riders

A mobile sound system

Once beyond the safety of the South Bank you find yourself on roads which have had their ownership seized by the sinister Cult of the Car. So powerful is this cult that the membership is utterly convinced, despite all the evidence that it is reasonable to sit in giant polluting snakes of mechanized metal along the arteries that traverse our giant human beehives. They have suspended rational thought to the point that they cannot see the obvious truth that cars and cities don’t go. Like square pegs and round holes, metal and microwaves and turds in swimming pools.

Whoop!

By invidious means the perverse, sociopathic behaviour of these cultists has been normalized so that London is now permanently shrouded in a haze of pollution and death on London’s roads is an accepted part of city life (4000 deaths by air pollution, 184 deaths by traffic collisions in 2009, 3043 serious injuries). This is the price we are all supposed to pay for the mythical individual convenience that leaps out from billboards but never comes close to manifesting in a city where millions of people are compelled to share limited space and move about each other in some kind of harmonious diurnal cycle.

It's fun for kids

Maybe it’s a power thing, maybe it’s a class thing or maybe it’s the myopic and inapt conflation of technology with progress. Whatever it is, car drivers are convinced the road is theirs as if cars always existed and always will. Car drivers naturally assume that they always have priority over cyclists. So when drivers have to wait as a giant swarm of happy riders surges by in front of their over-engineered wheelchairs they literally start having a nervous breakdown. They froth at the mouth, throw their rattle out of their motorized prams, bang their neo-luddite skulls against the steering wheel and curse the unjust laws that prevent them from teaching us once and for all that cars are mightier by driving through us in a glorious eruption of fossil-power.

Refueling

They scream out of their windows that they are trying to get somewhere and how dare we be so inconsiderate as to hold them up. They might think we would care but they are speaking to the wrong audience… big time.

There is not a single person on this ride that doesn’t have to daily put up with the gross imposition of the car. Day after day we breathe in their fumes, wait as they block up huge sections of the city and weep as they kill our friends. Day after day we peer into the windows of cars filled with solitary occupants and try to comprehend how the system screwed up their weak little minds so badly that they think this offensive behaviour is okay. They are crapping in the swimming pool daily and like thieving mps they say it is okay because it is not against the law. For once they can wait. The bikes are biting back.

Negotiating road space allocation

It might not seem like much but actually it is. This is the sharp edge of a wedge of dissatisfaction against the tyranny of the car. A critical mass of dissent is growing on the streets if London. For one evening a month, for a couple of hours, we take control of the streets. For a fleeting moment in time we can cycle in safety surrounded by friends and music. We can see the city as it could be…. as it should be. Open and flowing, alive not dead.

This is what cities in the future will be like. And the happy and healthy residents of these cities will remember these pioneer cyclists who took a stand for something they believed in against seemingly insurmountable odds and raise a glass to them.

Makes you think... dunnit!

More photos from Critical Mass:

Not all the pedestrians are 100% supportive

Father and son

Die hards

Fun

Explaining the new rules of the road

Amusing

Who's bike you looking at bitch?

The ride home

The 45 Metre Underground Club

Sexy Paris street art

The mile high club is for irresponsible yuppies. The cool kids are getting down and dirty 45m below sea level. A secret and fruity underground society has been spicing up European travel with sexy visits to the water closet while hurtling under the channel tunnel. Is our fast track to the world’s most romantic city fast becoming a giant Tunnel of Love?

The era of mass short haul air travel is coming to an end. Even if it were not for climate change the level of security has now made moving through airports almost as bad as a visit to Dubai. You have to give it a wide berth! Anyway, for us in the UK there really is no need to fly apart from the occasional long haul (if it is highly important).

Le Gare du Nord

The Channel Tunnel has opened up the whole of Europe to the  British low carbon traveller. Within a day you can reach the slopes of the Alps, the beaches of the Mediterranean and all the other sweet things continental Europe has to offer. For the more adventurous a ferry from Marseille opens up North Africa.

People assume that flying will be quicker but actually the door-to-do time can be similar for trips to the Alps and the Med but the time is far better spent on a train. Reading a book, with the world rushing by outside the window is pure bliss. There is far more leg room and opportunities to stretch. The air is clean and at boarding there is far less standing around like a dejected farm animal awaiting castration.

A hot couple at the Notre Dame

Now that the UK’s young, aspirational intelligensia are making use of the Eurostar for romantic breaks to Paris (or further afield) it was only a matter of time before a select new club would form. You’ve done it in a plane, you’ve done it in the back of a church, you’ve done it at your Gran’s… now it’s time to do it hurtling at 200mph through the channel tunnel 45 metres below sea level.

EcoHustler is diligent about staying ahead of the curve and maintaining thorough research so that all information on this site is cutting edge and absolutely verifiable. We had to know if this mysterious club existed; what membership really entailed and any other grizzly details that could be uncovered.  Return tickets to the not-so-gay Paris were purchased. A couple of nights booked in a sweet little hotel in Montmartre overlooking the red light district. Then I simply had to call on my trusty side kick, the beautiful and daring Ms A. Minx to come along for the ride.

Rocking Parisian musicians

It wasn’t until the yawning cavern of the Channel Tunnel approached that I began to explain the true nature of the mission to Ms A. Minx. She was stunned to learn of the 45 m underground club and shared my desire to find out more. I proposed an undercover research mission. Did she consent? Your damn right she did! The EcoHustler is now a member of both the mile high club and the 45 m underground club and I can tell you which one I am more proud of joining.

Free to use bikes

Occasionally life can get monotonous and we need thrills, spills and vacations. As Eurostar and this fruity little club are clearly revealing you can now get what your heart desires for a minimum carbon footprint. So the next time you need a romantic break head to Paris and join the 45 m undergrouns club. Any members are welcome to post word of their adventures below.

Here are some useful low carbon travel options:

The man in seat 61

How to travel by train or ship: Maybe you don’t like flying, or are concerned about air travel’s contribution to global warming.  Or perhaps you just prefer real  travel by train or ship, where the journey is part of the adventure…  Either way, The Man in Seat Sixty-One will tell you how to travel overland comfortably & affordably where you might think that air was now the only option.

The Paris Metro: stylish

Eurostar: Join the 45 m Underground Club!

Lift Share: Find someone travelling your way so you can share your journey – saving money, cutting your carbon footprint and having fun!

Join a Car Club e.g: Street Car or City Car Club or  Whizzgo or Zip Car

Racing the Red Queen to oblivion

“It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.”

Queen of Hearts

Queen of Hearts

The Red Queen Effect (or hypothesis) is an evolutionary hypothesis named after the Red Queen’s race in Lewis Carroll‘s Through the Looking-Glass and describes the way in which we must constantly improve to remain competitive in an evolving world.

The RQE explains why no matter how much we evolve and perfect our immune systems we still get ill and still get parasites. The bacteria and parasites are evolving too and as we evolve resistance they evolve new ways of conquering them. If gazelle evolve to run faster, the cheetah must become faster too to keep up. Thus there is a constant evolutionary arms race between competing species, a key driver in evolutionary specialization.

A related biological phenomenon is habituation. Habituation is the physiological process in humans and animals in which there is a decrease in psychological and behavioral response to a stimulus after repeated exposure to that stimulus over a duration of time. Habituation explains why advertisers must constantly seek new ways of stimulating their targets. Consumer’s minds become progressively less receptive to the same message.

Escher's_Relativity

Escher's Relativity

A related psychological phenomenon is the ‘hedonic treadmill’ which refers to the fact that striving for happiness tends not to create significant changes in one’s base level. People consistently over-estimate the amount of happiness that they will gain from events in life and from their life circumstances. For example, we are conditioned to believe that we will be significantly happier when we earn £30,000 rather then £20,000 but in actual fact we will rapidly adapt and begin longing for £40,000 a year . Well-being fails to increase as income grows.  Similarly, acquiring new possessions may give us short bursts of pleasure but we adapt and there is no net improvement in our quality of life. Should we seek happiness through the accumulation of material things we will rapidly discover we need a new item. Thus a materialist outlook predisposes a person to lower levels of well-being.

For some people acquiring resources is a means to show superiority over peers and helps secure a mate and thus increases chances of successful procreation. However, any rewards derived from securing resources are relative to the quantity of resources secured by peers. Herein lies a root cause of the so called ‘rat-race’. We need to secure ever more resources in order to be equally as successful as our peers. This sexual selection in society is paralleled in nature with the emergence of traits such as the peacock’s tale or moose’s antlers which have grown enormous as a result of sexual competition between males.

hellebores-and-peacock

The Peacock's Tail

What the male peacock gains in reproductive success with his large tale he loses in his agility and flying capacity. Many male peacocks will have died prematurely due to the handicap of their tails. However, they could never have joined the dots between their untimely death and their engorged secondary sexual characteristics.

Our societies are highly competitive places as a result of the highly competitive processes driving the selection and dispersion of our genes. We are genetically predisposed to behaviour patterns that have now become pathological when multiplied by six billion people in the modern world. Now on a global scale our competitive resource acquisition is unbalancing the planet’s eco-systems and could lead to humanities untimely extinction. However, unlike the peacock, we are aware of what we are doing.

Economically, The Red Queen Effect manifests as the necessity for continuous growth economies. No country can relinquish hallowed economic growth less it falls behind competing nations; hence, the international Tragedy of the Commons , climate change and the collapsing biosphere. A widely held belief (enshrined in conventional economics) is that consumption is a proxy for well being. In other words, the more you consume the greater your well being (or happier you are). This has been repeatedly disproved and for over 50 years human well-being has been decoupled from economic growth in rich countries. For example, people today in Britain are richer than ever before. UK national income has tripled in real terms over the last 50 years. However, people’s well-being has not improved proportionally. As societies grow wealthy, differences in well-being are less frequently due to income, and are more frequently due to factors such as social relationships, enjoyable leisure pursuits, purpose in life and enjoyment at work.

4 stags

Stags

How can we stop over-consuming, devastating the biosphere, polluting the atmosphere and competing head to head within our own species, like horny stags with antlers locked, when these seem to be genetic components of who and what we are, formed back in the primeval crucible?

Human redemption is possible through the privileged and superior perspective of consciousness. Evolution of the human mind has allowed us to the study the universe, biological systems and our own nature. It also allows us to step back from our evolutionary prerogatives and take stock of the remarkable improbability of our own existence. A radical conclusion is that there is nothing to do or achieve. We can opt out of competition and reject the notion that more of any thing is better.

Instead of a social, cultural and economic emphasis being on acquiring wealth and consuming products we should change our values to shift our focus to life-long learning and creativity. We could completely change the education system so children spend more time working creatively. Sport, music, art and many of the creative things humans love doing need not have any ecological footprint at all. By consciously changing the values that underlie society we can celebrate all we have and our interdependence with the rest of the living universe.

The universe, biological systems and technology are going to keep evolving irrespective of what we do. An option available to the opened mind is to stop rushing to keep up and focus on cooperation to improve well-being rather the competition to acquire wealth. So long as you are competing to ‘get ahead’ in life or working to get more things you are a rat in a race and the finish line is extinction. Alternatively, by connecting to a deeper reality, embracing creativity and a philosophy of voluntary (material) simplicity we can enjoy the best of life without consuming our own life support system.

Entanglement DMT

'Entanglement DMT'

 

 

Childhoods End?

monolith2

Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the underlying nature of humankind? How much hope do you invest in our future? Depending on your perspective global warming will seem like either a crisis or an opportunity.

If you are pessimistic about the nature of humans then you probably believe that we are competitive creatures whose purpose in life is to consume resources acquire land and wealth and ensure we get laid to pass on our selfish genes. For people with this mindset the solution to global warming is depressing. In order to survive we must create a global treaty to limit the emissions of fossil fuels which in a fossil fuel powered economy means limiting consumption, travel and almost everything else. I.e. the solution is a cost that must be borne.
Gene
An alternative perspective is that the current crisis is actually a period of punctuated evolution. Humanity is undergoing a rapid transition to a higher emergent evolutionary stage.

The follow up to the Kyoto Protocol is a treaty designed by humans to determine the composition of the atmosphere. That we could even influence such a thing would have seemed impossible even 1 generation ago. However, it is true, and the composition of the atmosphere will determine more then just what we are breathing; it will also determine the surface temperature of the entire planet, which has ramifications for every ecosystem on earth.

Humanity has been transformed within a few thousand generations from a gawky primate emerging blinking from the forests out onto the Savannah into a planetary force. Not since the first bacterial cells appeared in the primeval soup has one species been so responsible for the future of life.

As our activities change the planet’s chemistry our electronic neural network is increasing in density. Humanity’s collective mind is going global. Soon there will be more neural connections in the global brain then there are in an individual’s brain. A tipping point is being approached.

It’s too late to go back to the trees. We have already changed the planet so drastically that only we can restore ecological balance by creating the structures necessary to regulate ourselves. This requires an ethical and philosophical leap of the same magnitude as the technical leap which has turned us from mammoth clubbers to planetary engineers.

The solution to global warming requires that we shift from competitive economies in which well being has been declining whilst wealth increases to cooperative economies in which creativity and wellbeing are paramount. We must consume less, share more, protect the natural world and work together as a unified species with a shared set of goals for the first time in human history. The needs of nations must give way to the needs of Gaia… planetary cooperation… sounds pretty damn good to me.

The precise ways in which a sustainable society will be more fulfilling are explored further in Green & Happy.

Childhoods End