The Solutions are already here.
As you may recall, I am in a book club with some of my Green Party of Quebec friends. Our first book was Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, a beautiful story about giving back to the Earth and celebrating the gifts nature gives us. Our next book took environmentalism in another direction.
The Solutions are Already Here by Peter Gelderloos is about environmentalism taken from an anarchist and anti-colonialist perspective. The author (an anarchist himself) takes his readers on a journey about the current climate situation our world faces. He brings awareness that government solutions, such as investments in renewable energy or promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, are simply band-aids to our problems. That the solutions governments tend to implement benefit capitalist gain instead of societal well-being. He argues that governments and states also ignore or hurt existing solutions and the people fighting to make these solutions the norm.
As the title suggests, the solutions are already here. The only way to really get to them is to break away from our capitalist and colonialist ways and go back to basics. He supports his arguments with examples of what Indigenous groups worldwide have been doing for generations. The author also brings our attention to the many activist groups that exist that are fighting to do good and protect the Earth, but also, how many are silenced by our governments and states?
What I like about this book is that it places a different perspective on the climate crisis than I’m used to reading. And even what I’m accustomed to writing. The articles we write about here at Happy Eco News celebrate the positive environmental news, which means writing about government actions or big businesses that may or may not be putting a band-aid on a serious situation. As naïve as I may be, although our world is run by capitalism and people who want to make money, I have to believe some big players want to do good.
One thing that this book has gotten me to think about is something that, if I’m being honest, I tend to forget. And that is when we start placing the blame on humans for this whole climate crisis. It’s so easy to say humans are the source of the problem. And well, that is technically true; most of the humans on this planet are the victims of our climate crisis.
Indigenous communities worldwide have survived for years on their traditions but now have to change and adapt to new circumstances as climate change worsens. Low-income countries have been historically forced to change their ways of life to serve their colonizers. One popular example is having to change their traditional methods of agriculture to grow monoculture crops to satisfy bigger populations.
So maybe we should think about how we blame humans for the climate crisis. The author places much blame on states and governments controlling situations for economic gain. And I mean, he isn’t totally wrong. Many of the environmental hardships we experience come from decisions that have been made by governments and ones that we have to accept. As I said, there are governments and leaders who believe in good (see Lula da Silva, president of Brazil).
Still, it can be challenging in countries like the US and Canada, where leadership changes every four years for good, actually to make a difference. But there is definitely more that could be done. Instead of blaming everyone for a situation we are already in, we need to work together to develop and emphasize the solutions are already here.
While I was worried this book and its perspectives would bring about a lot of doom and gloom, there was a section towards the end that really spoke to me is towards the end. After discussing the solutions that are already here, the author invites his readers to imagine the “perfect” sustainable future. A future where we don’t depend on capitalism, where we can successfully reduce our impacts on the planet and work together as societies instead of as individuals out for personal gain.
I’ve been thinking about this “perfect” future lately, and coming from a metropolitan area; I find it almost impossible. But let’s entertain the idea for a second. In my perfect sustainable world, we would stop production and use up everything we have before even thinking about producing more. I’m talking about clothing, appliances, cars, furniture, just everything that is on a loop at factories and is produced new every day. A world where we are repurposing and fixing what we already own and that everything we have to produce is made to last.
My perfect world would completely eliminate food waste, ensuring that we aren’t over-purchasing, that stores and restaurants donate unused food, and that everyone has enough to eat. Ideally, I’d love a world where we work together as a community to grow our food right in our backyards (not quite realistic with Montreal winders, but you get where I’m going with this).
As much as the 2020 pandemic was something we weren’t at all prepared for and had a lot of negative consequences for many people, I think it gave us a glimpse of what our cities could look like if everything had just stopped. When people stayed home and highways and roads were empty, nature started to heal. Air pollution decreased, and animals were slowly returning to their environments. It was truly a remarkable experience that I’m sure many of us living in cities have never seen before.
Another thing I noticed was how many people became interested in gardening, both to pass the time and also to grow their own food. I was working at a garden centre during that time, and it was amazing to see the number of people (many who had never gardened a day in their lives) who were buying tomato and cucumber plants because we didn’t know what the future held regarding food. It’s too bad social distancing was a thing because I’m sure community and collective gardening would have exploded.
Finally, the last thing the pandemic showed us was how much stuff we actually have. With activities closed and nowhere to go, people took to cleaning their houses and saw how much stuff they owned (consequently, online shopping increased during this time, but that’s an argument for another day). Secondhand stores actually stopped taking donations because they were overwhelmed with the amount of stuff people were giving away.
If that doesn’t scream that we have a consumption problem, then I don’t know what will. Imagine the internet didn’t exist, stores weren’t open, and people had to wear and use what they already owned. Our environmental impact associated with the production of clothing and general stuff would go way down.
I know the pandemic isn’t exactly the same as dealing with the climate crisis, but I think it speaks to how the world could work if we eliminated many of our capitalist ways. Thinking about the “perfect” sustainable world really highlights how the solutions are already here.
Groups, activists, and individuals are already making huge efforts to protect our planet. Our reality is that they get overpowered by bigger groups, governments and businesses. But they are a force of change that we need to look to if we want to solve this climate crisis.
At Happy Eco News (with our guest blogs especially), we highlight how individuals are making changes. And I really hope that one day, they will lead us toward positive change. And maybe one day, nature will heal, not because of a global pandemic but because of the things we’ve done as societies to reduce our harmful ways. This change will not happen overnight; it will take time, but every effort we make might bring us closer to our perfect sustainable future.