“Do you remember a moment when you were very focussed and driven working towards your goals?”. When a friend asked me recently I noticed in my case most of these situations had love as a keyword: love for another person or love for an idea I was mad about.
Thankfully last Friday I felt this loving spark again in all its intensity when I took part in the climate protest in The Hague. It was amazing to be there with tens of thousands of people uniting for a higher goal. With a group of 100 professional musicians and singers we played and sang protest songs from a stage before this immense crowd. There was a very special energy out there, all these people carrying protest banners they had made at home, and a large sense of community, almost like stepping out of our individualistic society for a day!
Well we weren’t there for fun. We were there because the government will need to take drastic measures to prevent further climate crisis and doom day scenario’s, and we will all need to change our lifestyles in a big way. But still we had a lot of fun doing so. And suddenly I became aware of something that had been missing in my life. A feeling of idealism, that had been much stronger in the past but that I neglected a bit doing my daily tasks, and also to be really part of a group of people of a similar “lifestyle conviction”.
We have all this unlimited freedom and money now to buy whatever we want, to go on holidays whereever we want to, to date whoeever we want, to take up any job offer we like, but who is really aware of ethics and morality these days when tackling these questions? Of course there is not just one correct answer but ain’t the main problem that we stopped thinking about moral questions at all? We seem happy enough when we can organise our little lives and pay the bills and mainly have enough fun doing so. But we don’t seem to be able to make decisions on a higher level than our own houses and family’s. Maybe return of some morality and ethics might be good for us planet earth inhabitants, and society as a whole?
Also for all these individuals suffering of anxiety or burnout complaints (of whom there are more than ever before): It might be giving a lot of headspace to think about what’s good for the world instead of complicated individualistic thinking. It helps me anyway. Become an idealist! May ethics be your guideline! I promise you a feeling of joy, drive and strong sense of identity doing so 😉 Oh, and let’s please hope it is contagious. Love is the keyword. I fell in love already!
Talking about the disastrous effects of our Western lifestyle, our eating, shopping and holiday habits on the planet is never fun. People don’t like to be made felt bad about their choices. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was a student but for same reason I’m certainly not one of those veggies who tells you off about the ‘dead animal on your plate’ in the middle of a restaurant. But by now we’ve reached a point with climate and environmental issues that I’m wondering if maybe we should. Is it really OK when friends announce their fifth mini hols a year by plane? And is it OK to just reply asking if they had a good time and what the weather was like?
I remember earning a lot of money each month as a lawyer and I sometimes I hadn’t got a clue how to spend it. I think many fulltime workers who go clothes shopping on a Saturday often don’t. It seems more of a cultural habit. Sometimes I randomly bought shoes, and then I just threw them in some closet if I didn’t want to wear them, and went to buy a new pair I didn’t really need. It gave me a very empty feeling.
Sometime after quitting this job I left to Ireland with my guitar and ended up on a farm in the wild West. My main concerns were to light the fire in the mornings, to collect drinking water from a well in the mountains (rural area’s often still don’t have access to public water schemes), to do repairs after power cuts and some more very basic life tasks, like baking fresh bread in the morning. Strangely this largely improved my mood and feeling of happiness about life in general. It felt like for the first time in my life – in my twenties – I lived and worked for what really matters, staying alive, keeping warm and being as self sufficient as possible doing so and spend my little savings on local activities that felt like “really earned”.
Of course I wouldn’t want to project my own experience on society in general. But could I assume that our general Western lifestyle has drifted so far off from a basic self sufficient experience, that knowing ‘what really counts in life’ is just as hard a notion to grasp as knowing ‘what we are doing wrong’ ? Is that why it’s so hard to admit that maybe that 5th mini break away or buying that car to bring the kids to school wasn’t really necessary? Because we really don’t feel anymore what is truly valuable? Because our lives are built around an existence in which we study hard to earn digital abstract credits to buy stuff from, striving for more and more, overlooking if we do really add the same amount of value in return with our work? What is an experience really “earned”? It would be good to leave the notion of money out of this equation now when we judge our own behaviour and what we really deserve….
See you on Friday for the Climate Strike in The Hague!
There was a time when I was very idealistic. From the age of 17 I worked many summers in a national park as a volunteer to do my share for tree conservation. I graduated on a legal topic hoping to contribute to the preservation of common goods: property of our common heritage. Things that don’t belong to just one person like our bikes or cars, but areas like woods, seas and lakes that belong to us all, that should be kept in a good state….
Western society sadly isn’t based around the preservation of “common heritage”. Most of our lives we spend focussed on our individual property: saving money to buy a car, a house, the nicest of clothes, saving for expensive holidays to far away destinations. We work all of our lives because we committed to pay off a mortgage to finally become the full owner of a tiny plot of land, or an appartment in a big block of houses with other people doing the same. But with which higher goal? Or should I even say: with which entitlement? I have always found it very interesting that humans are not well able to think for the sake of all people.
In the meantime the effects of climate change are really making themselves known now. Wildfires on the North Pole, unbearable heatwaves in the most of Europe, smog alarms: it’s only a small part of what’s to come in the next decades. Why are we still obsessed with expanding our own individual properties, neglecting the effects our lifestyles have on the planet as a whole? Knowing that if we continue like this our own little situations will be affected?
I could imagine a system where people would be rewarded for their footprint, like getting a basic financial incentive when keeping their footprint under a certain amount of points, taking into account how many kids one has, not having a car, eating a plant based diet etcetera. Many people are waiting for the government or companies to come with solutions. What we can do as individuals now is raising awareness about lifestyle changes and voicing out our opinion, like when friends announce their 5th flight to a destination far away or buy a second car. Even though this might not be nice. And even though it might seem futile: it is all in the little things!
Apart from that in my opinion the State’s public property of common goods should be getting a distinct position as ‘common property not meant for exploitation’, like it used to be in the past and still is the case in some countries. It seems the only way….Do you have any other good ideas to combat climate change?
In the meantime I’m working on songs on the subject. All I can do as a musician….
With temperatures soaring over 30 degrees the past weeks, while planning my summer hols I couldn’t help feeling guilty about even considering the idea of taking a plane somewhere. And I think we all should! With this climate crisis showing its tangible effects, it get’s more and more attractive to stay at home, as it’s hot enough here already, and to choose environment friendly ways of transport like hiking, cycling, inline skating or taking a train or a ferry somewhere.
It’s not only a matter of budgetting for me, but also really the question if holidays are really “necessary” that way. Do they contribute that much to your life to justify all these extra emissions? I couldn’t justify just flying somewhere for a concert for a weekend for example. Of course sometimes it’s hard to avoid planes, but to cut the frequency down helps already. Some people tell me they fly somewhere every few weeks as it’s cheap enough. Well reconsider!
I signed up for the Wwoofing website as I always wanted to have an organic farm volunteering experience. It would feel good and useful to combine a holiday experience with learning something about self sufficient living, work with animals, and giving something back to the earth. And I’m considering a camping trip or taking a ferry to England. Handy for bringing instruments aswell. And maybe that one flight a year to Ireland? Because it’s an island far away and it takes ages to get there and back again as a foot passenger? If that’s OK with you? Excited to hear your opinions! Happy conscious summer travels!
Since a few weeks the shallow Dutch coastal waters near The Hague have a new visitor: a large humpback whale. A new Facebook group was started with many reported sightings, but I hadn’t been lucky enough to see him, even though I Iive right on the beach.
Suddenly everybody walking the beach or the harbour heads would share one common goal: to catch a glimp of this big mammal. It created a whole new social atmosphere between the usually distant beach walkers: everybody chatting to each other, helping each other, exchanging numbers, binoculars and photo’s and a general feeling of shared excitement.
FINALLY I was in luck yesterday and I suddenly caught the whale making a big jump right in front of the place where I was standing. Impressive!
Seeing this big whale also made me aware of something. Living in a big city I noticed people are usually busy looking after their individual career and family goals. The government is responsible for the common goals so why bother thinking about them.
When I lived in a house in the Irish countryside a 10 minutes drive away from a village of 600 inhabitants (quite in the middle of nowhere) I noticed people would look after the challenges of their community very well. When there were problems with electricity people would share gas tanks for heating. People would point each other mountain wells for drinking water when the private water scheme quality wasn’t sufficient.
I think this social awareness is absolutely necessary to face any of the current climate problems and take up responsibility for these, instead of waiting for the government to come with solutions. Plus it creates a nicer social atmosphere over all!
Maybe that’s why it was so special to meet our whale friend: as a gentle reminder that there are even bigger things than us. I hope you will get to see him too!