It's a new year, and almost exactly one year since Ashes Ashes began, so we're taking a moment to step back and reflect on the question at the end of every episode: what can we do? This special episode features both Daniel and David explaining what they work on outside of the show to make the world better (even if just a little bit), why that matters, and different ways that we all can do our part to push things forward towards a fixing everything that's broken around us.
Thanks for the transcript Nick!
[0:02] I'm David Torcivia.
[0:04] I'm Daniel Forkner.
[0:06] And this is Ashes Ashes, a show about systemic issues, cracks in civilization, collapse of environment, and if we're unlucky, the end of the world.
[0:17] But if we learn from all of this, maybe we can stop that. The world might be broken, but it doesn't have to be.
[0:26] Now, this week, Daniel, I wanted to take a chance and have a little bit more of a relaxing show. It's the new year.
[0:32] It's 2019, baby.
[0:34] This is, I guess, officially the second year of Ashes Ashes. We've been around a year at this point, so that's exciting.
[0:42] And instead of doing our intense, depressing deep dive on whatever terrible thing we can come up with for the week, let's instead sort of look forward. We always try and spend time on every episode with, "What can we do?" to inspire some sort of positive action to end these negative things that we talk about, but let's maybe instead spend an entire show on this idea and look at people around the world who are doing incredible things, organizations that we can maybe join, and also talk a little bit about what you and I are doing in the front of all this disaster and really crappy stuff that went down in 2018, and hopefully this year, because of our actions, because of other people's actions, and because of a world that wants to get better, 2019 will be looking up. Daniel's Story
[1:25] Sounds like a great idea, David. So I guess this episode will be a little bit different from the normal format, and last week was a little bit different too, but that's just because it was about pirates, not because it was short or anything like that, but yeah, let's talk about what we might be able to do in 2019 as individuals and as broader communities to maybe pave a better way forward in the face of all these catastrophes. I've been trying to make some changes in my own life, David. If any of you listened to our Harvard episode where we went there and spoke at a conference, you know that I used to work in real estate, and I've been trying to get away from that line of work and maybe find a place in maybe some nonprofit work. It's still new to me. I'm still trying to figure out some work I can do that I can feel proud to do that's going to impact my community. I've signed up for some volunteering in the near future to try and get my feet wet in the whole nonprofit world. It's still new to me, David, so I feel like my transition from the business world to something else has taken perhaps longer than it should, but it's been a long journey learning about all the systems that interact with my life and coming to terms with that, developing my own thoughts and values, and trying to figure out how to move forward is certainly a journey, but I'm hoping to ramp up on the action side. Since we do a lot of theorizing here on Ashes Ashes, I need to balance that account.
[2:51] One thing I really want to drive home, Daniel, in this episode and throughout the show is that it's never too late. You sound like you're guilting yourself a little bit for not taking these actions earlier, but we all go through a different journey. Our process to coming to terms with what's going on in the world around us--of learning about all these things that are, for the most part, completely hidden, often intentionally so, from our day-to-day lives--is long and slow and different for everyone, and it's never too late to realize these things and to turn these pieces of knowledge that you get about why the world is messed up and how it's messed up and who is messing it up and turning that into, instead of depression, but some sort of inspiration to do something about it.
[3:35] Absolutely, and I want to talk about that--this role that depression and anxiety plays in our lives--and I think people take for granted just how much we grasp to certain world views, and how earth-shattering it can be to have our world views challenged. Before we started this podcast, when we were just two people talking on the phone, David--exchanging books, discussing these ideas--climate change was a little bit new for me, and when I was coming to terms with the scope of these problems, there were days where I couldn't get out of bed. I was paralyzed. I'd lay on the floor and cry, because it's just the way that it affected me, and so it's a process to come to terms with these things, and actually, there's a woman in the UK who's making a documentary for the BBC on climate change awareness and its role in mental illness, and the amount of people that can feel this paralysis when they're faced with these huge systemic problems that they see overshadowing their lives, and if any of you are in the UK and would like to reach out to her, she's looking to speak with people directly who are impacted by this, but...
[4:37] You can contact us and we'll pass your information on to her.
[4:40] Sure. But I also, through my own experience, have realized that there is a liberation that comes from pushing through that initial anxiety and grappling with a new set of values and being okay with a little bit of uncertainty. There's a liberation that comes from realizing that there's parts of our history, parts of our countries' histories, that have been hidden from us; there's aspects of the companies that we support that are hidden from us; and learning about these truths can be really unsettling. But once we learn them and we can process them, it gives us a new way to move forward, and there is freedom that comes with that, and a sense of purpose, I think.
[5:21] Well as the saying goes, ignorance is bliss, and I guess the flip side of that means that knowledge is pain, but knowledge is also power, and it's only when we deal with this pain and we set it aside and we turn it into the drive to do something better that we can start making use of that power. Otherwise, we're the ones being taken advantage of on the flip side. So that's really what we want to focus on today: the different processes that Daniel and I have suffered through. Daniel's talked a little bit about this already--this whole idea of climate paralysis, maybe, is a good way to put it, where we have so much bad news, so much collapse going on, and I know we're guilty just as much as anyone--maybe more than anyone--of just throwing this information out into the world, and that can have a negative effect, and I feel guilty every time I hear from somebody--from a friend, from family, from listeners--saying, "I'm overwhelmed by the things you say, and maybe I don't make it to the end of every episode, where I hear, 'Well, this is what we can do,'" because it's too much. You have to stop. We have to take care of ourselves in this process. We need that self-care along the way. And knowing just what kind of situation we're in is incredibly depressing--overpowering. It gives us existential crises. I mean, you deal with it, Daniel. I know I deal with it. Part of my process of going through all of this pain is the act of creating this show, of sharing this information, and I'm turning that into actionable change, which we'll get to.
[6:45] Well, I think you hit on something really important there, David, talking about how we might be complicit in throwing bad news out there and adding to the anxiety that some people feel, but I think this is part of a larger problem of our society of moving away from an awareness of our own fragility. And I had this realization recently, David, and it may sound a little bit crazy, but even if some intelligent extraterrestrial civilization got in contact with us here on the blue planet and gave us some magic technology that would give us infinite energy and allow us to solve some of these large problems, we would still have really glaring systemic issues to deal with. We might still have economic inequality, political problems, and I think that's just a reality of living life. We have to realize that we're always gonna be faced with issues that are larger than ourselves, but we can't allow that to depress us. We can't allow that to paralyze us. Even if you, David, even if I, even if us as a civilization cannot turn this great ship around, there are so many things that we can control in our own lives and in our local communities. We can impact those around us immediately, and we can impact the relationships that we have with our environment, with our communities, and I think a big symptom of living in the modern era, in this hyper-consumption digital online world that we are in is that it's so easy to lose awareness of the things that are immediately right around us, and our senses become informed by things that have nothing to do with our actual physically real lives. [8:25] You know, these are concepts like from Guy Debord's "The Society of the Spectacle." We let the things outside our reality control us, and we can end up becoming blind to our own environment, and I'm reminded of this issue we discussed, David, in episode 20, "Irresistible," that show about antimicrobial-resistant pathogens, and that's the loss of local news. And I notice this now when I go to friends' houses, and I see the new Amazon computer that's in everyone's homes, and it's recommending news stories from around the world, but none of these stories that we're all consuming have anything to do, generally, with our local communities, our own neighborhoods. [9:04] Our society is trending further and further away from what is local and immediate in our own lives. You could even relate that to concepts that we discuss in episode 35, "Plugged In," about how our phones are taking our attention away from the real world. And like you mentioned, we are a little bit guilty here on Ashes Ashes of being a part of this. But look, at the end of the day, yes, the issues we discuss are important, and we all need awareness of them, because that's how we are going to learn, it's how we can avoid making repeated mistakes, and it's how, ultimately, we're going to design and create a better system for our future. But we have to always keep in mind the whole point of learning and discussing these issues in the first place, and that's to inform action and our own decisions. If we live in the digital or in a book, always consuming information and knowledge of these problems, but we never actually do anything, and we have nothing to show for it but anxiety, despair, and fear, then we're wasting our time. Don't let the knowledge of some drought and some sea level rise on a distant continent cripple you and prevent you from making a difference in your community right where you are.
[10:18] There's an old organizing maxim that I think applies really well here, Daniel, and that is, "Think globally, but act locally." And if we can really take that to heart in all the actions that we do, remembering that our actions around us do have global implications, but we can only really touch the people immediately in our communities, then we're on a good step forward from there.
[10:40] What helped me, David, is realizing that, you know, we're all going to die. I mean, at the end of the day, right? But we were always going to die, whether this climate change is happening or not. Even if we somehow avoid the climate catastrophe, we still have the heat death of the universe to deal with. I mean, right? The only difference is we're dealing with it now as opposed to later, and so this death is inescapable, both as individuals, but also as a species. But given that fact, we still have lives to lead. We've still got to get out of bed in the morning. We still have our own happiness to pursue, relationships to cultivate, goals to fulfill, hobbies to explore, plants to cultivate. But David, I mentioned what I'm trying to do in my life--you know, get away from the profit world and volunteer in my local community, see if I can find some work to do. What are you doing in your own life? What does a day in the life of #####David Torcivia: look like? How has knowledge of these issues and systemic problems that we discuss on Ashes Ashes informed the actions that you take in your own life? David's Story
[11:40] Well, there's no easy answer to that, Daniel, because this is something that is constantly evolving, something that I'm working on at all times. Some of it's driven by guilt, to be completely honest. I think for you, it was about overcoming some sort of depression, feeling like you're doing something useful. A lot of what I do in terms of my work in whatever you want to call it--organizing, activism--these are all loaded words, and I don't necessarily like to use them, but just living as a political person who genuinely cares about the world and the people in it, a lot of it, like I said, is driven by guilt for me, because I realize, here I am. I'm in New York City. I don't have a car--that's, like, the one good thing that I have going for me--but, you know, I'm not so good on paper with a lot of these things we talk. I fly in airplanes--I try and do that less and less, but I still do it. My diet's not so great. I live, you know, a life where I consume more things than I should. I create advertising, which is something that we've railed against a lot. There's a lot of things that I feel sort of guilty about, and then, even more than that, I feel this guilt about not doing so much that I know I could be.
[12:51] I'm in a politically active community, and I know we try and leave explicit politics out of this show a lot, because I feel like a lot of the stats and facts and things that are systemically broken in this world are beyond politics. Anybody can look at them and see, like, well, this clearly isn't working. And you can talk about different solutions and things, but as time goes on, those solutions become more and more limited, and so we don't explicitly say, you know, like, "Oh, we need to deregulate capitalism," or, "We need wholly regulated socialism," or whatever, like, idea that your particular ideology is screaming at you to try and implement. [13:28] But, like, I am--as I'm sure all the listeners out there can tell--very political in my day-to-day life. It takes up a lot of my time. I do a lot of organizing outside this show. But this year, especially, 2018, and into 2019, it's gonna be a lot more. I've really started stepping outside of the small individual political actions I can take--and I'm not talking voting or phone banking; I'm talking things that people would say, "Oh, this is a political thing"--and really stepped in with an amazing group of people. [14:01] And this is something I think I really want to drive home with this episode, is that, alone, your actions will be defeated. Everything you do by yourself, yeah, it's gonna make things less bad, but you aren't gonna make enough of a difference to matter, and you will be defeated--whatever it is you're setting out to do, whether that's climate change, whether that's surveillance--whatever it is, alone, you are defeated. [14:31] But when you can take your actions and step them into the lives of other people, either by organizing with them collectively among the catastrophes that are happening all around us, by amplifying your actions and taking them into your neighbors' lives, making them part of your day-to-day efforts to make things better, each time you do this--step into a group--now you are gonna start getting somewhere, because you have the effect of magnification of your actions and the virality of your ideas and your passions. This past year, I've met so many people who are just genuinely, incredibly amazing, inspiring people, and they don't inspire by standing around giving speeches or proselytizing or making podcasts or radio shows or whatever it is that our media-consumption-based way of living has taught us that that is how you inspire people. They inspire by living a life that people look at and say, "Wow. You know, I didn't even realize that these options were open to me. I didn't realize that we could live a life today in this hyper-consumerist capitalist world, like you mentioned, Daniel, where everything is split and individualized and atomized, and we are separated from each other as much as possible by our work, by our social activities, by our entertainment, and instead, they get rid of that, or they survive alongside of it, and they exist beyond their bodies. [15:55] So this is a concept I heard recently in a talk with the Silvia Federici, who's an amazing author, and one of my favorite books is by her, "Caliban and the Witch"--check it out--but she had this concept that the way we've been living our lives has limited our body to basically being just turned in on itself, and this is something that's relatively new in human history. For so long, because of the ways that we lived in nature, that we lived within our communities, we felt our body quite literally extended beyond the realms of our skin.
[16:26] That we were one within these communities and nature, and this is why you would have native original stories of--people could just disappear, you could apparate, you can be in two places at once, you could turn into an animal, you know, because we didn't see these confines of our body as a cage like we do now. [16:45] It's really hard to wrap your mind around this idea at first, but as you start thinking about examples of the way that we cut ourselves off from our environment--whether that's the artificial environments that we create, our social environments, or the natural environment--this suddenly starts making a lot of sense. But when you can separate that and move past that limitation that we've artificially created for ourselves, you start touching people--you start touching their lives, you start touching your community, and you start touching the natural environment of the world. And honestly, unfortunately, this is sort of a painful process at first, because so many people are damaged right now. There's so many lives that are hurt by the world that we're living it by the way that we choose to live our lives, and this is--it's painful at first. [17:30] I've encountered, over the last year, some people who are living in really tough circumstances, and you want to help them, and you reach out to them, and you're doing what you can, and it's never enough. It will never be enough, the actions you take, and that's something you have to learn to deal with. But you take those actions anyway, and you help a little bit, and somebody else helps a little bit, and somebody else helps a little bit, and eventually those wounds heal, and you can see it happen in front of you. And that strengthens you, 'cause you heal in that process as well, because you are reaching out and directly touching their body, and you two are one at that moment. And I know this is getting spiritual and mumbo-jumbo-y, but it really is true, because collectively, we are the human species, and collectively, we are the natural environment of the earth, and collectively, we are Earth--the earth itself, Mother Nature, these very old concepts, but they're there for a reason, because for most of our lives, the way we've experienced life has been that way.
[18:28] Well, let me step in, David, and maybe offer, like, a practical illustration of what you're talking about, or part of what you're talking about. I was inspired to listen to a talk recently that Jamal Joseph, one of the Panther 12, was on, and he was talking about community organizing. And "community" is a word that we throw out a lot...
[18:46] Especially on this show.
[18:48] Yeah, exactly, and as people have pointed out, sometimes it's not clear what exactly it means. And we talked about, in our voting episode, how political participation should extend well beyond the voting booth, but into your communities--actually making change--but I always had this idea, like, what does it take to be an organizer? What does it take to do these things? And I had this idea that you need to join some huge organization, political party, or something, and join some huge thing, but what Jamal Joseph said really inspired me, which is, to make a difference in your community, all you have to do is recognize that there is an issue, talk to the people around you, brainstorm a solution, and then work together to solve that problem. So let's say you live in a neighborhood, or you're in an apartment building, and maybe you have a problem, which is, "Hey, food is expensive in this area, and we're all stressed because we work a bunch. We don't have time to cook, so we all end up eating fast food, and it's very unhealthy." Let's say you go door to door, just to ten neighbors--either that's you just walk down the hallway of your apartment building, or you just go down the cul-de-sac in your neighborhood, and you just knock on the houses, and you say, "Look. There's a problem in our neighborhood, which is food is expensive, and we work a lot. I have this idea. What if we pool our money, and once a week, one of us, which we can rotate this role, will go to the grocery store, buy a bunch of food, and then we'll have a community kitchen in which one family will cook for the week, and we'll all come to the house, and we'll participate in this, and then the next week, that role will go to the next person." [20:19] If you were to do that and implement that, you have just participated in your community. You've just organized the people around you to solve an immediate problem. And it doesn't take much, and it's so simple, and think about how that one little action would bring people together. And now, when you're in that community kitchen, you're not just cooking, you're not just providing healthier food; now you're having discussions. "What else is a problem in this community?" "Oh, well, we don't have enough native plant species in our neighborhood." "Well let's talk to some other neighbors, and maybe we can get something going on there." That's all it is to be a part of a community, is just talk with each other, identify problems, and come up with solutions, and then implement them, and anybody can do that. And I think that idea is really profound, and it's something that's so absent from, you know, the--what you're talking about, David, is our society has become so far removed from that idea, nobody even talks like that. That's a strange thing. I mean, there's people I know who are living in neighborhoods who have been in a house for years and hardly even know their next door neighbor's name, and we can all start to reverse that trend. Organizing
[21:24] This is one of the things that I think is really important to understand, and you brought it up earlier, Daniel, but understanding that political participation or organizing, or these loaded words, don't have to be things that are hard, that are only done through these card-carrying organizations that the police are monitoring, or whatever it is. It's a group of people coming together and deciding to do something, or one person saying, "I want to do this. I'ma talk to some people, and we're gonna do it." And it really just has to be that simple. And a group of people most likely is gonna be people you know and people you should know, people who are around you, and in many cases, like you said, this opportunity of talking to your neighbors is a great way to jump into that. [22:05] I had somebody recently who found out about a program--it's called jail support or prison support--and basically the idea is being arrested really sucks, and when you go to jail, they hold you for however many hours, and they release you, and when you get out, you know, you're feeling like shit. You probably don't have a ride home, 'cause you haven't been able to contact anybody. You might have your shoelaces taken away from you. You're hungry. You're thirsty. Or whatever it is. Like, it's a really low point in people's lives, and lots of people who were just in the wrong place, wrong time, or got caught up in some dumb thing are at a low point and very vulnerable right there, and very liable to make some sort of mistake that puts them back in this whole system again. [22:48] And so, instead, what people have done with jail support, it's just you wait outside a prison with juice boxes, shoelaces, snacks, coats, a phone that you can call Uber or Lyft or something for, and when somebody comes out, you say, "Hey, I'm here to talk. If you don't want to talk, here's some snacks. Here's these things that they were taken from you. Let me get you a ride home." And just shows that somebody is out there caring. And so somebody found out about this. They're like, "Oh, this is great. This is inspiring." "Where do I find organizations that do this?" was the first thing they said, and what I told them is--because they were in a different city; I didn't know the organizations there--I was like, "You don't need an organization to go do this. All you need is to go to the store, grab these things, ask a friend to come with you, and go to the prison yourself." And it was like a lightbulb went off in their head, and so much of our life has been conditioned that we can only get things done through organizations and groups that already exist that we have to join, that we have to vote for, whatever it is, whether it's politicians, whether it's government, whatever--that's all a lie. [23:48] All these things happen, all this change happens, because somebody just does something, and that somebody can very easily be you. And this person is now going out and doing this thing, and other people are joining them in doing it, and in this moment, in the action of deciding that they were just gonna go and take this into their own hands, they've accidentally created an organization, 'cause an organization's just a collection of people who are doing things together.
[24:12] It doesn't have to be formalized. It doesn't have to be complicated. You don't need bylaws. You don't need to vote things in. You don't have to have a name. You just have to do something. And this really affected their whole life, and it made them a stronger, more confident person, and they're doing really great work in a whole variety things here, just because that lightbulb turned on in their head, and they say, "Oh, I can take this into my own hands." And that is such a powerful idea, and it's something that is stolen from us a lot of the time, but when we can get that back, realize it, and see how effective it is in practice, well, now we're getting somewhere.
[24:46] Yeah, and if that's a scary idea--I know it is to many people, as it is to me...
[24:51] Yeah. No. I'm not saying it's easy.
[24:53] Yeah. Well, what I was gonna say, David, is you can build yourself up to these things. I mean, that's what I'm trying to do right now. That's why, you know, this weekend, I've signed up to volunteer for a local organization where we're gonna be planting trees in a neighborhood, and I recognize it's not gonna change the world--we're gonna plant some trees and have a good time--but through that process, I'm training myself to take action, and through this process, maybe I'll meet some people, and through that, I'm going to get more courage to say, "Yes, I can make a difference in my local community. I can actually go out. My hands can do something. I can bend over, and I can move dirt around, and I can make a change that people are gonna see, and that I'm gonna know is there, and I think that confidence is what will allow you to then say, "Well, okay. I did that through an organization. What else is in my immediate area that I can do without needing to sign up for anything? I can just go to work and do it myself or rally the people around me.
[25:48] And, you know, it's a process. It's like I mentioned at the very beginning of this. It took me a long time just to get myself out of bed regularly after learning about many of these issues. It's a process. It's a journey. You should be patient with yourself. Don't be hard on yourself. That's one thing we do a lot in our society, is we beat ourselves up for not doing enough. I know you mentioned that, David, the guilt, but...
[26:07] We live in a highly complex society that has built all these systems around us. I mean, this is something we talk about in episode 11, "Designing Deception"--that the history of our economy and our culture that surrounds that economy, it's full of these public relations companies, these investment bankers who have all worked so hard to rearrange our lifestyles behind the scenes, to direct our behavior, our purchases, ultimately to fuel the profits of these companies that are responsible for much of this greenhouse gas emissions and the climate catastrophe we're now facing, but this deception goes so much deeper than simple advertising to include the floor plans of the houses that we buy that have been designed to encourage certain purchases, to the celebrities and athletes that are manipulated to espouse a certain way of life. We cannot possibly see all the ways we're influenced by these hidden forces. But if we question our lives and our behavior, we can begin to uncover some of these patterns. We don't need to feel guilty or feel bad about ourselves. We just need to recognize that they're there so that we can start to change them.
[27:16] And let me drive home this point once more: it's not ever too late. I know we feel guilty. I know I said I feel guilty about not doing things. But it doesn't matter. Don't let that hold you back. You can step forward at any age, at any point in this process, and do something really great. I know a lot of organizing, activism, whatever, looks like it's dominated by young people, and that's really encouraging and exciting to see, but some of the best work and the hardest working people I've ever met weren't young. They were out there, 50, 60, 70 years old, volunteering, making differences in their communities, because they are the stakeholders in these communities. They've seen how they've changed. They've seen the world change. Sure, maybe they don't have as much time to deal with the consequences of this world, but they care just as much as anybody else, and they have the knowledge and wisdom that they can share with everyone in this process too. It's never too late to go out and make a positive action in this way. But let's pause for just one second and change the topic a little bit... Individual Actions [28:18] And shift focus from what Daniel and I are doing and what you can do as an individual as part of these organizations, and instead look what you can do just as an individual. There are some things that organizations like the IPCC, the media have recommended us to do as individuals to carry the weight of fixing all these problems that have been created. [28:40] These things are ranked in terms of high impact actions and then low or moderate impact options, and the things you hear a lot in the media are very small things--you know, recycling, driving a hybrid car, upgrading your lightbulbs--you know, these very little actions that are easy to do and that somebody usually profits off of you doing. These, unfortunately, have almost no effect in the long term. They're good steps. I'm not saying that we shouldn't do them. [29:09] But doing them and thinking that you're making a difference, and that you can stop at that point and absolve yourself of whatever guilt you might feel, is selling yourself and everyone else on this planet short, and so they do have the four key high-impact actions that the IPCC recommends. Number four, which saves almost a ton of carbon every year from entering the earth's atmosphere, is switching to a plant-based diet. And I know this is scary for a lot of people--everyone gets angry about vegetarianism or veganism or whatever--and so, ethical considerations aside, only looking at the environmental aspect of it, you don't have to just snap your fingers and immediately go fully veg. Even cutting down the amount of meat you consume to maybe just once or twice a week is gonna get you really far in saving these carbon from impacting the environment. It's something that you can slowly transition, transition those around you, and I think we're gonna really see this explode over the next few years and decades. The next thing above that that they recommend is avoiding one round-trip transatlantic flight, which saves 1.6 tons of carbon from entering the atmosphere, plus if you add the radiative forcing that we talked about on this show before, that adds up even more, because carbon is not all equal. [30:23] Where it enters the atmosphere, whether from a car or from a plane, is important, and planes are the worst possible way to put that carbon dioxide directly into the atmosphere. And so the less we can fly, and the less non-essential flights we can make, is gonna make a huge difference in our battle against climate change. Businesses really should not be flying a lot of people around as much as they do, especially with the amazing technology we have and that businesses have available to them for teleconferencing, for remote work. A lot of this stuff just doesn't need to be done in person, but, in a kind of funny way, it really reveals how important face-to-face interactions and communities are in this way. Like, yeah, you could teleconference or something, but it's not the same as standing right in front of them and talking to them face-to-face. But these are the types of sacrifices we're gonna have to make in the business world, because we want to protect the entire world and our communities, and so we'll have to take these face-to-face interactions to our local areas, and maybe that'll be good also for limiting the global multinational way that we do business right now, and instead redirecting it back on communities, which is something I know you talk about a lot on this show, Daniel.
[31:31] Number two is living car-free, which saves 2.4 tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere every single year. And I know that's not realistic for most people. Unfortunately, a lot of us live in suburbs and rural areas, where you just basically have to have a car. We can't all live in New York City or the few cities that are finally adding public transportation options, but we can be conscious about when we're driving and drive less in the same way that we're trying to limit our meat intake--instead of going immediately full vegetarian, full vegan--we can do the same with our driving habits. Try and spend a little bit of extra time taking public transit, riding a bike, walking somewhere if that's an option. Try and combine trips as much as possible--don't run out just to grab some fast food and then come home. These things all add up, and by the end of it, you are making a measurable difference in how much carbon is being released into the atmosphere. [32:21] And this last one is oftentimes controversial for a number of reasons, some of which we've delved into in this show--episode 39, "Impacts of Growth"--and that is not having an additional child. So for every child you choose not to have, you save almost 60 tons of CO2-equivalent emissions every single year. [32:45] This isn't to say that we need to go out and sterilize everyone, because that's absolutely not what is being said here, but it does say that if you have the luxury of choosing to reproduce, and if you had a plan for four, or three, or whatever children, have one less. It's gonna be better for the world and probably better for you and your family.
[33:07] Or, to put it into numbers, David, according to the IPCC, a US family who chooses to have one fewer child would provide the same level of emissions reductions as 684 teenagers who choose to adopt comprehensive recycling for the rest of their lives.
[33:24] Very quickly, you can see how some of these actions, like recycling, are really just passed off on us so that we carry the blame of the actions of these giant corporations and state organizations instead of focusing on the fact that, well, you know, by ourselves, we're not gonna make a difference, and we need to collectively come together to do something about that, and there are people who are thinking about that right now.
[33:47] Exactly. I think, as useful as it is to think about how our individual actions either increase or reduce our carbon footprint, whether that's having fewer children, flying less, again, if the responsibility is on us as individuals, we're never going to succeed, because, like we mentioned, it is the systems through which we all live in and are directed which need fundamental change, and like you mentioned earlier David... Collective Action [34:13] If we are alone in our attempts to change the world, we will fail. We will be defeated. But there's another concept, David, and this comes from something that was endorsed by Extinction Rebellion, also known as XR, which is a global movement that started in the UK but has rapidly expanded to many countries worldwide, and it's a campaign, a movement, to hold our governments accountable to prevent this climate catastrophe from wiping humans and much of the rest of the life off the face of the earth. But there's a video they endorse in which this concept is driven home that in the West, we often follow a utilitarian model where we look at our actions, and we say, "What is the outcome?" I mean, this is really common when it comes to corporate decisions, investment decisions. We look at cost-benefit ratios, we look at risk profiles, and we say, "What is the best action to take given the risks, given the possible outcomes?" But there is another way to evaluate our actions, and that's based on ethics and values. [35:15] And that's what we can all strive to do, is transition away from this very Western scientific utilitarian model and into a value model that says, "Look, this is what we fundamentally believe is morally good, morally wrong, and we're gonna live according to our values whether or not we succeed." I think that's a great way to think about going forward--with courage and with values--because so often, we've discussed these issues, and I've heard people say, "But what can we really do? Can we really make a difference?" [35:49] And I want to offer another way of thinking about it, which is that fighting for what you believe, fighting for a better world, is a noble pursuit in its own right. The struggle itself is a journey worth going down. Whether or not we succeed, the fact that our world is in a crisis and that our future is threatened should mobilize us to fight back for a better world. And if we fail, at least we went forward with courage and we took a stand. But if you do want to look at the risk analysis, we certainly have a better chance if we all go forward in that direction, right, David?
[36:26] Yes, we do, Daniel. So we really encourage you to check out Extinction Rebellion. They are doing some really inspiring work, and they've realized that resistance at this point is just that--resistance to annihilation--and that the only resistance that will work from here is outright rebellion, right there in their name, and though they encourage nonviolent protest, civil disobedience, things like that, the language they've chosen to use has shown that this is no longer about climate change or the individual actions but a collective war that is being waged by all of us who are being shit upon by the elites and politicians of this world who have decided that they would rather protect their bottom line rather than the life of this planet, and the collective of all of us rising up and saying, "Not anymore. This cannot go on any longer, or you will face the consequences." And then there's a very heavy "dot, dot, dot," leaving out what those consequences will be, but I'm sure as time goes on, they will get worse and worse. One of their first events it's actually coming up in just a few weeks. On January 26 of 2019, there is a worldwide day of rebellion, disobedience, work stoppage, strikes, whatever you can do to get the attention of what is actually going on right now. And for everyone, this can be different. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to step out of their job on a day. We understand that. [37:50] But even if it's being aware that this is happening, talking to your co-workers, family, friends, letting them know of these demands that XR has made. You can check it out on their website, xrebellion.org or rebellion.earth, depending on if you want the US or UK version, and bringing these issues up to the forefront. XR's not the only organization doing this. There is a recently started group called Earth Strike, which is also coordinating with this January 26th strike date, and also a general strike later on this year, set for September 27th, and they also have a list of demands of things they want done. It's worth checking out. Their website as well, earth-strike.com, though I think they also have some other sites. It's worth just Googling them. We'll link the ones that we can find on our website if you want to read more about all this. But these groups are actively meeting up--there's probably an organization nearby having monthly or weekly meetings at this point--so you can get connected to other people who genuinely care and want to make a difference. And if there is no group in your community, you can be the person who does start that. Both these groups are explicitly non-political, concerned instead with the protection of life on Earth, but if you do want to get political, there are a number of organizations that are doing things in this line. We can link some of them on our website. You can also reach out to us directly, and I can point you towards some depending on which city you're in. There are so many ways to get involved, so many things you can do, and once again, if you can't find these--if none of these sound to your liking--you can be the person who steps out and creates that new movement, that new organization, and drive it forward. [39:19] The Earth Strike group actually was inspired by a Reddit post on a Chomsky subreddit where somebody said, "Am I crazy, or could we have a general strike to save the world?" [39:31] And people said, "Yeah, you are crazy. Let's do it." And now there's groups all around the world--tens of thousands of people--organizing this right now because somebody just said, "Hey, let's do something." And they weren't anyone special. They weren't an academic. They weren't a politician. They weren't a movie star. They were nobody, just like all of us are, but they said something. And when you say something, and when you do something, people respond, and in these times--these end times, maybe--people are looking for something to do, 'cause they know the world is broken. We all feel it in our souls. We feel it in the way that we interact with each other and the world around us, and we're looking for something that we can do--a way to step out of this. And when we are given that opportunity, in my experience, at least, people jump at it. It's scary, but that's where the change starts.
[40:21] Well, here's to jumping into 2019, David. But as always, David, that is a lot to think about.
[40:26] But think about it we hope you will, and do something about it we hope you are inspired to do so. You can find more about all these groups, organizations, thoughts, ideas, as well as read a full transcript of this episode on our website at ashesashes.org.
[40:42] A lot of time and research goes into making these episodes possible, and we will never use ads to support this show, so if you like it, would like us to keep going, you, our listener, can support us by giving us a review, recommending us to a friend, or supporting us on our Patreon page at patreon.com/ashesashescast. Thanks to everyone who provided that initial support and helped us get to our first goal to meet our fixed monthly costs. We're working on what our next goal is going to be. We have some ideas that will make the show better, but we're still working on the details, so stay tuned for that. Homework
[41:18] We'd also like to take this opportunity to encourage all of you to maybe make a couple of New Year's resolutions or do little homework for this show, if we want to call it that.
[41:28] Join me in volunteering in your local community, maybe once a week, once a month, whatever you can do. Anything helps.
[41:36] Be sure to check out one of these organizations--either XR or Earth Strike. They're both doing great stuff, and it's a good way to get your foot in the door to how you can impact some of this positive change.
[41:46] Meet your neighbors. See if you can identify a problem that you all deal with and maybe come up with a plan for how you can all solve it together.
[41:55] And if that sounds like too much work, even going out and making sure that you know them and that, when you pass them on the street, you wave to them 'cause you recognize them I think would be a big step forward for a lot of neighborhoods that I've unfortunately witnessed. Get to know your community.
[42:10] And take care of yourself. Remember that your mental health, your happiness, should be a priority. We want the world to be a better place, and you are a part of this world, so go out and exercise, find a hobby that you enjoy, find a way to de-stress from all these issues, and treat yourself.
[42:29] But not with mindless consumption.
[42:31] Oh, yeah. You get the idea.
[42:35] And we'd love to hear about what it is that you're doing in this world, and, in fact, I would love to be able to highlight the interesting things people are doing around the world, listeners of our show, so if you know people who are doing incredible stuff that you think are making a difference, whether it's small or large, write to us about it. We'd love to hear about them and highlight it on this show. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we've gotten all sorts of great messages from people who have started farms, who are beginning to rip out lawns, who--there's somebody who even threw a rave in order to distribute some of these ideas, and we're really pumped and excited about the very interesting, creative, and clever way that our listeners are taking their actions into this world and making it a better place.
[43:18] Next week, we'll be back to our regular format, bringing some research to you on a topic that is to be decided...
[43:24] We haven't picked out yet.
[43:25] But we've got a couple in mind, so...
[43:28] We hope you'll tune in.
[43:29] Until then...
[43:30] This is Ashes Ashes.