To celebrate Mother Earth, this post includes some pictures of our beautiful home. I hope you fall in love with her like I do time and time again. I found all these lovely images on Unsplash (picture by Tim Swaan)
Hello my dear happiness nerds, welcome (back)!
I’m returning from my summer hiatus with something juicy for you. This one should be fun, the ideas had plenty of time to mature in my heart, which is full of love and optimism these days. Finally, we’re seeing a new generation of young people with a meaningful task, with fire in their eyes, and vigor in their actions. And their task is not exclusive to them: Humans from all walks of life, from all generations, and from all over the world are invited to participate in this great opportunity to live up to the full potential of our race. To finally demonstrate that we are able to live in harmony with nature. That we are wise, compassionate, and virtuous enough to collectively take care of our home that we have exploited for such a long time. Peoples’ hearts are opening up to the realization that it is bloody time to stop raping the mother who has fed, clothed, and sheltered us so kindly and plentifully. Just stop for a moment and remember the last piece of amazing fruit you have tasted. Isn’t that a miracle in itself? But I’m getting ahead of myself. I wanted to start elsewhere, namely in Paris.
Picture by Michal Kmet
Recently, I was on a three-week vacation in the beautiful French capital, which is simultaneously the most visited city in Europe (and number 2 in the world, only surpassed by Bangkok) and the most disappointing destination in the world (up to the point of leaving visitors mentally ill). It is the home of the arguably most iconic antenna in the world, the Eiffel Tower, the most famous painting in the world, the Mona Lisa, and one of the most notorious sociopaths in human history, Napoleon Bonaparte (lately, though, he has stiff, orange competition from across the pond). And, unfortunately, it is the latter, Napoleon, who has inspired this post. Because he personifies everything that in my opinion is wrong with humanity: Greed, selfishness, and the fear of being merely ordinary (which I think is strongly connected to the fear of death and the desire to leave a legacy – exactly the thing that philosophy is here to fix). Yet, history books celebrate him and his kind. Sure, he is also ridiculed (often probably out of envy), but who wouldn’t want to be as famous, as successful, and, eventually, as immortal as him? There are paintings of him that are bigger than my entire living room. His grave is prominently located under the magnificent Dôme des Invalides. He probably wiped his ass with gold leaves and diamonds. In short, he achieved the unthinkable success, admiration, and comfort the rest of us are taught to strive for.
So, obviously, people want to take selfies in front of his palaces, his oversized portraits, and even his tomb. Like they want to take selfies in front of everything that associates them with wealth, success, and the extraordinary. In order to feel the short kicks of dopamine for every like on Instagram from the envious crowd at home. I try not to judge them for this behavior, because, after all, approval from our peers is one of our most instinctive desires. It’s probably one of the hardest impulses to get rid of on the journey towards deep and lasting happiness.
Picture by Jonathan Auh
My problem is less with the pretentious selfies themselves, but with the culture and values behind them. These selfies are symbolic versions of Napoleon’s palaces and riches; like them, they are the results of peoples’ greed, selfishness, and fear of being merely ordinary. People want more admiration, more likes, more envy, and therefore more money, more lavish vacations, and more extravagant Instagram feeds. This is not limited to vacations, but is equally true for clothes, cars, homes, food, perfumes, and so on. It’s consumption as a way to communicate one’s worth, which is exactly what entrepreneurs and politicians want, because it drives growth and fills their pockets. Again, all this to bolster the self by getting ahead in the rat race, in which nobody wins, but everybody loses (because it just doesn’t make happy). And by “everybody”, I mean everybody: The burnt-out managers and the slave-like child workers, the anxious city-dwellers and the exploited farmers, the dying rain forests, and the polluted oceans.
This is not a modern problem, it has always existed. As I said, we are hardwired towards this unfortunate dynamic. What’s new is that the ecological consequences of our greed, selfishness, and fear of the ordinary have accumulated such damage and are now on such an enormous scale that they are even affecting weather itself. Whereas a few thousand years ago, humans were awe-struck by weather phenomena like lightening and attributed them to godly powers, today, humans collectively have risen to be the gods who shape the weather; who manage to heat up the entire planet at unprecedented rates (like, literally, hundreds of thousands of times faster than before us); and who speed up the extinction of species by probably a 100 to a 1000 times. Some geologists even say we have entered a new geological age, the Anthropocene. If it weren’t so catastrophically sad, it would be kind of impressive.
Picture by Mathilda Khoo
But contrary to Greta Thunberg, who is my absolute hero and probably the most important person living today, I don’t want you to panic. I want you to re-evaluate our values. Should we keep on celebrating material wealth, fame, power, and status as well as the greed, selfishness, and fear of the ordinary that underlie them? Or should we find something better? Maybe something wiser, more beautiful, and more poetic? How about contentment instead of greed? How about love, compassion and helpfulness instead of selfishness? How about celebrating the ordinary instead of running away from it? I say yes, pretty pleeeease (with sugar on top)!
I say, let’s build monuments and paint big-ass paintings for the modest, the selfless, and the undistinguished! But more importantly than monuments and big-ass paintings, let’s teach these values (which, by the way, sages around the globe have advocated for millennia) in schools, universities, and companies! Let’s act upon them in our daily lives and in our voluntary work! Let’s not celebrate our most embarrassing sociopaths and their ridiculous squanderings; instead, let’s celebrate the beauty of nature and the ones who protect and nurture it. Let’s fall in love with nature again. No matter where you live, you have the most amazing forests or plains, waters or deserts, mountains or oceans right in your neighborhood (great local travel options, by the way!). And if not, it’s because you and the ones before you destroyed them. That’s a fact. Nothing to be ashamed of, because shame won’t get us anywhere in this crisis. Just something to accept and change for the better.
Picture by Gitte Winter
As a species, we have incredible (human) resources. A few months ago, Ethiopians planted over 350 million trees in only 12 hours. That’s less than 1% of the global population in one of the poorest countries in the world basically performing a miracle of epic proportions. Last Friday, more than 4 million individuals around the globe acted in concert and striked for a healthier and more beautiful future. Imagine what we other 7.7 billion could achieve together!
Reversing global warming is far from hopeless, it’s just a matter of every single person choosing one thing to do, taking one less flight per year, eating one less steak per week, buying one outfit from a vintage store, picking one organization to donate to, or finding one project to get involved in. And there’s something for everyone’s taste. Recently, a huge collaboration by scientists and activists compiled the top 100 things to do to reverse global warming. You’ll find everything there, from upgrading fridges, to reducing food waste, and educating girls. You don’t have to be a climate scientist or biologist. You. Just. Have. To. Pick. One. Thing. And most important of all – and this option costs next to nothing, but has the biggest impact of them all – vote for the party that makes ambitious climate action their top priority.
Picture by Omar Mena
And you really have to. Make a plan right now and write it down. Follow through with it and share your success with others so they’ll follow your lead. Reward yourself for being one of the first awesome people who have done something, even if it’s the smallest thing. Actually, for what it’s worth, write it in the comments below and I’ll thank you personally. But nothing will be as rewarding as the feeling that you’ve done the right thing. For one moment, you’ve ignored all the allegedly more fun but definitely less useful activities and done something important. And hey, there’s plenty of fun to be had while saving the planet. Go to a local initiative and do something cool that suits your interests. As I said, there’s something for everybody.
The thing is: If you don’t do anything, nobody else will. That’s another way in which we are hardwired in a less than ideal way. “One of my flat mates will bring out the trash eventually, right?” Guess what, they’re thinking the exact same thing until the smell is unbearable and the bravest soul attends to the matter. Be the bravest soul and bring out the trash even before the smell gets unbearable.
Picture by David Clode
We are lucky to live in a time, where it’s never been easier to find something meaningful to do. For decades, youth culture didn’t have anything to rebel against and nothing to fight for. Now we have the opportunity to be among the first to live a happier and more sustainable life, to have a cleaner conscience, and to find pleasure in helping others. Every act we do for the climate will immediately affect peoples’ lives around the world. They are our brothers and sisters, just like the animals and trees in the forests, the birds in the skies, and the fish in the sea. We’re in this together, which is a beautiful thing to realize. Plant the tree that will fill your lungs with air. Go out and fall in love with nature again. Save Mother Earth because you love her.
If you like the message of this little essay, please share it. Multiplying the love is the best you can do with it.
Picture by Zdeněk Macháček
Picture by Linnea Sandbakk
Picture by Yuichi Kageyama
Picture by J L
Picture by Fabrizio Frigeni
Picture by Avnish Choudhary
Picture by Tim De Pauw