This one is addressed to my fellow white people who identify as permies or eco activists. (Because I don’t really see these “feeling hopeless” behaviors and mindsets about climate change etc. happening among the Black people, indigenous people, and other people of color who I follow.)
Regarding why so many of us white people (particularly Boomers) fall into feeling hopeless … This is just a list off the top of my head; let me know if you think of anything else.
• We spend far more time & energy trying to memorize mathematical formulas for building swales and catching rainwater, than we do in building bridges to our neighbors.
• We spend too much time & energy trying to control our personal gardens and grow all the possible fruit trees and veggies (and feeling depressed when we fail); and not enough time & energy helping our communities to build local food-supply networks, or strengthen existing networks. Ditto for health care, and any other necessities. We feel hopeless because we persist in trying to secure these things for ourselves, by ourselves — an impossible task.
• We keep thinking money, or any other form of stored material wealth, is going to solve everything; that it’s more important than community.
• We keep thinking of community as being some ideal destination “somewhere else” (out on acreage, somewhere off in the future) as opposed to right in front of us in our own neighborhoods.
• Special one for fellow Boomers: We feel hopeless because for the first time in our lives, we (the almighty “Me Generation”) are feeling what it feels like to have our power threatened. That power was only ever illusory anyway though!
• We feel hopeless because we have never really faced an existential threat before, and now that it has reached our cushy shores we are freaking out. Unlike most of humanity throughout history and across the globe, who have faced and navigated many such crises.
• We keep thinking we are going to fix things by voting for the “right people”; usually this translates to shrill exhortations by my fellow gray-haired liberal-minded white ladies on social media to “Vote Blue!” Voting blue is not going to fix things, because blue is just a thinly disguised flavor of business-as-usual; entrenched oligarchy. Not saying don’t vote; just saying we need to stop thinking any establishment candidate will save us.
• This last one is going to sound harsh. If it doesn’t fit, don’t take it on. But if it resonates at all, I encourage you to squarely face it down and do some reflecting. I think for some people, feeling hopeless is comfortable. Here I’m specifically talking to the subset of fellow white Boomers who are retired or near retirement, have housing security, plenty to eat, access to health care, and other basics (which nobody anywhere ever should have to go without, but all too many people these days are going without). By deciding things are “hopeless,” we get to keep all our stash of material security and not have to question it; whose backs we got it off of. And hey, we’re old, we’re going to die in a few years (even with our fancy insurance policies that buy the best healthcare, the body is mortal after all), so we can just oblivionate off into the sunset in our cushy bubble. Our stock index funds getting 7% a year; us hopping on planes and cruise ships anytime we please, and all that. Whereas if we were to stop indulging in the attitude that things are hopeless, we might have to feel uncomfortable and do something different with all that amassed wealth. (To be clear: I’m not saying people can’t have treats and luxuries in life. And I’m not the “luxury police” trying to tell people how much is too much. That is between each person and their conscience, and I have offered extensive tips and resources in my book and on this blog about how easy it is to “carbon budget” for treats and luxuries.) What I take issue with is the combination of living in this kind of luxury, while claiming to be an environmentalist, and at the same time going around saying things are hopeless. Or my favorite variant: “My generation is no good; we’re counting on you people, the younger generations.” What!? Um, no.
• One more! We feel hopeless because our culture is literally hopeless! Colonizer, consumerist, individualist lone-wolf culture. A hopeless, desolate, dead-end street. Time to discontinue the failed experiment, so that healthy, caring, regenerative culture can thrive.
Homework! Your homework assignment today, should you choose to accept it:
1) Google “decolonize your mind” and do some reading that grabs you. Let me know what you find out! I also suggest lots of material in this blog on a steady basis, but wanted to give you a wider field.
2) And, if you are able to access TikTok, watch this video by mplsadonia. Boost it, and seek out other content like it! “Welcome to the revolution! There’s no place for shame! Decolonize your mind!”
(The TT algorithm can be pretty decent, I’ve found, as long as I am proactively seeking out content by Black people, indigenous people, and other people of color. And LGBTQIA and neurodivergent people as well. )