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Crossroads: from meta-crisis to climatism to relationships

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By Marco Vesters

· 8 min read

Is the global political and societal discourse shifting from Meta-crisis to climatism

“Any social, political, and ecological phenomena facing the world today – from the Wars in Gaza and Ukraine to the management of wildfires to meat eaters, migrants, and consumers– quickly become climatized, as explained by “a change in the climate.” “

- slightly updated from Professor Mike Hulme’s quote.

With complex political and ethical challenges so narrowly framed, combatting climate change becomes the supreme political challenge of our time, and everything else becomes subservient to this one goal. Does this mean we don’t need to focus on ending the era of fossil fuels? No, of course not; it's critical, and we know why, but bundling our other crisis into climatism is a recipe for disaster.


Another ugly phenomenon associated with climate mitigation and adaptation is neo-colonialism, where countries with tropical rainforests “do not perform as well” as others and are subsequently pressured into the global carbon credits market, where a unit costs just a fraction of what the economic, environmental, and social cost is of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. 

This approach ignores the need to improve the socio-economic environment of a particular bioregion where the ecological value is highest. It’s cheaper to buy a carbon credit from Indonesia than from Germany. Climatism maintains the status quo in a world with winners and losers. 

The growth of green energy is distributed according to a nation's wealth and political will, leaving the less wealthy and unwilling behind. Low and Middle-income polluters depend on High-Income polluters to support their mitigation and adaptation policies. The vicious cycle of rich versus poor remains unbroken, and poverty prevails. Our system of wealth creation contradicts planetary wealth creation. A tropical rainforest or a biodiversity hotspot in the ocean should be worth more than the GDP of a petrostate.

Food systems

Food systems also face the same issues as above, where smallholders (pastoral farmers) and artisanal fisheries (combined, they are responsible for 40% of our food) are pressured by the current global food and agrochemical system to go hungry and miss out on equal opportunity in terms of education and access to utilities that for the most part, are considered a given by the perpetrators and advocates for the status quo. As we have seen repeatedly, national politics are best served by paying interest to the powerful. At the same time, the marginalized are forced into suffering and have to rely on not-for-profit organizations that, you guessed it, are funded by high-income polluters.

Today’s society is conditioned to see the world and its parts as objects, and we are conditioned to solve problems by reducing them to their smallest components so we can tackle each issue individually without considering unintended consequences. Our climate is becoming humanized with an unrelenting focus on human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. We seem to ignore that climate is natural and one system with intimate relationships with all of Earth’s other spheres. We seek to control, and while we dominate this planet as a species, we seem to delude ourselves into thinking we can control everything. 

So, what surrounds us?

Essentially, it’s the relationship between the belief and conviction in infinite growth and our inconsequential wastefulness to produce objects. While we aspire to be a services economy, these services serve objects, not relationships, for the most part. Growth is society’s primary goal and is measured weekly, quarterly, and annually: Jobs growth, GDP growth, Business growth, and growth in consumer spending to keep the economy afloat. 

There is an unrelenting belief that no growth = death, even at a personal and professional level. This fixation on the growth of objects has allowed us to create more and more waste: in our air with our greenhouse gasses, our chemical waste in our water, on land, and last but not least, our food and industrial waste. Our wastefulness is now of consequence. We have created a sphere of waste all around us. We now breathe it, drink it, and eat it daily.

We have lost our way. 

We have been taught that we smell bad. 

We have been taught that we must look pretty and contemporary.

We are forced to believe that our possessions are not new enough or big enough. 

We lack individual and collective purpose and fear confronting ourselves.

We seek all forms of escapism.

We buy nipple bras endorsed by a Kardashian so we can look cool on a warming planet.

We only have to look at the top ten medicines prescribed globally today to see how healthy we are as a society. These top ten medicines are prescribed for:

  • Cardiovascular, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid/endocrine dysfunction

Medical researchers are still cautious about the causes. Still, one cannot ignore that our high stress levels, societal pressures, hurry time, food systems, and pervasive spread of chemical pesticides, fertilizer, and petrochemicals are all linked. We are now able to live till a hundred, but how many pills do we need to pop to get there? None of these medicines heal you completely. All doctors who prescribe these medicines add the advice for you to change your lifestyle in one way or another. The message cannot be clearer. How many of your family members are on any of these medications? 

Growth will end

There is much talk about the need for systems and systemic change, but nothing will change as long as most view a tree as an object. A tree is an intricate system of life that has relationships with the soil, air, water, micro-organisms, animals, and fellow trees. Ever wonder why tree branches don’t overlap between trees in a forest? Ever wonder why a tree does not grow to infinite heights? The Celts knew this; look at their Tree of Life.

We seek to grow and have been growing for millennia without realizing that growth is limited. At some point, growth stops because we live on a finite planet that aspires to maintain balance. Our planetary life system is a spiral that never connects completely to form a circle. It constantly changes in pursuit of balance and stability. It adapts to changes in its chemical and biological composition. Our planet is an orchestra that never stops; we are not its conductor.

We can only aspire to see ourselves as a single species, humanity as a single unit to collaborate and build lasting, just, and loving relationships with each other and our environment where no one gets left behind. We lack emotional and rational connectedness with Life around us. We are, however, hardwired for love, compassion, and empathy but have yet to reach that goal even though they rank highest on humanity’s aspirations. A fair system based on equal justice should emerge for the benefit of all.

We have proven ourselves highly intelligent, yet we must recognize that we are still mammals. We survive thanks to our numbers, even within our bodies. Our immune system and capacity to self-heal (Regenerate) skin cuts, bruises, and even our liver are all thanks to numbers found in our biota. Trillions of organisms are hard at work to ensure we stay healthy. We survive because we are part of life woven into us; a tree, a bee, and a whale are just as much a part of us as we are part of them. 

We have clouded ourselves with our pollution, and the only way to re-establish ourselves as part of life on this planet is to eliminate it. Object-based problem-solving needs to transition to relationship-based solving and creation and acknowledge that we live in a world with limits.

Some practical examples to consider?

For businesses

  • Devise a strategy that doubles the lifetime of your products and services and repeat until you reach near ecological equilibrium.
  • Invest in nature-based solutions to extend the lifecycle management of your products.
  • Minimize wastefulness,
  • From Quantity to Quality
  • From efficiency gains and employee reductionism to craftsmanship
  • From sustainability to the regeneration of Life.
  • From shareholder value to Life systems value.
  • From efficiency and replacement technology to relational value technology.

For individuals

  • Healing comes first, both physically and mentally.
  • Control your anatomy, not externalities.
  • Build and find purpose in relationships by recognizing that we are all the same people.
  • It’s okay to smell bad and not look pretty.
  • Take care of a plant and watch it grow.
  • Consume what you need, not what you want, and stretch its life as far as possible.
  • Buy local, durable products or preferably food from within your bioregion first.
  • Learn to see that the soil you walk on, the air you breathe, and the water you drink are part of you. Remember that harm inflicted will eventually come back to bite you.

Seek abundance, not scarcity. Champagne is, after all, just sparkling wine. If we don’t find a way, who will?

illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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About the author

Marco Vesters is Chief Exploration & Curiosity Officer in the Age of Consequences and a deep thinking analyst on the metacrisis. Marco is on an expedition to discover and design frameworks for global protopian stewardship. He deals with topics related to the underlying dynamics of our global ecological, socio-economic, physiological, and psychological crisis.

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