I have been thinking a lot about options and limits lately. It has been my studies that has brought this on, I will concede. That, I guess, is what uni studies are supposed to do – draw your thinking out into areas previously left unexplored.
LIMITS. We feel pretty unlimited, don’t we? We have umpteen career choices, cheap enough travel options, the pick of places to live. If we don’t like something we change it fairly easily. New bedspread. New couch. New TV.
We could spend our lives getting new things. Upgrading. Forever upgrading. Upgrade suburbs. Upgrade house (in fact upgrading houses seems to be the major drive for many of us westerners. (Rental > buy small house > buy larger house > buy/build dream house > die > live in coffin.)
Seems a bit petty looked at like that, doesn’t it.
We feel free, but we, like everyone else, are constrained by limits.
We can choose between this, this and this dress. This one made in China, this one made in China and this super duper expensive one made in Australia…so either ten cheap dresses or one pricey one? Well, what’s your choice?
We can wear these, these or these shoes.
They haven’t made this shoe yet, so it’s not an option.
We can choose to live in this house on the beach, this one in the city centre, this house in the country, but oh, we can’t live in that one because there’s no work there and to get a house you have to go into debt and there’s no work where that house is. Options.
If we’re a bit game we could think outside the box a little. We are going to live in a converted Bedford bus. Another person lives in a smallish sail boat and goes around the world for the next three years (yes, there are people who do this – even some with kids). Another person chooses to be homeless (yes, there are people like this too). Sometimes these choices come with unfavourable consequences. Homelessness really limits your social life, you can never really have anyone over for dinner. You can’t really have anyone over for dinner when you are in the middle of the Pacific either, you will have to put your career on hold if you are sailing, too. Sailing a boat takes up a bit of time.
Travel! We are unlimited when it comes to travel, aren’t we? I could travel to Greenland, Africa, Britain, South America. What fun. Me the tourist. Footloose, fancy free. Never mind the appalling polluting force that airplane travel is. The world can worry about that, not me.
Well, yes. See this graph.-VVV- The consequences of my polluting force will affect people other than me. My choices will limit other peoples options. As long as my options remain unfettered what have I to care about?
That there is typical Western nonchalance. But….I find…that I can’t be like that, much apologies.
We think we have options, but we are sold our choices. We can choose between three thousand and thirty three toys, but you can’t have no toys, not in our culture. We can drive a car, catch a bus (I can’t, not where I live), catch a train (again, not I), walk (20ks to the shops for me), ride a bike, but try living locally – you just can’t – not in most places! We are expected to use our cars, especially in Australia.
Further afield. I would love to travel. I would gladly go by ship. But why? Ships are so s l o w, and one couldn’t be slow, could one. Faster is better, isn’t it? Well, is it? Flying would greatly grate on my principles, and ships don’t go everywhere these days. So I am limited.
We are surrounded by limits. But we fear them. We must be able to choose between several pairs of shoes, so be offered the option of ‘this pair or nothing’ feels constricting. Why can we not limit our consumption ourselves? If we do not do it now, if we do not choose a life of self-imposed-limitations, surely into the future either someone else will do it for us or the earth will do it for us.
Since 1971 heatwaves in Australia have been getting more frequent and longer. Some people like to ignore the science. Ignorance is bliss. With knowledge comes power and also responsibility (to change). And we do not want to change. We do not want to give up this (illusion of a) limitless life which we have inherited. We feel entitled to all these options – never mind at what or at whose expense.
Eventually our inaction will lead to the earths reaction. And that can not be ignored or changed or simply overcome. There is little you can do about the weather.
Throughout history we have managed to fit our options around the weather. Air conditioned & heated cars. Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter fashion. Houses which are inefficient and plug into terribly costly (in every way) external energy sources in order to cater to the comfort of their inhabitants. And I know, some of you enjoy the heat and hate the cold. But a Summer which differentiates between blisteringly hot and just hot? No thanks. And brief winters in which we experience fierce hailstorms, incredible cold snaps, extremely cold night and warm days? Some of us may adapt, some of our precious cars and houses and things may get through, but will our crops and animals? Nature doesn’t adapt quickly and the past century has accelerated pressure on the earth in many ways.
There is lots of fear mongering around this subject. But to me it’s clear.
Chart from here.
We are greedy and we are selfish and we are driven by money, fear and power and we ought not to be.
The world has chosen a path, it has chosen between its options. We are on a path. The path doesn’t fit. Our tower of babel ambitions do not fit with the limitations of this world. We are gods on this earth and we are making our presence known. The less powerful are suffering under our weight but still we go on. We are gods and we must continue to be gods. If we are not the gods who will be? We fear. We fear life. We fear death. We are only safe in our consumerism. When we consume we know we are powerful, we know we are limitless, we know we have options. When we consume we can define ourselves by design. We applaud our growth economy, we see it as a way out of the limitations of nature, of localism, we do not (well, I do) see it as a hungry, greedy creature out to consume more and more of the worlds resources.
I love this beautiful world. We have created nothing better than the natural wonders of this planet. This planet should form our limitations, not our own greed. We can be humble about it. We can humbly accept natural limitations, not fearfully strive to overcome them.
There are other options out there, not just the ones we create and sell.