THE NEW HIPPIES: The work abolition movement, anarcho-primitivism and biodynamism as ways to combat climate change
Essay for the course LOGS13b The Strategic Role of Responsibility in Business by Teppo Saari
The course LOGS13b The Strategic Role of Responsibility in Business had the students think about and discuss the various ethical dimensions in business, moral dilemmas and choices to be made that a decision maker in business world come across every day.
This essay is motivated by our case study with a headline ’Investors urge European companies to include climate risks in accounts’ (Financial Times 2020). In this essay I will explore values and ethical principles that I see as the solutions to our case study and climate change in general. This is not to say that I could stand up for them in business world. Ironically, my main thread and leitmotif here is the untransformational nature of capitalism and business world. Thus, standing up to the values I will discuss here means doing less business, not more.
This essay is divided in three parts: problem – reaction – solution. These three parts will talk about the chosen values and ethical principles. They are by no means new: pragmatism – The Golden Rule – parsimony & naturality. They just seem to be in conflict with our modern way of living.
Thinking pragmatically about the problem
As part of our course assignment, we got to read about a group of investors managing trillions of dollars worth of assets who urged European companies to include climate risks in their accounts (Financial Times 2020). Scientists have warned us for decades, that pumping extreme amounts of CO2 into our atmosphere will result in melting of the polar ice caps (Mitchell 1989; Jones & Henderson-Sellers 1990), which will raise the sea level and drown some of the coastal cities (Peters & Darling 1985). Finally, capitalists are acting responsibly!
It would seem that capitalists actually cared for the planet and not just their profits. Or would it? Maybe they are scared of losing their future profits, and this kind of media escapade would bring back public trust and confidence in the system. It would be a sign that capitalists can act transparently, openly, accountably, respecting others (O’Leary 1993). But is changing the allocation in your investment portfolio really a sign of empathy? Would there be other ways to better express empathy in business?
Shareholders are interested in the risk their assets are facing, not necessarily in the welfare of the people. Investors acting virtuously can be just virtue-signaling or pleasing other elements in the society to take off media pressure and negative PR from them in a conformist way (Collinson 2003). Maybe they are just greenwashing their own conscience. Why is George Soros’ climate buzz astroturfing industrial complex (Morningstar 2019a) financing Greta Thunberg to do public PR campaigns targeting the youth? Maybe there is money in it. It is unlikely that it would have been dubbed ”A 100 trillion dollar storytelling campaign” without some particularly good reasons (Morningstar 2019b).
But there is something else in it too than just money: power and control. The person who gets to limit choices gets to dictate what kind of choices remain. And if a person has that kind of foreknowledge, then that person can be two steps ahead of us. And being two steps ahead of us means securing future profits. Including climate risks in accounts will imply controls. Controls are imposed on accounts, but ultimately it will mean controls imposed on people and their daily activities. Workers are the ones who will naturally suffer the consequences of management decisions. In this case management decisions are ’urged’ externally, from the owners’ part. After all, it is the corporations that are producing most of the climate change effects, in terms of pollution and greenhouse gases (Griffin 2017). People doing their jobs, working everyday, producing things but also at the same time producing climate effects. I would still love to hear politicians use more terms such as ”pollution” when talking about these issues. For it is unclear how reducing carbon emissions will reduce overall pollution that is also a contributor in the destruction of our environment (see eg. Bodo & Gimah 2020; Oelofse et al. 2007). Issues like microplastics, holes in the ozone layer, biodiversity loss, acid rains and soil degradation need to be talked about just as much, if not more so.
The problem is simple: too much economic activity producing too much climate impact, mostly pollution and greenhouse gases. Solving the Grand Challenge (Konstantinou & Muller 2020) of our time is harder if we wish to keep the fabric of our society intact. There’s a clear need for dialogue among stakeholders (Gardiner 1996), but how is it a dialogue if people are not actually listened to and don’t get to say how things will progress in society? What I am proposing is a meme-like solution that has the greater impact the more people adopt it. My solution is: stop working. Produce less. Stop supporting systems and mechanisms that produce climate effects. Stop supporting the mechanisms that don’t listen to your voice. Disconnect from the Matrix. Working a dayjob is one of these mechanisms. Although many people have realized the benefits of working from home (Kost 2020), a lot more needs to be done. Remote work is not available to everyone. Not all jobs are remote work.
Bob Black (2021) in his texts has advocated for the total and complete abolition of work. Stopping working naturally does not mean stopping doing things, it will merely mean stopping working a job, a concept which itself is a social construct. Black’s theses are simple but powerful. Working is the source of all ills, it is not compatible with ludic life (allthemore so in 2021), it is forced labour and compulsory production, it is replete with indignities called ”discipline”: ”surveillance, rotework, imposed work tempos, production quotas, punching -in and -out, etc”. Black does not only describe the negative ontological aspects of working, he goes deeper and invokes many familiar names of Greek philosophers:
Both Plato and Xenophon attribute to Socrates and obviously share with him an awareness of the destructive effects of work on the worker as a citizen and a human being. Herodotus identified contempt for work as an attribute of the classical Greeks at the zenith of their culture. To take only one Roman example, Cicero said that “whoever gives his labor for money sells himself and puts himself in the rank of slaves.” His candor is now rare, but contemporary primitive societies which we are wont to look down upon have provided spokesmen who have enlightened Western anthropologists. The Kapauku of West Irian, according to Posposil, have a conception of balance in life and accordingly work only every other day, the day of rest designed “to regain the lost power and health.” Our ancestors, even as late as the eighteenth century when they were far along the path to our present predicament, at least were aware of what we have forgotten, the underside of industrialization. Their religious devotion to “St. Monday” — thus establishing a de facto five-day week 150–200 years before its legal consecration — was the despair of the earliest factory owners. They took a long time in submitting to the tyranny of the bell, predecessor of the time clock. In fact it was necessary for a generation or two to replace adult males with women accustomed to obedience and children who could be molded to fit industrial needs. Even the exploited peasants of the ancient regime wrested substantial time back from their landlord’s work. According to Lafargue, a fourth of the French peasants’ calendar was devoted to Sundays and holidays, and Chayanov’s figures from villages in Czarist Russia — hardly a progressive society — likewise show a fourth or fifth of peasants’ days devoted to repose. Controlling for productivity, we are obviously far behind these backward societies. The exploited muzhiks would wonder why any of us are working at all. So should we.
Black notes that only ”a small and diminishing fraction of work serves any useful purpose independent of the defense and reproduction of the work-system and its political and legal appendages”. In similar vein, the late but great David Graeber saw the futility of most work. Calling this phenomenon ’bullshit jobs’ (Graeber 2018), Graeber sets out to describe what many of us are familiar with: we do useless things to make ourselves feel useful. Because modern society legitimizes itself with having people ’do’ stuff and not ’be’ a certain person. How can you (objectively) measure being? You can’t. But doing, that you can measure. This measurement then qualifies you as a member of society: productive, doing your part (an idiom that is a perfect example how you can’t escape the doing paradigm on a societal level). Graeber’s definition of a bullshit job is: if the position were eliminated, it would make no discernible difference in the world. In many cases these types of jobs are found to be supporting some kind of buraucracy, reporting, assisting decision makers, etc. Our current Matrix has its ways of creating more of these with the clever marketing concept called ’value’ (Petrescu 2019). They don’t make a difference, they create value.
Why would you want to overload the world by doing things that you nor most everyone else see no point in? Why would you waste your time doing pointless things? The easy answer to these questions is ’subsistence’. But there are many other ways to live on this planet. If you keep doing what the society tells you is acceptable or convenient, you will shut your eyes from the problem at hand: climate change.
Legitimizing anarcho-naturism as a solution with The Golden Rule
Our responsibility is to ourselves. We can not properly be held responsible for anything else. Yet the system of representational democracy does just this, holds us collectively responsible for many things, borrows money from creditors with our names on the loan collectively and then makes us pay for the loans. The way this Matrix works is yet another reason to disconnect from it. Or at least stop supporting it as much as possible.
The Golden Rule states: ”Treat others as you want to be treated” (Gensler 2013). From the perspective of climate change, it can first seem curious why you would quit your job and head for the hills. After all, we are facing a global issue here. There are people in need for help and I am running away? But I would see it as a way to get around our predicament. The Golden Rule can be also interpreted in Kantian way as the categorical imperative, particularly its first formulation: ”Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law”. This formulation is somewhat more proactive in nature. It talks about acting, doing things, and doing things is what is appreciated in our society, even when your goal is to exit the society.
Why exit the society? Is it enough to just quit your job and find something else to do, something that is more fulfilling and not bullshit? What an excellent question. Long before the advent of smart phones and 5G and DNA-vaccines, this question had been brought up to the table. In the 1800s, people were realizing the negative impact industrialization was having on society at large. People were rooted out from their family homes in the countryside, forced to move to a large city to look for a job, crammed into small apartments with dozens of other workers, coerced into working long and hard days at factories to make a living. The lowly misery of these people attracted the attention of a certain Friedrich Engels, who felt their situation was not adequate to make up for the suffering they had gone through. He meticulously described the working conditions of the English working class in his ”The Condition of the Working Class in England” (2003 ), originally published in German. Sociology as a science was established by Karl Marx, Max Weber and Emile Durkheim to study these changes. Slowly but surely, the influx of people into cities started to cause issues, something that mayors and other municipal representatives had to start taking care of. Planning and zoning were given a lot more attention, since the earlier modus operandi of old European cities had been rather laissez faire (Sutcliffe 1980).
Against this backdrop of massive societal change, people started to question the changes and their direction. Are we really nothing more than slaves, just working in a different environment? Slavery might not be the right word or context here. Many people believe to be free, govern themselves and their property, and yet their daily actions and options to choose from seem to be eerily limited. They have only so many choices, most of which seem somehow related to running their errands. A more appropriate term, with all its connotations, here would be the Greek word ananke, ”force, constraint, necessity”. Like a force of nature, progress towards modernity necessitates that people leave their family homes and go work in large factories, compulsively manufacturing endless amounts of products, some of which are necessary, others merely decorations, and some just pointless.
Many names in 19th century New England worked upon a vision for the future society at a time when unprecedented changes were taking place and the standard of living was rising faster than ever before. The Transcendental Club was a group of New England authors, philosophers, socialists, politicians and intellectuals of the early-to-mid-19th century which gave rise to Transcendentalism, the first notable American intellectual movement. Transcendentalist believe in the inherent goodness of people and nature, but that society and its institutions — particularly organized religion and political parties — corrupt the purity of the individual. (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 2003; Sacks 2003.) Transcendentalism is a unique mix of European Romanticism, German (particularly Kantian) philosophy, and American Christianity. The impact of this movement can still be seen in the many flavours of American anarchist and radical Christian movements.
Out of the ranks of Transcendentalists rose a couple of names that can be viewed as the progenitors of modern anarcho-primitivism and natur(al)ist anarchy. Ralph Waldo Emerson was the central figure of the Transcendental Club, who together with Henry David Thoreau critiqued the contemporary society for its ”unthinking conformity” and advocated for “an original relation to the universe” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 2003). Emerson’s Nature (2009 ) poetically embellishes our view of the natural world, while Thoreau’s Walden; or, Life in the Woods (1995 ) is a call for civil disobedience and revolt against the modern world. Another influential natur(al)ist writer has been Leo Tolstoi whose name is frequently mentioned by anarchists. Tolstoi himself was a Christian and pacifist, and his writings have inspired Christian anarcho-pacifism that views the state as ”immoral and unsupportable because of its connection with military power” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 2017).
Before the Transcendentalist movement, Europe experienced similar trend in philosophy with Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s natural philosophy. Rousseau touched upon many subjects: freedom, free will, authority, nature, morality, societal inequality, representation and government. Like Transcendentalists, Rousseau held a belief that human beings are good by nature but are rendered corrupt by society. ”Rousseau clearly states that morality is not a natural feature of human life, so in whatever sense it is that human beings are good by nature, it is not the moral sense that the casual reader would ordinarily assume” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 2010). Rousseau’s work is relevant to many of the social movements that currently fight against COVID restrictions, vaccination agenda, building of 5G antenna towers next to where people live, polluting the environment, systemic poverty and general disconnection from the natural world. Rousseau, although regarded as a philosopher, saw philosophy itself negatively, and to him philosophers were ”the post-hoc rationalizers of self-interest, as apologists for various forms of tyranny, and as playing a role in the alienation of the modern individual from humanity’s natural impulse to compassion” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 2010).
Rousseau’s days did not see capitalism as we see it now. It was later Marx (influenced by Hegel, who in turn was influenced by Rousseau) that put together a treatise that considers the societal change we have seen ever since from industrialism and circulation of capital. But Rousseau’s thoughts about the social contract (1968 ), “child-centered” education (Rousseau 2010), and inequality (Graeber & Wengrow 2018; Rousseau 2008) are still relevant today. Especially when we are faced with many societal forces that are contradictory in nature, each of them pushing us into certain direction, demanding our attention, wanting us to change our beliefs about that one particular aspect that connects with other aspects and forms the Matrix of our reality.
We are once again facing a similar situation as the people did back in the days of the first industrial revolution. Now the industrial revolution has reached its fourth cycle, unimaginatively called ”Industry 4.0” (Marr 2018; WEF 2021), where machines are starting to become autonomous and talk to each other. I used to think technology was cool, and went to work for Google. But at Google I learned that technology is not cool, after all. Not until technology becomes completely open source, it will be used by massive conglomerates to build autonomous weapons systems (Cassella 2018; Johnson 2018) and the industry will keep paying ethics researchers to keep writing arguments for them (Charters 2020). Even though I could work for an industry that, given the current trajectory, will be among the biggest producers of CO 2 in the future Vidal 2017), the idea that I would work for an industry that sees weaponizing their products as the grandest idea of mankind’s future is still gnawing.
Because, it is all just business (Huesemann & Huesemann 2011):
One of the functions of critical science is to create awareness of the underlying values, and the political and financial interests which are currently determining the course of science and technology in industrialized society. This exposure of the value-laden character of science and technology is done with the goal of emancipating both people and the environment from domination and exploitation by powerful interests. The ultimate objective is to redirect science and technology to support both ordinary people and the environment, instead of causing suffering through oppression and exploitation by dominant elites. Furthermore, by exposing the myth of the value-neutrality of science and technology, critical science attempts to awaken working scientists and engineers to the social, political, and ethical implications of their work, making it impossible or, at the very least, uncomfortable for them to ignore the wider context and corresponding responsibilities of their professional activities.
It all seems to be connected with state imperialism and the military-industrial(-intelligence) complex. Lenin’s statement (2008 ) equating capitalism with imperialism still prevails this day: ”imperialist wars are absolutely inevitable under such an economic system, as long as private property in the means of production exists”. The conditions change, but the war machine keeps on churning (soon with autonomous weapons!), with wealthy but crooky investors financing projects that are even more dystopian (Byrne 2013). We may remember what president Dwight D. Eisenhower said about the military- industrial complex (NPR 2011):
”In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.”
It is exactly these kinds of doomsday scenarios that inspire people like Theodore John ”The Unabomber” Kaczynski. Kaczynski, famous for sending mail bombs to various university professors around the US, holds a doctoral degree in mathematics. (Wikipedia 2021.) Kaczynski was bullied as a child, and it has been suggested that he was part of an MKULTRA experiment in college (The Week 2017). Kaczynski did not send his bombs haphazardly. He wrote long theoretical pieces to justify his actions, most of them being thematically anarcho-primitivist. In 1995, after sending several bombs to university personnel and business executives in 1978-1995, he said to ”desist from terrorism” if he got his text published in media outlets.
In his Industrial Society and Its Future (Kaczynski 1995), a 35 thousand word essay published in The Washington Post, which the FBI gave the name ”Unabomber manifesto”, Kaczynski attributes many our societal ills to ”leftism”. In the manifesto Kaczynski details how two psychological tendencies, “feelings of inferiority” and “oversocialization”, form the basis of ”the psychology of modern leftism”. Feelings of inferiority are taken to mean the whole spectrum of negative feelings about self: low self-esteem, feelings of powerlessness, guilt, self-hatred etc. Oversocialization is the process of socialization taken to extreme levels:
24. Psychologists use the term “socialization” to designate the process by which children are trained to think and act as society demands. A person is said to be well socialized if he believes in and obeys the moral code of his society and fits in well as a functioning part of that society. It may seem senseless to say that many leftists are over-socialized, since the leftist is perceived as a rebel. Nevertheless, the position can be defended. Many leftists are not such rebels as they seem.
25. The moral code of our society is so demanding that no one can think, feel and act in a completely moral way. For example, we are not supposed to hate anyone, yet almost everyone hates somebody at some time or other, whether he admits it to himself or not. Some people are so highly socialized that the attempt to think, feel and act morally imposes a severe burden on them. In order to avoid feelings of guilt, they continually have to deceive themselves about their own motives and find moral explanations for feelings and actions that in reality have a nonmoral origin. We use the term “oversocialized” to describe such people.
Kaczynski goes on to describe how this oversocialization causes a person to feel guilt and shame for their actions, especially in the context of performing as society expects them to perform. He writes how this concept of oversocialization is used to determine ”the direction of modern leftism”. Further on, Kaczynski describes how modern man needs goals to strive for, to not run the risk of developing serious psychological problems. This goalsetting activity he denotes ”power process”. But these goals can be real or artificial. Setting a goal is “surrogate activity” if the person devotes much time and energy to attaining it, does not attain it, and still feels seriously deprived. It is just a goal for goalsetting’s sake, the unfulfilled other side of the coin of power process. Kaczynski then connects these concepts to the many societal ills (excessive density of population, isolation of man from nature, excessive rapidity of social change and the breakdown of natural small-scale communities such as the extended family, the village or the tribe) by describing how modern society, with all its marketing and advertising creating artificial needs, disrupts the power process, mankind’s search for itself and meaning-making in life. He sees social hierarchies and the need to climb up them, the ”keeping up with the Joneses”, as surrogate activity.
”Because of the constant pressure that the system exerts to modify human behavior, there is a gradual increase in the number of people who cannot or will not adjust to society’s requirements: welfare leeches, youth gang members, cultists, anti-government rebels, radical environmentalist saboteurs, dropouts and resisters of various kinds”. This gradual increase, then, the system tries to ’solve’ by using propaganda, ”to make people WANT the decisions that have been made for them”. In regards to technology, the ”bad” parts cannot be separated from the ”good”, and thus we are constantly facing the dilemma between technology and freedom, new technology being introduced all the time, and new regulations being introduced to curb the negative effects of the technology and at the same time stripping us of our freedoms. Kaczynski concludes, that revolution is easier than reforming the system.
Later, Kaczynski released another of his anti-technological theses. In Anti-Tech Revolution: Why and How (2015) Kaczynski presents a ”comprehensive historical analysis explaining the futility of social control and the catastrophic influence of technological growth on human social and planetary ecological systems.” This time Kaczynski talks more about how to start an anti-tech movement and how to keep it going. The text reads like a mathemathical proof of sorts, it presents ”rules”, ”propositions” and ”postulates” why the technological system will destroy itself (eg. Russell’s Paradox resulting in chaos in a highly complex, tightly coupled system) and why a successful anti-tech movement needs clear goals to avoid some of the errors revolutionary movements have made, which are elaborated in the book. Violence is not offered as a solution in the book, it is seen more like a mishap of sorts, a suboptimal outcome of a revolutionary movement. But it talks about power. Kaczynski got to learn the hard way how the feeling of powerlessness breeds desperate actions that would have been otherwise unnecessary. The book also talks about climate change and related issues, from a mathematic systems theoretical point of view.
Institutions that are in the business of social engineering and behavioral modification, such as the Tavistock Institute in the UK or the CIA in the US, would have us believe that Kaczynski’s actions were ”defences against anxiety” that can be seen as ”withdrawal, informal organization, reactive individualism and scapegoating” (Hills et al. 2020), and to some extent this is true. But Kaczynski interprets the actions of these institutions stemming from technological progress in our society Kaczynski 1995):
117. In any technologically advanced society the individual’s fate MUST depend on decisions that he personally cannot influence to any great extent. A technological society cannot be broken down into small, autonomous communities, because production depends on the cooperation of very large numbers of people and machines. Such a society MUST be highly organized and decisions HAVE TO be made that affect very large numbers of people.
This uniformity of a large hierarchical modern society then forces its will on people
119. The system does not and cannot exist to satisfy human needs. Instead, it is human behavior that has to be modified to fit the needs of the system. This has nothing to do with the political or social ideology that may pretend to guide the technological system. It is not the fault of capitalism and it is not the fault of socialism. It is the fault of technology, because the system is guided not by ideology but by technical necessity.
We have once again encountered ananke, necessity. Now, if we consider ourselves as the lonely decision makers in this society, what could we do? We can try and fight fire with fire, but such fights end up producing only pain and casualties (Taylor 2013). Anarcho-naturists and anarcho-pacifists understand that (unnecessary) fighting in most cases does not work. Sometimes fighting is warranted, but it is beyond the scope of this essay to examine those cases. Sending bombs to people’s offices may get you some attention and even make somebody quote your manifesto in an essay, but it is not solving the issue, something which the Unabomber addressed in his later texts. If working a job indirectly supports the military-industrial complex NewScientist 2011), what good does it do? The military-industrial complex is the biggest source of pollution in the world (The Conversation 2019; Acedo 2015), detaching yourself from this complex is imperative. Even if they would manage to convince us with their psyops that they are willing to change and that climate change is an important issue (Ahmed 2014), it would still be the biggest polluter that is controlling the conversation. It has even been suggested that they are behind this climate buzz (Light 2014). Is your job doing that much good in society that it outweighs the cons? If I need to act responsibly, but cannot fight the system nor conform, while at the same time keeping in mind our looming climate disaster, the only reasonable and peaceful response is to exit the system altogether.
Biodynamism’s naturality and parsimony
Owning responsibility and transforming the world implies taking some kind of action. We have already seen how feelings of powerlessness and lack of self-worth can lead to destructive actions. But there are an unlimited amount of actions that can be taken, that are not based in feelings of powerlessness but empowerment.
Exiting society might sound like a lonely project, and some people might rightfully feel lonely when all their peers still want to live in the illusion. But it does not have to be so. A lot of soul-searching needs to be done, and that is usually done in privacy, focusing upon oneself, but beyond that there are ways how to go off-grid and drastically reduce your carbon emissions.
One of the key concepts that will be our guiding principle here is degrowth (Paulson 2017), which ties into values such as organicity, naturality and parsimony. We will want to have less production of artificial things, and more organic and natural things. By artificial we mean long supply chains and many phases of production with modern high technology that produce a large amount of climate effects. By natural we mean using primitive technology, mostly all-natural or recycled materials and something that can be produced even alone, given enough time. Primitive technology does not exclude electricity, it just means producing it differently.
Rudolf Steiner, Austrian philosopher, social reformer, architect, and theosophist, the founder of Anthroposophy and a great reformer of science in matters of spirit, started the first intentional form of organic farming, known as biodynamic agriculture, after he had given a series of lectures on the topic in the last year of his life. (Paull 2011.) Steiner had many spiritual experiences during his life, which lead him to start the Anthroposophy movement. He wanted to apply the scientific process into spiritual realm, inquiring it as it would be as real as our material world. Inquiring this spiritual world helped him access knowledge he claims to not have been access otherwise (Steiner 2011 ). Anthroposophist self-inquiry can be seen as Foucauldian ”technology of the self” that ”provide an intervention mechanism on the part of active subjects, injecting an element of contingency to everyday encounters and alleviating the determinist effect that technologies of power would have otherwise” (Skinner 2012).
Steiner’s thoughts about agriculture are still relevant (Paull 2011):
In 1924 Steiner commented that, “Nowadays people simply think that a certain amount of nitrogen is needed for plant growth, and they imagine it makes no difference how it’s prepared or where it comes from” Steiner, 1924b, pp.9-10). He made the point that, “In the course of this materialistic age of ours, we’ve lost the knowledge of what it takes to continue to care for the natural world” (Steiner, 1924b, p.10).
Our current system seems to think exactly in this way, that if we just compensate our wreaked havoc by investing in ’green’ technology (Elegant 2019), it will all be ok and rainbows in the sky. But it will not. No one is even double checking if the companies that say that they are now carbon neutral actually proactively try to make our world greener. They can just buy a renewable energy company and say now we are green and do nothing else. Some would argue that going ’carbon neutral’ like these massive corporations are doing it is not the way to do it: “’green’ infrastructures are creating conflict and ecological degradation and are the material expression of climate catastrophe” (Dunlap 2020).
Steinerian biodynamism ”encompasses practices of composting, mixed farming systems with use of animal manures, crop rotations, care for animal welfare, looking at the farm as an organism/entity and local distribution systems, all of which contribute toward the protection of the environment, safeguard biodiversity and improve livelihoods of farmers” (Turinek et al. 2009). While modern biodynamic studies focus on agroecological factors such as nutrient cycles, soil characteristics, and nutritional quality (Reganold 1995; Droogers & Bouma 1996), Steiner himself was quite metaphysical in his lectures and paid attention to details such as kingdoms of nature, planetary influences, biorhythms, incarnated and environmental ethers, and the Zodiac (Steiner 2004 ; Nastati 2009).
By shifting to more natural ways of living, we may help Gaia (Lovelock 1991; Singh 2007) heal in many other ways than just reduce our climate emissions. By realizing that we are actually living on the skin of a fairly large and complex organism, we will stop treating it as a plain source of material resources, and start bonding with it, tune into its consciousness and establish two-way communication, just like the natives have done in America.
The way of the natives ought to be our current way, since there is no reason why the natives could not guard the lands they have before. One of the greatest fears of people speaking for private property rights is that managing resources collectively would mean exhausting them. There is no Tragedy of Commons. Just because you are materially poor does not mean that you are any less competent steward of land and wealth, as proposed by Elinor Oström (2009). Acting for climate is not an investment allocation problem. The natives need their land back so that they could do their best to fight the destruction of our ecosystem. The Outokumpu supply chain in Brazilian rainforests, Elon Musk and Bolivian lithium mines, Papua New Guinea indigenous conflict, mining in Lapland in traditional Sami herding areas, Australian uranium mining in indigenous lands… these are all pointless conflicts.
There are also many other ways of staying grounded and in touch with nature, while at the same time cultivating sovereignty. Many of these things revolve around feeding the most immediate community next to you. They reflect ideas such as mutuality, solidarity, organicity, and naturality. Permaculture is a term coined by David Holmgren to describe ”an approach to land management and philosophy that adopts arrangements observed in flourishing natural ecosystems. It includes a set of design principles derived using whole systems thinking. It uses these principles in fields such as regenerative agriculture, rewilding, and community resilience” (Wikipedia: Permaculture 2021). Permaculture has many branches including ecological design, ecological engineering, regenerative design, environmental design, and construction. It also includes integrated water resources management that develops sustainable architecture, and regenerative and self-maintained habitat and agricultural systems modeled from natural ecosystems (Holmgren Desing Services 2007).
Earthships are 100% sustainable homes that are both energy efficient and modern. Earthsips are built with natural and repurposed (recycled) materials, they heat and cool themselves without electric heat, they use solar energy to power electric appliances, they collect all of their water from rain and snowmelt, they re-use their sewage water to fertilize plants, and there’s an indoor garden that grows food in vertical growing spaces (Reynolds 2021). Ecovillages are a ”human-scale, full-featured settlement, in which human activities are harmlessly integrated into the natural world in a way that is supportive of healthy human development and can be successfully continued into the indefinite future” (Gilman & Gilman 1991).
Clifford Harper had a set of drawings imagining an alternative in his book Radical Technology (Harper & Boyle 1976). In them, he shows many of the ideas that were themes in the German garden city movement in the beginning of 20th century (Bollerey & Hartmann 1980), such as collectivised gardens, autonomous housing estates, and community workshops. The book introduces us ’radical technology’, which spans basically all of the concepts we have discussed up to this point: organic agriculture, biodynamic agriculture, vegetarianism, hydroponics, soft energy, insulation, low-cost housing, tree houses, shanty houses, ’folk-built’ houses using traditional methods, houses built from subsoil, self-built houses, housing associations, solar dwellings, domestic paper-making, carpentry, scrap reclamation, printing, community & pirate radio, collectivised gardens, collective workshops for clothesmaking, shoe repair, pottery, household decoration and repairs, autonomous housing estates, autonomous rural villages, etc.
These concepts, while they seem simple, are still empowering, they are meant to let people enjoy they fruits of their labour. Last but certainly not least is the concept that all of these things fall under, alternative (or, appropriate) technology. Alternative technologies are those ”which offer genuine alternatives to the large-scale, complex, centralized, high-energy life forms which dominate the modern age” (Winner 1979). Alternative technologies seek to solve the problems technocentric thinking has caused in society: technical scale and economic concentration, level of complexity or simplicity best suited to technical operations of various kinds, division of labor and its alleged necessity, social and technical hierarchy as it relates to the design of technological systems, and self-sufficiency and interdependence regarding the lives of individuals and communities. Many of these solutions have been developed in Africa, where problems have had to be solved, but resources have been scarce in actuality.
Appropriate technology holds great promise in ways that are currently underappreciated in our society (Huesemann & Huesemann 2011):
As has been mentioned repeatedly throughout this book, the primary goal of technology in our current economic system is to increase material affluence and to generate profits for the wealthy by controlling and exploiting both people and the environment. In view of the reality of interconnectedness, this is neither environmentally sustainable nor socially desirable. In this chapter we discuss how to design technologies which reflect the values of environmental sustainability and social appropriateness. We also emphasize the importance of heeding the precautionary principle in order to prevent unintended consequences, as well as the need for participatory design in order to ensure greater democratic control of technology. Finally, as a specific example of an environmentally sustainable and socially appropriate technology, we discuss the positive contribution of local, organic, small-scale agriculture.
This essay has presented the reader with ramblings of a person who is familiar with Critical Theory, who would like to build a stronger connection to nature, and who is having a major identity crisis in life. I have expressed, albeit feebly, my will to emancipate myself, to exit the Matrix. In Finnish they would say ”Sota ei yhtä miestä kaipaa”, and in George S. Patton’s words this expression would be ”Hell, they won’t miss me, just one man in thousands.”
In this essay I seem to have extensively quoted the Unabomber manifesto. This is not to say that Kaczynski had exceptionally good motives or justifications for his actions. He killed many people and is in prison now. Kaczynski’s ideas are not unique. Quoting his manifesto serves merely to prove one point: he is the product of his environment. Mental illness is no longer a taboo and things have progressed somewhat since Kaczynski’s days. It could be argued that Kaczynski’s writings were just projection of his own feelings of shame and guilt he had gone through. But his mental condition, should he be diagnosed with one (Amador & Reshmi 2000), does not invalidate the things he’s written. In many ways his writings are now more relevant than ever. When we have tech billionaires talking about inserting neuralinks into your brain and downloading thoughts straight from the headquarters, we can really see the manifesto dots connecting.
I wish it would have been just the mental load caused by a ’surrogate activity’ of keeping up with the Joneses that was the cause of all this, but no, it’s the real deal now. When we have corporate executives and federal commissions defending autonomous weapons systems and saying building such systems is a ’moral imperative’ (Gershgorn 2021), you know we have reached peak civilization. It’s all downhill from now on. All participation in society will support this moral imperative, and I don’t want to have anything to do with it. While many would get back to nature for reasons of convenience, such as better health, Rousseau himself would have gotten back to nature ”to feel God in nature” (LaFreniere 1990). It is this kind of humanist transcendentalism (not transhumanism) that we will need again, to realize what we have done to our planet, to realize what needs to be done to abolish the war machine consuming it, and to make ourselves whole again.
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