Why we cannot get our SHIT together (Part 1: the void)
When you ask the average person what is healthy and what is not, they can tell you the difference between an apple and a bar of chocolate, between a salad and a burger. They understand that eating a junk food diet will increase their likelihood of the development of heart disease, cancer, and autoimmune diseases.
Why is overconsumption a problem?
With a little more thought they might be able to tell you that all that overconsumption is ruining our soil, and nutrition and killing our seas, that their industrial gasoline usage is polluting our air, land and the endless need and search for consumer products is turning our planet into a gigantic waste dump.
Our inability to stop our suicidal and ecocidal behaviour fits the clinical definition of addiction or compulsion: behaviour that is destructive to self, family, work, relationships, cities, urban life and the future of our children. We all know DAMN well what is right and wrong, yet we are unable to simply get our SHIT together and damage the current system.
What we are doing this far
In 19th-century western countries over the past few decades’ trainers, nutritionists and other health experts have done several attempts to rationally educate the population and industry on what is healthy and what isn’t. We see countless different diets and exercise practices and none of them seems to work, not for long at least. Like our grandma’s trainers are dutifully telling their clients to eat more protein food, two servings of vegetables, and at least two pieces of fruit per day. And whilst I’ve personally seen the exceptional benefits eating better and having a regular exercise routine can have on people’s lives. There still seems to be a deeper layer that drives this over-consumption.
A brief history of our psyche
When we would go up the amazon river, deep into the vast Amazon jungle (what’s still left of it), we would find at the edges of the known world, indigenous tribes that still live much the same way as our pre-agricultural ancestors would have done. They believe themselves to be humble participants in the natural environment that mother earth gave them. The jungle that surrounds them, the plants that grow, and the animals that walk, crawl, and fly should be treated with respect and care. The food that nurtures and supports their body is at the same time regarded as sacred and divine. For them and us a long, long time ago, there is no differentiation between the spiritual, natural and the human body, our animal instincts, our emotions, and our souls are all ONE.
- Primordial societies: Nature, Spirit, and Body are ONE
- Greeks: Separation Nature from Spirit and Body
- Christianity: Spirit separated from Body
- Renaissance: Spirit is killed, and only material waste remainsWhere Did the Agricultural Revolution Start?
During the early agricultural revolution, in Britain, what we now call England before the industrialization period, we as humans increasingly started domesticating animals and nature, our bodies, free will, soul, and spirit gradually split off from nature. Much like one of Elon Musk‘s three-stage rockets, the spirit, our instincts were increasingly launched as gods in the sky. To the Greeks and Romans, they were overwhelmed by anger that meant that the War God Ares had taken a hold of them. Other examples are the god of love, Amore, or the fertility goddess Aphrodite.
This launch peaked around the time of the birth of Jesus and Christianity when our rocket dropped its second stage, our bodies. Primal instincts like lust and hate were increasingly seen as something to overcome. We were to overcome our “lower” animal instincts and passions and conquer the body to be spiritual and attain heaven or enlightenment. Our now heavenly rocket came crashing back to earth with the onset of the enlightenment. Descartes’s (among others) mechanistic worldview killed the Earth and all its living beings. For him, the natural world was a mechanism to be conquered and explained. The guillotine of rationalism had given the final blow that cut off the spiritual from the material. With Descartes came reductionism and with reductionism came consumerism and with consumerism came waste, material waste.
We killed God
God is dead! God remains dead! And we have killed him! How shall we console ourselves, the most murderous of all murderers? The holiest and the mightiest that the world has so far possessed, has bled to death under our knife, who will wipe the blood from us? With what water could we cleanse ourselves?
Wrote Nietzsche in thus spoke Zarathustra, little did Nietzsche know that we would cleanse ourselves with Coca-Cola, alcohol, food, and consumer marketing products that we can free order in an instant, brought at our doorstep without any physical labour other than rapid two taps of our fingers. 10.000 years of the agricultural and industrial revolution have left us so far from nature and the divine that we must numb ourselves with small hits of dopamine brought to us by the latest gadget or food that is nothing less than poison to our bodies.
- Why is the environmental crisis important?
It is widely agreed that consumerism is one of the central roots of it as well as the pandemic of obesity, diabetes, and other illnesses. Yet consumerism is failing in its promise to deliver happiness and contentment. What we need is not more products, more rational understanding, and more capitalist greed. What we need is to reestablish our connection with nature, our body, and our divine spirit. Which leads to agricultural production, agricultural productivity and nutrient cultivation.
Carl Sagan said: “We understand that what is regarded as sacred is more likely to be regarded with care and respect. Our planetary home should be so regarded. Efforts to safeguard and cherish the environment need to be infused with a vision of the sacred. At the same time, a much wider and deeper understanding of science and technology is needed. If we do not understand the problem, it is unlikely we will be able to fix it. Thus, there is a vital role to play for both science and religion”
Some solutions to start with
Personal / Environmental level
Ecopsychologists recognize the importance of direct experiencing nature to establish a deeper spiritual understanding and connection to it. They claim that wilderness experience is required for us to make appropriate environmental decisions because such experience opens us to our feelings, to a deeper sense of caring, to matters of the heart We can expand activities such as gardening, going for walks, and taking time to appreciate clouds, smells, rainstorms, sunrises, etc. They suggest that overcoming the consuming addiction comes from achieving the fulfillment that comes with simplicity, quiet awareness, and “practising the principle and value of sufficiency,”. Rejoicing in the incredible beauty of the ecosystem and our role in it. This counters the spiritual void of our driven, materialist society (The dairy farmers guide to the universe vol 1. P18)
Personal / Health level
On a nutritional level, we need to reinstate some of the rituals that once surrounded our meals. Dinner with the whole family around the table, home-cooked meals rather than a microwaved dinner in front of the television. We need to spend time fasting, away from anything that is processed, and this numbs our senses from experiencing the rich taste fruits and vegetables can have to us. We need to avoid where possible any production, developed that comes prepackaged, or produced, and prioritise whole, local, and where possible organic foods such as grass-fed meat and plant crops just like before the industrial revolution and century-old crop rotation agriculture.
Collective / Health and Environmental level
On a collective level, we need to abolish the idea that shareholder value is the primary factor for growth and prosperity. Short-term profit for shareholders and entrepreneurs should never come at the expense of environmental degradation or human health and wellbeing.