A leap (of faith) year

Earth’s Carrying capacity balanced by human needs ©Boris Matijas

2020 is a leap year. We have gained one day, but the feeling is as we have lost a year. Long after we are gone, 2020 will remain as a historical point of inflection. A point from which a new line was drawn. Where the line leads, it’s up to us to decide. We hold a pen.

We will defeat this pandemic. We will create jobs. But why?

Humans are creative, diligent, and action-oriented. Driven by these, as well as many other competencies, we became dominant specie that built societies where, as Hanna Arendt once said, everything must be of some use. It is what keeps us from breaking the destructive loop in which the inappropriate use of our competencies has led to the unsustainable use of natural resources.

This leap year provides an opportunity to break the self-destructive loop.

The paradox of trusting our choices onto GDP, which is invisible, instead of climate change, which is visible, further increases once we understand that, as Donella Meadows used to say, it’s the stuff, not the dollars that keep the economy and society function. In other words, the finite material, extracted from the planet, boosts the utopia of infinite growth. It pressures the Earth’s carrying capacity and drives us into ecological collapse.

“Consumer goods provide a symbolic language in which we communicate continually with each other.” In order to better “communicate,” we pursue money, as Tim Jackson reminds us. It is a mechanism behind consumer society, which makes our societies anxious. Paradoxically, it is here that we seek the reduction of anxiety, through buying stuff and, as a result, get more stuff being made.

Our personal choices have far-reaching consequences. When they lead to actions that in search of meaning end up in “stuff,” it exponentially increases pressure over already reduced environmental carrying capacity.

Therefore, 2020 is not just a leap year. It’s a year for the leap of faith. A year when we gained precious time to answer why.

We are unique creatures on a unique planet, and we are destined to greater things than pilling ‘stuff’. Months of confinement have given us this precious time to realize that we can live without ‘stuff’, but we can’t live without each other. Without laughs. Without hugs. Without love. Without it, there is no meaning. No purpose. No hope.

Soon the doors will open, and we will rush back to get things done. That’s what we do. That’s what we are good at. But since we are at it, let’s take the leap of faith. A leap into the New World that respects the planetary boundaries worships the life and sustains the future.

Into a New World that rises from the Green Deal. That new ‘growth strategy’ must be guided by this same pen that we are holding and its first lines should begin with: What should grow?

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