Last week I went to listen to Warren Macdonald give a talk about his life, philosophies and experiences. The key theme of Warren’s talk was coping with change and a comment he made in passing really got me thinking…
Talking about coaching corporate clients on coping with change Warren commented that they often find it impossible to accept that global economy has permanently changed; that the “Global Financial Crisis” isn’t a temporary blip but a turning point but a brave new frontier.
So are we really watching the death of modern democratic capitalism? I can’t help but think that Warren’s right. This economic slow-down isn’t like others we’ve weathered: for the first time we’re experiencing a lack of capital. We seem to have reached the limits of our resources.
Combined with the stressors of climate change and peak oil production it seems highly unlikely that the good times will return. Economies around the world are collapsing with the exception of those countries lucky enough to still have natural resources left to exploit (and living in one such country it’s obvious that the resulting two-speed economy is entirely unsustainable. When we run out of things to dig up and export Australia too will be in economic trouble.). Countries harder hit by recession are trending towards political extremism at both ends of the spectrum in what seem like great acts of denial that the way we live needs to change.
Meanwhile the global distribution of wealth slides ever further into gross inequality, with the world’s richest 1% commanding 40% of global wealth (though it must be noted that the proportion of the world’s population living in extreme poverty has continually decreased over the last 30 years) and the general public seems more interested in celebrities than science, and politics than policy, with the media happy to play along. Here in Australia the quality of political discourse appears to have hit an all-time low, with politicians obsessed with popularity and opinion polls instead of sound policy and solid ethics. It’s getting rather depressing.
I look around me, at the politics, the economics, the environment, the science and the culture and become more and more certain that big change is coming. We in the first world can’t keep consuming at the current rate; the rich can’t keep accumulating greater wealth; corporations can’t keep selling us more stuff we don’t need. Our resources are finite and we’re crashing into our limits, but there is hope.
A growing number of people seem to be challenging what I see as our toxic culture, questioning the conventional economic thinking that continual growth is essential, that quality of life is intrinsically linked to spending power. I keep meeting thoughtful, intelligent people who are opting out, choosing a simpler life in the search for sustainability and happiness. Revolting against the dominant paradigm, these folk are finding that a life with a lower income and more hard work can actually prove more joyful than the coveted big-house-in-the-suburbs lifestyle. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not consigning themselves to struggle-street or sacrificing modern conveniences completely, but making a conscious decision to question their values and reduce their consumption. They’re living smaller, more connected lives, more closely linked to nature and community, and they seem to be happier for it.
More and more people seem to be accepting that the world has changed, working with it instead of fighting and proving that sometimes less really is more. They inspire me.
Change is inevitable, but when we embrace it we can thrive.
Do you think the world has irrevocably changed in recent years? Have you made significant changes to your way of life? How has change shaped who you are and how you’re living?
 A few years ago Warren lost both his legs in a freak hiking accident. Now he climbs mountains and inspires others to find their passion and test their limits. Learn more about Warren at www.warren-macdonald.com.
 Wikipedia: Causes of the Great Depression & Causes of the GFC
 France goes socialist, Greece rejects austerity measured but fails to elect a government with votes split between fascist & socialist parties and the Tory-led UK is looking more and more like a basket case.
I’d say Warren’s spot on – the world for sure has changed permanently – I’m not sure people in the western world are keeping up though.
I came back down to earth when I realised we had to buy a modest, two bedroom flat and not a house which I would have preferred but I was never an Apple, iphone/ipad, fancy TV, car or house person anyway. I don’t understand people’s obsessions with celebrities, back when I was at uni in the 90s we’d pay out on celebrities, I mean we talked about them and liked certain movies and TV shows but there’s wasn’t this obsession there is now, especially with female reality TV stars – I’m wondering if part of it is people wanting to escape their stressful lives maybe?
It bothers me that so many people are buying ipads, iphones and joining Facebook in this cultish way (no judgment, I just see people doing it without thinking very hard sometimes). I feel like soon we won’t have a choice with what we buy and which brand we choose and that’s a bad thing in a consumer society.
A lot’s changed in the last ten years and sometimes it gets me down a bit but your post heartened me because there does seem to be a change in the air – people going back to the land, being proactive about what products they buy, having an interest in a simpler life. I hope it continues.
Hi Emma, thanks for the comment!
I don’t understand the “normal” Australian lifestyle at the moment and I hate the way politicians deliberately pander to self-interest and short-sighted priorities (Howard’s “battlers”, Kev’s “working families” – because there are so many non-working families out there, right?). The more politicians and the media respond to the ‘concerns’ of this demographic the more we legitimise and validate the associated consumerist culture. I think we should be challenging it instead and focussing the conversation on science, sound economics and medium to long-term planning to build a sustainable society.
History shows that humans rarely react to change until it’s too late. Like the proverbial slowly-boiled frog we ignore gradual changes or lack the perspective to notice them and keep going with business-as-usual until the tipping point is well and truly past and the change has become catastrophic. I read Jared Diamond’s book “Collapse” a few years ago (how societies choose to fail or succeed) and our history is littered with case studies of what happens when a society or culture doesn’t accept and adapt to change. Jared points out the numerous signs of ecological change currently facing western nations and makes a compelling argument that we’re rapidly approaching the point of collapse and will do so unless we make significant changes to the way we live, the resources we consume and the way we manage our environments.
I’m really not sure where I’m going with this comment (lunch-break mental meanderings), but I guess I see it as important to talk about what’s happening with our society and to try to drag the national conversation away from celebrity, self-interest and political side-shows and towards the things that really matter. The good news is that I’m seeing more and more people doing just that, from challenging the quality of media content to creating alternative content and fora for conversation. I’m trying to be a reasoned, fact-based voice in the conversation; I just have to keep trying and find ways to get people listening.
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