I’m just a regular guy. A wonderful childhood, a well-behaved secondary education and a wild university era of which I remember next to nothing set the scene for a financially fruitful life in the corporate world. Into this world I drifted without checking my compass or contemplating where it might lead. Money started to flow. Money started to use me as a transit lounge. After a few years on the road working contracts around Europe and Latin America my eyes opened such that they could no longer be closed. The seed of doubt that my life was sailing in the right direction was planted. My current trajectory, unless derailed, would remain my current trajectory. Extrapolating to a few decades down the road, and looking backwards at the path taken did not excite me.
My 20’s were all about working hard and playing hard. My waking hours were consumed with this lifestyle. I was spending as fast as I was earning. I was occupied in this way so intensely that time to stop, breath and look around was not in abundance. My sporadic insights into a more satisfying existence were quickly overrun by the need to work and hoard and my desire to party. Even a few year long jaunts wandering around Latin America were so dense with adventure that contemplation and self-reflection were not on the radar.
Once I hit 30 things started to change in a big way. This is just over ten years ago. I started listening a bit harder to my internal chatter. The more I listened the more it nagged on me about my current apathetic approach to what I perceived as an inequitable human situation across the globe and a very destructive human relationship with our planet. I started to examine the world with alien eyes, without prejudice or programming and was quite saddened by what I saw.
My initial actions were disorganised. I felt that as I had the luxury of living in comfort as so many peoples of the world do not, the very least I could do was contribute something of myself or my time. Initially my activities were focused around activism, joining and working with environmental groups, attending protests and generally ranting and raving to anyone who would listen to me. I’d wax lyrical about the vast global human inequities and the dangers of human consumption and a materialistic existence. I jumped from one bandwagon to the next and while there was an element of contribution, it seemed quite futile as with one success on the environmental front, another front opened up. It was endless. I couldn’t help but wonder, why are we fighting to save the very environment that lets us survive. Why is our system so suicidal; so intent on extracting every resource from the earth with minimal regard for her health? Why does out system value profit over health and well-being? Shouldn’t those that do anything that damages our environment have to make a case to do so, and be a minority, even marginalised, and those that want to sustain life and preserve the environment be the mainstream? I had been like the boy sticking his fingers in the dyke, as it collapsed around him. I wasn’t looking at the underlying cause.
I started to look at the systemic issues that gave rise to these environmental and human issues and stopped focusing on symptoms. It’s no secret of course that the motive for profit, the most fundamental tenet of capitalism requires us humans to consume stuff. The more consumption the more profit. From around my mid-thirties I understood that it was the manner of our very existence that was the underlying issue. So I went to work on myself, before I would feel I was justified to rant on to others. That is not to say I ceased ranting, ask any of my friends and they will confirm with a rolling of the eyes that I was a persistent pest in this arena. So to work on myself I am looking at items I consume that are unnecessary, bad for me and bad for the planet. I am quitting 52 of those items for 1 year and writing a book about my findings and my experience along the way.