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Graceful adaptation

Here is an entry from my journal.

The power went off fifteen minutes ago. I am done for the night. Electricity will be generated again once the sun is out. I was doing important work on the computer. All I can do now is benefit from the laptop’s battery to produce this document. I hope to type fast enough before this one is depleted as well.

This is life off-grid. You are forced to live within your means and only spend what is available locally. Today was a rainy day. The solar panels probably did not manage to recharge the batteries to maximum capacity. There is nothing I can do about it right now. Maybe in the distant future I will add more batteries and/or alternative power sources. For the time being, this is my new normal. The candle beside me and the moon above me.

In the past, I could not consider a scenario where I would have no electricity supply, beside camping. The grid is always there, producing a seemingly infinite amount of energy. From the uninformed consumer’s perspective, it just works. We do not recognise the costs because they are hidden from our view: non-renewable energy sources roll the burden over to the environment and future generations. In terms of social status, those who lead an affluent lifestyle with, e.g., private jets and yachts, pass the cost to the lower parts of the income distribution, as they can relocate to safer climates while the rest of us struggle to find opportunities. Same idea across nations: the developed ones do it at the expense of all the rest.

I feel we are far away from the necessary concerted action on climate. We not only need to change people to act mindfully, we must also undo the structural inequalities between and within countries. History teaches us that when some party has to lose something and there is no consensus over how to deal with the matter amicably, conflict shall ensue. We already have mass migration caused by climate change and I doubt societies are ready to absorb millions upon millions, despite the familiar palaver on tolerance and multiculturalism. It is one thing for the West to benefit from brain drain, where it cherry-picks the migrants it needs, and another to take in people from all backgrounds and have to do the hard yet essential work of integrating them into the body politic. Dumping foreigners in some area where they can only form societies parallel to the local one will only lead to more trouble over time. Integration and the concomitant shared sense of belonging is key.

Political problems cannot be solved unilaterally. Though we have to start somewhere and keep a sense of perspective as we push for at least one minute change at a time. This requires that each of us becomes conscious of their spending patterns and the costs involved. Science communicators have a vital role to perform in this regard, as they can visualise this vague “carbon footprint” in terms that everybody can relate to. I knew about this concept for years, but only now that I have to live with what I produce do I fully comprehend the input/output dynamic at play.

We cannot “fix the climate” without changing anything in our daily lives. All of us will have to make do with less and the rich, be they individuals or countries, must give up the portion of their wealth that is now allowing them to parasitise over the rest of the planet and its beings. Will this happen? Not without programmatic action and continuous efforts. These are easy for me to comment on, though I know I cannot do anything, given my precarious condition—this too is a matter of the prevailing institutional arrangements. Even joining a rally is a challenge unless, of course, they stop holding them in big cities and move to the mountains for a change…

For practical reasons, I cannot collaborate with others to pursue some political agenda, nor make them do the right thing. All I can hope for is that I at least learn from these findings and reforge my ethos accordingly. My woes teach me that once we are forced to deal with a state of affairs, we have to adapt to it gracefully, such that we preserve our vitality. Yes, I would prefer to be able to finalise the work I was doing on the computer. I must earn an income somehow, even if it comes with no job safety and I bear all the risks. Though I know I cannot act out of that wish in present time. I then remain sanguine and calm in the knowledge that no matter what I try right now to restart the computer will be futile. Instead of stressing about what transpired and what is in store for me during the harsh mountain winter, I drink fresh water and assess my immediate options. I shall go for a long walk in the morning and further consider what I have gathered.

Remaining calm in the face of hardship is the most valuable skill I have acquired and the most difficult to master. I used to get irritated quickly and lose my focus when things did not go my way. Through continuous practice of tolerating inconvenience, of pushing against the boundaries one small step at a time, I have learnt to be patient and thus to not feel pressure as soon as something does not go my way. Stress makes us see things through a tunnel. We do not recognise opportunities, as we are trapped in a mode of thinking that is not creative, not inquisitive, not daring. Fears we have are aggrandised and we find solace in the patterns we are familiar with; patterns that may be part of the underlying problem to begin with.

To the untrained eye, calmness sometimes appears as lack of interest. It is as if the person does not care at all and is immature to understand the gravity of the situation. Here, instead of “doing something about it” I am blithely writing in my journal. I do it in full conscience of the matter at hand. I do not have to worry about appearing a certain way. People who do not discern subtlety will be quick to judge and to thus aggravate their own stress. What are the chances of finding someone who does not judge you but tries to understand you, anyway? A good rule of thumb is to not adopt decisions under duress. Have some water, open the windows to take in much-needed fresh air, and go for a walk if you can. Let yourself disconnect from the source of the tension in order to revert to the equilibrium and think things anew.

I will go to bed soon, with no angst, no disturbance. I have learnt to appreciate the little things. To ask for few and to expect nothing. Why do we take what we have for granted and think we exert full control over it? This attitude only makes us suffer loses, as we learn the truth of our impermanence one bit at a time. Life is not easy and we are not entitled to anything. We must remember that no matter what we accumulate, we own nothing. The cosmos will rearrange everything. It is with aloofness, then, that I type these words. The rest shall wait until the morning.