Getting lost inspite of my passion for the environment

So here I am after sort of following the Edgeryder community for many months and I will participate at #lote so I’d like to tell you a bit about what I’ve gone through the past year. There are so many threads and I’m not sure I’ll be able to unwind them all.

For once I’m going to try to write things out in public and not caring what other people may think. Although it sometimes feels like you put yourself on the line when there are search engines that makes sure you’re indexable for eternity. I guess there is a beauty to that too. Everyone can be immortal now.

I’m now sitting on a train heading towards an internship. But I’ll start from the beginning. Something like three years ago.

Being a part of the climate movement

That was the time I got involved in the climate movement, it was the year of 2009. I had been studying Japanese for about three years with one of the years in Japan. After I got home from Japan in 2008 I had been studying some single courses like international relations and human ecology. After the course in international relations I had decided that I wanted to pursue political science.

At that time I was still thinking that I wanted to become a diplomat for a Swedish ambassador. My role model was and still is Dag Hammarskjöld who was general secretary for UN some 50 years ago. But over time my perception of him has changed from something I’d like to become professionally to someone I admire. Which also reminds me of his wonderful book waymarks.

But as I was saying, the year is 2009 and I’m pursuing political science. Firs term passed I started to get more involved in a student organization called Hållbart Universitet (in english: students for a sustainable university). I remember that I at one time was sitting in the countryside at a party, I think it was March or April. My now former girlfriend was there. We were enjoying ourselves. There was a person who had been involved in the climate movement for a long time. He was russian and had come here to study.

We talked and I thought it sounded really exciting, because it was. I guess I have a lot to thank him for in some ways. For being an enabler at that time. He invited us to go to Bonn, because the year 2009 there was going to be the big climate summit in Copenhagen when things were going to be solved. It was the big COP15.

We were organizing to be a part of the meeting in Bonn which was one of the many meetings that was a part of the whole procedure of UNFCCC (United nations framework on climate change).

And I got the opportunity to be a part of a project called Adopt a Negotiator. It was and still is, although it has morphed slightly, a project designed as citizen journalism around the UNFCCC process. At the end of 2009 there were 14 young people covering UNFCCC from their country’s perspective. They adopted their lead negotiator. Thus I had adopted my country’s lead negotiator, the lead negotiator of Sweden.

Looking backward, it felt like I was too small to fill the role. I had to grow fast to fill in the role. Perhaps it was around that time I started to feel that I wasn’t able to do enough or the right things. It was the most stressful time of my life participating during those meetings. So much going on all the time, but at the same time, nothing. It was moving at a snail’s pace.

Sheer frustration.

People were talking. But nothing was happening. As you may know it’s still going on, with little movement forward. The behemoth called UNFCCC with the jokingly slogan (UNFC the world).

During second part of 2009 I attended two meetings in Bonn, one in Bangkok and then COP15 in Copenhagen. I learnt a lot. I got to see political science up front, in real life and at the end I wasn’t very impressed. I whole-heartedly admire the people trying to put up with it, trying with all their might to influence the process and they do, but the results make me sigh and despair.

COP15 started and ended. The results: it was proclaimed as a failure. It all depends on what kind of perspective you see it. It wasn’t the meeting that brought a treaty that could save the climate and bring us down to a safe level, a failure. But on the other hand, the meeting was also on the verge of collapse, so in that sense it was a success. The process could continue. Objectively though, it was and still is a failure. But political realities doesn’t account for planetary boundaries.

To be honest, something died within me at the end of COP15. A dream. I had just completed my first semester of Political Science at the end of Copenhagen. I still decided that I would continue to study Political Science to get a bachelor’s degree. But what was I pursuing?

And the quest for paid work was just about to begin. Somewhat lost and with a faint sense of direction where I was heading.

Been there, done that

In my first job, just out of college, I was an environmental economist. We wanted to save the world!

Yeah, sure.

We were horribly unprepared. We were saddled with wrong tools and wishful thinking. The grownups tried to subsume the environmental crisis into mainstream economics through externality theory, so we would not rock the boat. The lefties tried to subsume it into the Inevitable Final Collapse of Capitalism That Paves the Way for World Revolution. Nobody was paying any real attention.

The situation is different now. Just looking at Edgeryders it is clear that today’s world is not so ideologized, and we can actually look at the world with fewer prejudices. But still, diplomats? The track record of those guys is really not that great. They can do a good cleanup of noncontroversial issues - like they did with CFCs, chemical that damaged the ozone layer and that have been phased successfully - but not solve any conflict, they just don’t have the maneuvering space.  I am not expecting exciting developments from that side.

Just one thought

From the outside, you seem to have faced the harsh reality very soon, and the more idealistic you are the harsher it seems. I’m in no position to give advice, but you keep associating your professional path and aspirations with your diploma/qualifications. It’s something I used to do relentlessly in an attempt to define and make sense of my path. and it’s not working… what if pursuing a degree has everything to do with discovering what you feel it’s worth or not, but you are not locked to it, and in no way defines who you should be? Edgeryders are proof.

I think that in the last year or so I have been letting go of pursuing a degree. More and more I feel like knowledge is everywhere. The only thing you need to do is to take time and delve into it. I guess I’m still not entirely sure how I can contribute the best way and where there is a role that fits me or how I can build a role that fits me. At least the last 6 months of temporary employment gave me more confidence and stability. As I enter another period of unemployment I at least do so with a lot more confidence and a will to learn new things. What seems closest at hand is picking up skills in the field of computer science as that always has been a quite big part of my life in one way or the other.

The little-death feeling, I’ve experienced it many times, since the last couple of years. Many times. I might be wrong, but I bet that there are many people feelling little-deaths too. The overall environtal front seems to be heading nowhere. The Rio+20 was quite disenchanting. I’m sorry, unfortunately, I don’t have the perfect and fantastic advice to share with you. The life of an activist is not easy, and I wish there was an activist manual (as suggested by Arthur Doohan’s excellent mission report). The dreams and thoughts that we have, I think that they matter. Even if we feel like ants and are under the impression that we are just a small contributor, it does something. If each human being cared about climate, I think that it would make wonders. So don’t give up on your dreams. Continue to care, and continue to look for your place under the sun. When the frustration gets too high, yell. I do a lot of yelling in my car, you know. It feels good and it releases frustration. Usually, after I’ve protested by yelling demonstrations (to Life), I receive answers, or an opportunity shows up. And I continue with my life for a bit more activism, more frustration, and more yelling in my car. In between experiencing more little-death feelings. And so on…

On the horizon

Hi Jonathan,

I’m something of an adventurer, I have qualifications but I have never done anything formal with them, my work is mostly just conversations, establishing connections between people and trying to unify disparate voices by aligning perspectives, directives, and insular social and cultural groupings.

In the last few months I have been on the creation content team, quite briefly, with the SoCap13 team. They are running a thread on bioresilience, non-extractive ecological investment, ecology and ocean health. The aim is to round up investors in the impact space and get them moving in these areas. I won’t pretend to know more than what I have read from various articles on global climate change, wastemanagement, forestries, from maritime communities and researchers and an engaged anecdotal and experiential exchange, but still, this itself is enough to see what is happening where and who is acting in what ways. There is a lot of significant effort being made here.

I would like to hear more from you. And Alberto, what you said above strikes a resonant cord with what is happening at this thread also, some ‘padawan’ would be welcome here.

SoCap

Hi Eimhin,

Yes, there is certainly a lot of interesting things happening in the SoCap space. I think it was in the middle of May last year SoCap came to Malmö in Sweden. I was there and contributed with two articles to socialfinance.ca. I remember that they had strong environmental themes last year as well. One of the articles I wrote was about that. I’d be happy to connect more with you and I guess the easiest would be through twitter. From there we could go to email.