Beyond The Madness A Revolution is Brewing – OpEd


As world leaders and corporate big wigs refuse to act on climate breakdown and the wider environmental crisis, a quiet revolution in behaviour is taking place in western societies, particularly among young people (under 40 say). A growing movement of shifting values and attitudes which, as it gathers momentum could influence the broader economic matrix.

If, and its a big if, the environmental catastrophe is to be faced, the damage arrested and a process of healing initiated, the prehistoric notion of endless economic ‘growth’ must be rejected totally. Sustainability and social justice need to be the driving principles of a new approach, rather than GDP targets; a creative model of socio-economic evolution (including de-growth) with sharing and simplicity of living at its heart.

An increasing number of people in developed nations recognise this. Recent surveys show that the relentless drive for growth, for consumption and accumulation is being widely questioned. Among climate researchers questioned, 73% globally support post-growth and de-growth positions, its 86% in the EU; 61% of people surveyed in the EU are in favour of ‘post-growth’; both post-growth and de-growth call for sufficiency-oriented policies, in place of the excess of the current model.

There are a number of interconnected reasons for this shift in attitudes and behaviour. Growing social and environmental responsibility flowing from the recognition that all is connected, that it is our world and that humanity is a family. Together with exasperation and anger at governments – elected, but largely non representative bodies that should be acting responsibly but are in fact the principle force perpetuating attitudes and modes of living that are causing the problems.

Plus a recognition that a new and just economic system is urgently needed: fundamental change is required if the planet is to be saved and societies are to be released from the suffocating shadow of worry and fear that is crushing people everywhere. Together with depression, anxiety/stress is widespread, particularly among under 35 year olds. And its hardly surprising; in a host of ways life is more uncertain and more demanding than it was, certainly for my greying generation.

There are the everyday pressures of living, rent, food, travel and utility costs. Not to mention the price of a night out or an exhibition, all of which are prohibitively expensive for many. These daily demands sit within the existential threats of climate breakdown and war, plus growing political extremism, which is fuelling intolerance and hate.

Then there are the omnipresent pressures of society, family and self, to become something, to succeed, to look and think in a certain way. Mainstream media and social media are the principle sources of such suffocating reductive conditioning, followed closely by education, parents and peers. Conformity in all things is demanded, especially in thought, and together with competition, forms the cornerstone of most education and social structures. All of this lunacy has created a collective atmosphere of division, distrust and anxiety.

The cause of all suffering (including anxiety), as the Buddha taught aeons ago in the second Noble Truth – is craving – desire. The pervasive socio-economic system relies totally on desire being constantly enflamed, and remaining unfulfilled; this creates the space in which fear and therefore anxiety is virtually assured.

Contentment and simplicity of living are the enemies of The Ideology of Division and Greedwhich needs perpetual consumerism for its survival. Within this unjust violent paradigm individual achievement is all – ‘America First’ being a loud ugly example. This highly damaging rather crude approach to living, which has created unhealthy societies and vandalised the natural world, is slowly beginning to be rejected; and this augers well for the future.

On its own, this marginal gentle revolution will make little impact on climate change and environmental breakdown. But, like the unprecedented global protest movement, it is a significant sign of the growing demand for change among people (young and old) throughout the world; change in values, in attitudes and in behaviour, as well as systemic change. Such calls for change are, as ever, resisted by those in power; the tiny minority who benefit from the existing order, and seek to maintain the status quo.

As a result the world is increasingly divided along two broad lines of approach. Broadly speaking, on one hand there are the obstructive conservative forces – embodied and exemplified by the right wing political groups in all parts of the world. It is from this increasingly extreme, marginal body that tribal nationalism, and with it intolerance of others, abuse of human rights, injustice and hate flows. Within this mouldy camp of fear there is a growing feeling that the tide is against them, as indeed it is. Consequently, as they attempt to stem the flow of change and cling on to power they employ more and more fanatical, and in many cases illegal methods; they lie habitually, they manipulate economies and elections, they steal and deceive.

And in the other more humane and progressive camp, sits the majority of humanity. Here the call is for a world in which freedom, justice and peace exist, not as ideals but in fact, manifest in everyday living, and for everyone. A quiet clean world where the basic needs of food, shelter, health care and education are readily met; where perennial Principles of Goodness – sharing, compassion, tolerance and understanding shape the systems that govern our lives and colour the collective atmosphere. A world in which the fact of our inherent unity with one another, with the natural world and with That Underlying Reality upon which all aspects of manifestation ‘live and move and have their being’, is realised.

Despite the prevailing chaos and the surface dominance of The Crazy Bunch, the energy of the time, which tends towards synthesis and balance, must and will prevail.

With every passing day it intensifies, becomes more insistent, heavier; the demands for change grow, the forces of goodwill strengthen and those that would resist and obstruct the natural order of things, become weaker and more desperate. They are finished, dried up, spent, and they know it. The only question remaining is when they will be caste out, and the unjust structures they depend on dismantled, not if.

Graham Peebles

Graham Peebles is an independent writer and charity worker. He set up The Create Trust in 2005 and has run education projects in India, Sri Lanka and Ethiopia where he lived for two years working with acutely disadvantaged children and conducting teacher training programmes. Website:

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