“Why is life getting harder and faster day by day?”

Helena Norberg-Hodge

“Why is life getting harder and faster day by day?”

Helena Norberg-Hodge

Linguist, author and film maker

Helena Norberg-Hodge is a linguist, author and film maker. She is the founder and director of the international non-profit organisation, Local Futures, a pioneer of the new economy movement, and the convenor of World Localization Day.

 

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HNH I would just love to see people asking themselves why is it that life seems to be getting harder and faster day by day? I believe that once we look at that and really understand that most of us are having to run faster and faster just to stay in place, the average person is getting poorer as we speak. I fervently believe that once it becomes clear that exactly the same policies that are driving up climate emissions, extinguishing species and behind war and conflict, those policies are the same that are making the average person having to work harder just to put a roof over their head and food on the table, we have not had access to the information that economists have been coming out with. In the last 30 years, economists have worked with showing, documenting clearly that we are getting poorer. So this is, i think, one of the most important questions of our time and I really think once we wake up to it, we will have a truly powerful movement for systemic change.

 

KP It’s a rich and important question, I think, Helen. I begin by trying to unpack what you mean by poorer. Presumably you mean financially, but maybe not just financially. Can you unpack that a little?

 

HNH I think, very importantly, it’s financially, because, for sure, we have epidemics of depression, discontent, questions of identity. We’re seeing virtually every crisis imaginable rising. We’re seeing polarization, divisiveness of every kind. But I’m talking about the fact that the myth, the narrative that is preventing most citizens from standing up to government and saying what is going on. Why are you doing this to the people, to your own society and to yourselves? Because governments are getting poorer.

And yes, i’m talking financially, i’m talking materially, because they have allowed global banks and corporations to have more and more rights and freedom to essentially run the show and to put lots of zeros after their capital, while impoverishing the nation state and the average citizen. And that is something that it’s a fact. It’s been documented. As I say, one of the more interesting ones. Well, i worked and we featured in our film Juliet Shore, an economist who was at Harvard, who had documented that the average American had to work one month more per year just to stay in place, not to get richer. just again, pay for the housing and food on the table, education, healthcare. Between the 60s and the 90s And roughly the same period a little bit later, my friend Richard Dathwaite, an English economist, wrote a book called The Growth Illusion, where he showed that as the economy in Britain was growing, the buying power, the spending power of the average citizen, was going down and significantly down. So it’s really important that we wake up to this

KP Am I right in thinking that your perspective has been significantly shaped by your experience of living with the Ladakh in Tibet? So you lived in kind of pre-industrial, undeveloped indigenous society there and you saw it evolve and change as it became developed and industry moved into it and so on, and from what I understand, this had a significant hand in shaping kind of the rest of your life but certainly the way you see the problems that exist in our world today. So I wonder if you could unpack how that experience affected you. What happened there?

HNH Yes, absolutely Yes. I would never probably be seeing these things or saying that it hadn’t been for Ladakh. Ladakh is the westernmost part of Tibet. It was an independent kingdom but very closely connected to central Tibet. The Dalai Lama was the spiritual head. It was primarily Buddhist, but it wasn’t an independent kingdom. But in the 1840s the Indians took over, but then it was sealed off for political reasons because it was a very sensitive border zone.

Quite a big area, about the size of Austria, but with only about 100,000 people living in villages that were adapted to maybe one of the harshest environments in the world, people living up at 12,000 feet and, essentially in a desert, four inches of rain a year. What I’ve discovered over time? well, my thinking is that one of the things that made this place so remarkable was probably that, as a traditional, if you like, indigenous culture, there was such a need to adapt very carefully to limited resources. This was not the case with many traditional cultures. There was plenty of space, there wasn’t, you know, we weren’t so crowded. I think Ladakh is a particularly important example, because it shows us what can be done if we realize that we are dealing with limited resources. The earth has limits and our population has exploded, and what Ladakh showed was this remarkable effect of a culture where the world view underlined that everything is interdependent and interconnected, where the emphasis was both on inner peace and peace in our relationships with others and with the earth, with the animals, with all sentient beings, as the Buddhists talk about.

 

I had the great privilege to come there just as this area was opened up to the outside world. I learned to speak the language fluently. I was a linguist. I wasn’t intending to stay, come out originally as part of a film team, but I just fell in love with this TV that was so gloriously, i think the best way to put it is. They emanated this sense of complete lightness and ease of being and a sort of humor and joy in life, a real drada vivra, and I became more and more fascinated and ended up staying when the filming was finished. And first I was going to do a PhD on the language, i did a dictionary of the Ladakh language and so on, and so that was my excuse to stay at first.

But I also happened to read Smallest Beautiful in Ladakh, and then suddenly I realized, oh, here is an eminent economist named Schumacher who had written this book based on having experienced Burma in the 1960s and being amazed to find that there was no real poverty, there was no unemployment happiest people he’d ever encountered, and that forced him to rethink his assumptions about progress, growth and development. And so now I had, 10 years later, come up and seen a very similar situation. But had it not been for this sort of male economist who had made a very strong case for a turnaround in economics, i don’t know if I would have had the courage or the audacity to write to the Indian government and to start various projects, but I did. And I guess I should say that there was such a dramatic, really black and white situation where the dominant economic system coming in almost overnight created pollution that hadn’t been there, unemployment that hadn’t been there, unhappiness and depression that basically hadn’t existed. People were amazed when I told them that in the West we have special doctors for our mental illness. Our mental couldn’t understand and also created division among groups that had lived together for 500 years.

 

In the case of Ladakh it was Buddhists and Muslims And literally within a decade of this economic system coming in that pushed people away from the land, pushed them away from local knowledge, about local resources. Suddenly, in this growing city, dependent on fossil fuels and now dependent on forces and people that they didn’t even know the name of fighting for jobs, for survival in that city environment. They were no longer interdependent with each other. Instead, the other became an obstacle, and so we are. Almost overnight, i saw how tragic it is that our economic system creates artificial scarcity of jobs, and it does that by creating an artificially low price for energy and resources. It’s a rigged economic system that has made us too expensive for ourselves and has in almost everything we care about, from health care to education, to psychology, to music, to the arts, to football, almost everything we care about. It has led to commercialization, speed and competition and, as I say, it’s made us too expensive for ourselves.

KP It’s fascinating and really sad to hear that account. I had an experience that I can relate to in a very minor way. So I was spending a few months during university studies with a group of Aztec descendants in a remote part of Mexico And the village had just got its first internet cafe, and this was way back in 2003. And I remember having conversations with the youth who were, through surfing the web or whatever, beginning to feel the pull towards cities and clothing brands and so on, and it seemed like I was witnessing a change in what the good life actually involves and the desires they had, moving from traditional ideas to something that resembles mainstream consumerist culture that we know. Now I’ve not been back. I don’t know what it is like, but I imagine that the traditional culture has been eroded since I left there back in 2003.

 

HNH Yeah, and you see, the really hideous thing that I saw very clearly speaking the language fluently with the Ladakis, was that I had never encountered people with the strongest sense of self-esteem. And over the years, as I tried to understand what that came from, i saw that it was absolutely linked to the way that every child was seen, heard, carried by a bigger group of people than the nuclear family. So there was this constant. There was this constant love and attention that made every child feel that they were fine, exactly the way they were. The parents did not have these great ambitions that you have to fight to get on top and be the best wasn’t necessary. In a sense, everybody was famous, everybody was known, everybody was appreciative for who they were.

 

I actually came to see that there was far greater individualism in a culture where your identity is shaped by, probably ultimately, interaction with a few hundred people, but the core group was probably more like 30, 40. And it meant that every mother had ten living caretakers for every child. That larger space for family and close interdependence, emotional interdependence, was crucial. Now, suddenly, with this influx, particularly of images of who you should be, what you should be, all of it romanticizing urban consumer culture, and back then it was 100% white. You needed to be Light skin, blonde, blue-eyed, otherwise you were inferior. That’s changed a bit, but it hasn’t really improved anything, because now, even if you do have dark skin or Asian look, you still have to belong to this glamorous urban consumer culture if you want to be somebody. So this deep psychological warfare that now means that five-year-old children from Edinburgh to Australia, to Ladakh, five-year-old children dreaming of being famous, are wanting to stand on a pedestal competing with eight billion people. And it’s just, it’s a complete, you know, impossible dream which actually becomes a nightmare. And I find it. Yeah, it’s a, you know, we could talk about this for hours and I mustn’t, you know, go on and belabor it too long.

 

But I think in the Anglo world it’s much harder for people to understand the vital importance of maintaining cultural identity, first of all, community identity, and that’s as I say. It’s a smaller group where you feel connected, heard and loved and seen. That allows you to be just who you are and fine. You don’t need to be taller, you don’t need to have a PhD, you don’t need to have a fancy car. You know you are John or Michael or Mary and find the way you are. That self-respect, that self-assurance is the bedrock of tolerance for difference. It’s the bedrock of kindness and compassion. It really is vital.

But in the Anglo world we’re not seeing how, particularly in the last 30 years, with the way that corporations have gained more and more power over governments and in post-global media and essentially, you know, usually American media we haven’t recognized just what that’s done to our cultures.

I saw it so dramatically in Ladakh that opened my eyes, so that when I went back to Sweden, my native country, i realized that the opening up of Sweden to American television and outside media had brought in violence and commercialism which we hadn’t had when I grew up, and there were mothers who could see the impact on their teenagers, particularly their teenage boys.

But in today’s world, particularly in the Anglo world, this process has been more gradual and we’re less conscious of it. But it’s a very important discussion. What can we do about that in the modern world with modern media? And I just want to add that I think, paradoxically, one of the most important things we can do is use media, as we are doing now, to try to get deeper discussions going and particularly to include discussions between the so-called most developed and least developed parts of the world And, i have to say, most of my allies. The sort of network that I’ve been helping to build up consist primarily of people who have had the experience of something less urbanized or industrialized, more land-based and community-based ways of living, as well as living in the modern western world.

KP That absolutely resonates with my own experiences. When one asks this question of why is life getting harder and faster, and so on, there are clearly structural things that need change. The systems that we are part of are broken, as you’ve mentioned. But we’re also talking about for one of another word, our spiritual art league, the kind of attention we pay to the world. If I can quote from your book Local is Our Future. You’re right. We are relearning what ancient and indigenous cultures knew that the inner and the outer, the human and the non-human, are inextricably linked. We are beginning to see the world within us, of which we ourselves are part. The language here feels spiritual in nature. You talk about the kind of attention we’re paying to the world around us, and so I guess I’m wondering to what extent you think becoming more kind of spiritually aware and awakened is going to be a significant part of addressing the issues we’ve been discussing. You’ve been highlighting.

HNH I think, yes, i think as we start listening more to our inner voice, as we start listening to our bodies and, if you like, our hearts and souls, we will become more aware of the dissonance between what we really want to, we really are, and the system that we’re ensnared in. So that’s something that’s already happening, and so I feel very encouraged by having witnessed over these 45 years that I’ve been at this and I’ve been in so many different cultures, talking to so many different people and many different language groups. And there’s a clear pattern that, as people actually experience the urban, industrial, competitive lifestyle, which often means being completely cut off from nature, literally windows that don’t open, no animals, no plants, and, as you know, when we go into the big cities, we don’t even look each other in the eye, we don’t say hello, so, paradoxically, we’re piled on top of each other but we don’t know each other. So this is completely unnatural And we feel it. We feel it and that’s why we see more and more people developing hunger for nature, a more conscious appreciation of nature, a more conscious longing for more community and connection with people. And I think what’s in our DNA is also to have more collaborative relationships with others and they occur quite naturally when there’s more intergenerational contact in the way we live.

What modernity and this economy is trying to cut us off from that and segregating children into these monocultures, which is so dreadfully unhealthy and unnatural. So all of this, for me, makes me very optimistic about the longer term future. I feel that there’s sort of an inevitability that life itself will speak out and nature is warning us in many ways. But people are also. Their values are clearly changing. There’s been a huge cultural turning towards this longing for nature, appreciation of nature, wanting to do things that are more kind and gentle But nature. There’s been a real appreciation of the feminine and of indigenous culture.

But what has happened is that the fundamental economic, structural side of it, which is actually techno economic, because money is a technology, it’s a tool The way that money and other technologies have been used to centralize power, particularly to favor global players, traders, bankers and so on, from the outset of the modern economy, there has been essentially a systematic destruction of local economies.

The enemy of the modern economy is self-reliance And I came to realize that it’s also connected to self-respect. So self-respect and self-reliance are the enemy of this economic system And it’s not helpful to think of it as just capitalism. I think it’s really helpful once we look at the global, local dimension, because then we see much clearer strategies for moving forward. But I think, in terms of your question, yes, the spiritual awakening that is occurring and it’s a eco spiritual awakening, particularly in the West is certainly helping, but it’s not enough, i feel. At times I’ve felt very frustrated at how difficult it’s been to persuade my spiritual and ecological and even social activist colleagues that it would be so helpful if we could focus on an economic change and look at this super structure of the economy along with understanding the deeper psychological and spiritual issues. So we need that broad, bigger picture, i think, to really move forward.

KP So you’ve got this bigger picture of the macro economy. That’s structurally really problematic. But correct me if I’m wrong. You also identify a fundamental issue with the disconnection between what we are doing and what we see, so we cannot see the good or, crucially, the harm that we’re doing. I think you have a lovely line in your TED talk that our arms have grown so long that we can no longer see what our hands are doing, and that seems to me to be an important part of being human and flourishing being able to see the fruits of our labor and not being alienated from them. But also, i put my rubbish in a bin and I forget about it. I don’t see the trail of rubbish that I leave behind me, and that seems significant in a moral sense.

HNH And you see what we’re in our promotion of local, we’re very much talking about this adaptation to biological diversity, as we’re talking about fundamentally more ecological ways of doing things And, honestly, if we move in a truly ecological direction, there is almost no waste. But with all these issues, now we’re in this difficult position because global corporations are trying to masquerade as no waste, as circular, as local. There’s now a huge move on the corporate side to talk about the need to shift from global to local, but what they’re talking about is, yes, coming back and leading with cheap labor in India or China, but now they’re going to be using robots instead. So there’s now this very, very important issue of continued race awareness about the importance of the local, because, yeah, i like that term I came up with that our arms are so long we can’t see what our hands are doing, and it works both ways. It works both in not seeing the damage that we might be doing on the other side of the world. You know, whatever we’re buying in the supermarket, we might have been using slave labor, toxic chemicals and we weren’t actually doing it, and so we don’t know what those corporations have put in the food that we’re buying.

And when we’re told things are now ecological, we can’t even be sure What happens when you shorten the distances so that most people have an idea of their impact on other people and on nature. What happens is a wonderful natural social community pressure, but pressure in the right direction. It’s a pressure that, because things are so obvious and so visible, you just don’t want to be, you know, poisoning your neighbors food. You don’t want to, you know, you don’t want to do it for your own. And when you’re selling in a farmer’s market of people you know and who look you in the eye, there is very definitely a shift. It’s not a guarantee, it doesn’t always happen, but it’s a prerequisite for more accountable, for more just and for the experiential knowledge that is needed for humanity to recognize the feedback loops that are coming from the rest of the world, from other people and from the living ones.

 

KP I hope you’re enjoying this conversation with Helena Norberg-Hodge. In the second half of the interview we explore the problems with technological optimism and what it might mean to find genuine reasons for hope and optimism in the future. It’s a very interesting point. It’s quite red-lit, i think, of Ian McGillchrist’s thesis on the left and right hemispheric attention. You know that we no longer trust our own experience, but we’ll quite happily trust second or third hand views instead. I think you’re calling Ian McGillchrist, in a sense calling for the same thing that we validate and trust our experience as a way of knowing.

HNH Absolutely. I mean, we’re great friends, you know, and he also recognizes that localization is necessary for us to come back to respect for experiential knowledge And, honestly, for me, the two most important sort of big picture lessons from Ladakh were the need for experiential knowledge which is also more holistic knowledge. It’s knowledge where it’s impossible to simply extract one little item from a living relationship and process. But it was that holistic experiential knowledge linked to smaller-scale economic units And again, smaller-scale economic units. That means creating structures where we can see more readily our impact on the world And at the same time, encouraging and nurturing that wisdom and that holistic knowledge and giving the right side of the brain a voice.

I totally I mean Ian’s work just so completely fits with everything I’m saying and it’s remarkable how much every aspect of it fits with this transition Away from more localized, community based, nature based ways of living where experiential knowledge Has such high status that it’s not even possible for you to speak about things that you haven’t experienced without making it very clear that you have doubts about this.

So the language has affixes, so you can’t just say, oh, in China, this is what’s happening. Not possible to sit in your armchair, never having been there, and tell someone else what it’s like in China, and it’s not possible to sit and say, well, so and so, killed so and so, because there would be huge doubt about something that you haven’t seen and it’s just mediated information. So the skepticism about mediated information and abstract, decontextualized knowledge would be viewed with skepticism and, on the other hand, experiential knowledge, would you know, was highly respected And we we now so reverse that that it’s become. It’s a. It has been going on for a long time but it’s been building up now to a madness that is Very frightening because you know, we’re not being dominated by algorithmic views of the world.

KP Well, so that actually really maps on to Ian’s work on brain hemispheres. It’s it’s wonderful to hear your optimistic. I know not everybody is and sometimes, to be honest, i struggle to be. Maybe optimism is something you learn through seeing where the signs of hope are, and I’d love to come back to that in a minute. But before that, and There’s this different form of optimism from the one that I think you espouse, that comes from a perspective that progress and technology are ultimately going to help us, they’re gonna save us. That you might call it technological optimism. Imagine you have a response to that kind of perspective.

HNH Absolutely yeah. No, i’m afraid that I think this is part of what has been steady propaganda for a type of progress which meant that we were in the hands of bigger and bigger corporate structures. And you know, you’ve got herari with sapiens and Steven pinker. These voices get out widely because they suit a trajectory that is essentially about Doing exactly the opposite of what we need to be moving us further and further from a living context, from places, ecosystems, living communities. We’ve been pulled as isolated individuals into the nuclear family, which is a very unnatural structure, so doesn’t work very well, and so, in these isolated ways, we become easily manipulated with this decontextualized, abstract, absolute ideas. And we we are, you know the narrative always has been, it’s good for you, we were just Usually the sort of departure point that’s been painted is the cancy in London, where there was filth, there was poverty, there was crime, you know, illness, and we don’t hear that when people living in smaller towns and villages closer to the land, and when they had organized themselves to care for the comments, for the water, for For each other, wasn’t paradise, you know, particularly because Christianity had already paid the way for an unnatural relationship with nature.

It was very much part of the build up to this techno economic system. So in many ways I guess I believe you have to go back to the indigenous cultures And you almost have which is almost impossible because you are histories full of civilizations and civilizations were expansionist Cultures that expanded beyond their boundaries, conquered others, robbed them and that’s all we get to hear about. So the decency in London benchmark like this is the beginning of time is so completely misleading. So even in England, even after Christianity of a lot of brutality, it was still much healthier, much more sustainable and much more satisfying for most people. And this mess that was created with the cancy in London. And I think it’s vital that we reexamine the myth of progress that’s been imposed on us, which then tells us look, now we cleaned it up.

 

You know, now there are these little suburbs, you each have your own house and you each have your own little nuclear family. Look how much better off you are. We have to deeply question that, partly because those cities have always depended on using more resources per capita than would be necessary to create really thriving, flourishing ways of living for people. If people could be liberated from this mindset and now from regulations and structures that sort of imprison us in a path where, if we don’t wake up, we’ll be going towards 100 percent urbanization in AI dominated cities, and we want to be allowed to have agriculture. It’s a very frightening scenario that this sort of last stage of this global economic system is trying to impose on us. So I’m very optimistic in the long term, but very worried about what can happen in the next few decades, and I would really like to see more people waking up as soon as possible so that the damage isn’t as great as it could be.

 

KP  It sounds like this message of progress I think you might call it this religion of progress is like the antithesis of what you’re saying, that we don’t need to live within our limitations. You know, we can cryogenically freeze ourselves and not live within the limitations of death. There are all kinds of ways we can explore this idea of not living within natural confines. And that way lies ruin and ruination of the planet. And I guess, if we’re asking this question, why is life getting harder and faster? The answers, as you’ve kind of explored, are manifold Capitalism, alienation from labor and not being able to see what our hands are doing, etc. But most of us, looking at these vast structures, are going to feel quite impotent, quite carried by them. But you say that you see signs of hope and optimism. So I guess my question is where do I go to find hope? What do you see that brings you that optimism?

HNH Well,think the number one is to turn to a few like-minded people, ideally near where you live. You know we’ve forever been trying to encourage people to come together relatively close to home so that you can meet in each other’s homes with a few people to spend even, i think you know a group coming together over a few weeks and months could find, first of all, such a shift in the emotional well-being by coming together to share the concern. I also want people to ideally sit down in circles and talk openly about their problems. I think particularly since COVID, but even before that there’s just been an escalation of depression. Now in Australia they’re talking about domestic violence. I mean, it’s really. People are so stressed to have so little time and all the time they’re being pressured to appear perfect. It’s outside the four walls of the nuclear family and it leads to a very unhealthy climate inside those four walls. And if people can share and see that others are feeling similarly and that they also have problems, that they also argue they are not like these people on television who are beautiful and young and wealthy and do interesting things and have perfect children. That just doesn’t happen, particularly in today’s world. So even just that relief of being able to share at a deeper level some of the personal problems and concerns can be extremely helpful.

We, you know, we’re offering a curriculum that says we’re offering a way of shifting paradigms, basically reexamining history, reexamining basic assumptions. That would give you almost immediately a sense of relief from the false guilt that you’ve been pushed into. You’ve been told now that you are to blame for the poverty on the other side of the world, for climate change, and it’s you and your greed. And it’s very frightening because, with the help of algorithms, this is happening. We’re getting divided and, as people are being told, you know, it’s your fault because you don’t want to let go of your wealth, they’re actually getting poorer and all they’re trying to do is to pay the mortgage, pay the rent, put food on the table, give their children education and, as they get blamed by the environmental movement and so on, that generally leads to a reaction against the environmental movement, even though, as I said earlier, there’s been this cultural turning. People actually would, without a doubt, prefer to be living in a way that does not decimate the environment. Of course they would, you know, if we had any referendum any time in any country, virtually saying do you want your government to subsidize food that is grown with lots of chemicals and transported across the world? or would you rather support local farmers who will grow naturally and that will be delivered to your area costing less than the chemical industrial food coming from far away? I have no doubt that the majority would vote in favour of that, but those questions aren’t being asked enough.

So we really believe that the way forward is through that deeper connection with others and then a deep and not too long winded but you know, it may take a bit of while to rethink some basic assumptions that have been drummed into us since childhood and that now have become very, very pernicious and very, in some ways, very strategic with the help of algorithms. I really see the de facto conspiracy that we have is not so much about individuals sitting there planning to destroy the world, but it is because they have become convinced that growth is necessary, that this path of progress, more technology, particularly now AI is necessary and that even merging humans and technology is actually a way forward. And the sort of algorithmic data that’s presented to our global you know political and economic leaders is disastrous. But, as I said, few simple questions, particularly around really central issues like food and what’s happening to our children. What’s happening to really to our democracy? why, in every country, are we seeing this obscene gap between rich and poor? How is that happening? Why? And we have to go beyond conventional left-right to arrive at real answers about that. So, basically, what we say is to get over a sense of overwhelm, is to connect with a few others, do a process of rethinking. And then we’re also saying beware that we need to be both clear and articulate about what we want to resist and we need to be clear and strong about what we want to renew or support. And remember, here we’re talking about this, you know diametrically opposed paths towards a more globalized, corporate, techno, economic future, faster and faster, more competitive, or systemically in the opposite direction. And the systemic opposite direction is simultaneously about becoming more place-based, slowing down, which may not always sound appealing to people, but I think today it should. Hopefully people should recognize that the speed is killing us.

It’s about diversity. It’s about respecting the absolute, real diversity of everything that lives and the need to adapt to that. And I just want to say that I sound very absolutist about this, and that is because I’m saying absolutely. We need to become more humble in the face of the complexity and diversity, and change and process of the living world of life. And my conviction is absolutely that the path that takes us away from that is arrogant, stupid and, yes, extremely blindly left-brained, and we will. You know, life will not continue to support that madness. So the the localist part that i’m promoting is one that is greater humility in the face of complexity, great humility, and what that means also is that it’s a path, but it’s a part of means. It will everywhere be different Because the respect for diversity means there is not the imposition of one way of doing things. Does that make sense?

KP It does, absolutely, thank you. So you, you live a kind of multicultural life. You’re a part Swedish, part English, with a home in Devon, and you’re currently in Australia. This is, in a sense, it’s not the way indigenous societies lived. It’s not the way that kind of nature intended us to live, like being in multiple different places and disconnected from the land and so on. To what extent do you feel like you’ve had to sacrifice and ways of living there are more healthy and natural to our ecology in order to do the work that you’re doing with your local futures and so on?

 

HNH Yeah, i have. I mean, i am early on. We thought, you know, one of the things we’re gonna do is to Go to remote area and become more self reliant and try to create a bit of an eco community, which i’m still sometimes dreaming of. I’m, but i partly i realize that, knowing what i knew in terms of what was happening in the world, that i felt drawn to share that, because it is so clear that if you withdraw into some ideal eco community, first of all it’s almost impossible to do it because most of the regulations work against it and It becomes very, very difficult. But also that in the meanwhile you couldn’t protect yourself from nuclear war, from climate change, from you know Which, by the way, they’re now promoting in africa and places that drones are going to be so effective in spraying pesticides. So we really have to look out for the This, the impact of this new a. I got a way of doing things, particularly in the non western world. We need to get that information across.

So, very early on, i was certainly Announcing that what i thought was the most important was the global education campaign based on much more information between the least developed and the most developed countries, in other words, internationally based, with a global perspective, and we need to get out this critique of this Monoculture that was being imposed, using more and more resources, creating more and more unemployment and poverty, and that that needs to be pushed out as quickly as possible.

So that’s really what i say is a priority and that’s what i’ve been doing. Basically. I’m working pretty hard at it And dragging my poor body around because i actually i almost didn’t go to the dark because i had traveled quite a lot before. I was 30 and i was living in paris and it was sort of I was my family in germany, as well as sweden and england. My, my father, was half english, so i had family and cousins there too, and and i You know, after the dark, my travel has been entirely motivated by trying to build up an international movement and trying to get this sort of bigger picture out.

 

KP Well, how has been so fascinating to hear you unpack your perspective. I wonder if i could just draw some of the threads of what we’ve been talking about together. So the question that you think we need to be asking is why is life getting harder and faster day by day? And this is like a good question to ask, a necessary question to ask, because it’s not always immediately obvious to us why this is. Because we are blinded by the myths of our culture, the idea of progress around materialistic desires and wants, and by beginning to explore that question we become more aware of the things that plague us, why things are bad, and we begin to deal with them by moving towards more local ecologies and ways of being, in a way, from the global and finding ways To kind of address those big economic issues which we are subject to. Would that be a fair summary of your perspective, of how we have kind of explored This question so far?

HNH well, yes, except i would say i would urge everyone to try to join a local community initiative wherever they are. So change the discourse on the view from what can i do as an individual to what can we do. Change the idea that already brings a lot of spaciousness and And a sense of well being. And it’s not just about sharing about this big, top heavy economic system is also that there’s huge ignorance about the proliferation of countless Alternatives from the bottom up, that virtually everywhere you find something that is truly in harmony with people’s needs and with the and and deeply ecological, in harmony with the Nature. You will find that it’s human scale, that is local and that, and it’s really important that we cultivate a sense of Well, first of all, that we need to look for that hope in the many small that we realize that, yes, that system is big and top heavy. The actually is promoted by and, now you know, enriches fewer and fewer people. We’re really talking about less than one percent of humanity, honestly, really considerably less. We are yet been educated enough to know how many people are losers, but it is more than 99%. So here we are in a situation where, if we also open our eyes to the positive alternatives and we start looking, will find that there is so much more That will give us hope, and that will also be for me. You know. It’s particularly hopeful when I know that these things are struggling against the system, where regulations, taxes and subsidies are working against us And the dominant world view and the dominant narrative are often working against it. So they demonstrate this remarkable, basically an innate wisdom and perseverance on the part of people.

By the way, it’s also very heavily led by women, i would say. Very often the spokespeople are men, and that’s very good and fine, but it’s important that we can all adjust how many of these initiatives are started and and essentially taken, taken off. Taking off because women tend to be more open to them and tend to be more aware of the urgent need to move in the opposite direction of what is fundamentally a patriarchal system.

KP Well, Helena, it’s been fascinating hearing from your perspective both a diagnosis of what’s wrong, why life is getting harder and we are moving faster, and also, importantly, some practical solutions, some suggestions of directions that we could move in individually and collectively. So I found that I found that really helpful and practical.

HNH I hope so. I hope so The most. You know the thing I haven’t said and I am, you probably shouldn’t keep it in, but honestly and truly, i would like to be pleading for a human liberation front where we would be liberated to, to Support artisan production in agriculture in a small scale. Diversified farms can produce far more per unit of land and water, far more efficient, far more productive and at the same time, they reduce all those needs for chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicide and the transport and the plastic packaging. The horrific truth that in the climate negotiations they do not even mention global trade. The emissions of global trade are not calculated and there’s lots of propaganda trying to get us to think they’re not important.

It is absolutely, you know, frightening to see that that’s happening, but the truth is that I’m seeing around the world that when people sometimes people are privileged or not always, but liberate themselves and actually start building different systems, building