I must admit, this journey into decolonization has certainly made me lust for a time long since passed. It’s so easy to look back at hunter gatherer societies and wax poetic about rewilding or anti-civ like they are solutions to our current collapse.
I mean, they might be.
But the idea of reverting back to something that we had before seems unlikely. And the idea of growing into something idyllic like solarpunk feels unattainable.
I daydream a lot about how I might make changes to my life to live more like it was back then. I dream about not needed cheap energy, about disconnecting from the grid and living without. I dream about using my time and energy to build what I need without needing permission from my municipality or insurance company. I even dream about silly things like living without mirrors! (Have you ever really thought about this?!) Sometimes my desire to live this way is overwhelming. I’ve lost sleep more than once staying up late watching people build cabins in the woods by themselves, or watching documentaries about people living in hobbit holes.
Sometimes it feels as though the technological revolution has come so fast and so furious that it seems almost impossible to imagine how we might detach from it as a species. We are so utterly dependent on globalized commerce, instant access to goods and services, and, like, the internet.
When I talk to people about not buying from Amazon, they tell me it’s impossible. And sometimes they’re right. It’s the systems and the culture that we’ve created for ourselves.
New modern systems have replaced the old at an alarming rate and the infrastructure that supported these old systems for decades (if not centuries) has been completely dismantled or upgraded. Even if we all decided tomorrow that we wanted to go back, I don’t think we could. The Amazon example is a good one: there used to be mom and pop shops in every small town and most have closed down because they can’t compete with big box stores and online shopping.
If you couldn’t use a car or bus to get groceries, how far might you have to travel? If your municipal water system could no longer deliver safe drinking water, would you still have access to water? If you didn’t have access to cheap energy, how would you heat your home in the winter?
And I get it! The convenience afforded by technological advancements is overwhelming and grants us so much freedom to develop in areas like arts and culture, not to mention the freedom to rest. Having spent the last few years slowly transferring my life focus to subsistence, I can tell you the hours saved by appliances like a stove or washing machine. Trying to remove these pieces of technology can sometimes render my days into a monotonous repetition of dishes, sweeping, laundry, cooking, repeat because we lack the localized community to support each other in these tasks.
But where does that leave us?
Business as usual means endless consumption on a finite planet, where the global south pays for our conveniences and those living in poverty can’t make ends meet. It’s near impossible to live a subsistence lifestyle in North America without a bundle of money at your disposal. And, you know, we’re destroying the climate at an ever-increasing rate so something’s gotta give.
For myself, I think I need to stop idealizing the past and start looking towards an honest future, maybe one that looks a bit solar punk and a bit hunter gatherer and a bit technological and a whole lot of regenerative. Because sustainable isn’t going to be good enough at this point: we need to build new systems that are going to give back to the land, give back to the people, and give back to the planet.