Premonition of January 2020

I have never considered myself to be a particularly intuitive person. I have the odd hunch, and I know that foresight does play a role in decision making. However, since January 2020, I have been grappling to come to terms with the idea that Climate Awareness was going to be my project for the year.

Having facilitated monthly groups for seniors in which we examine what it means to be a Conscious Elder, I announced at the first meeting of the year that we would be bringing the topic of climate change awareness into our discussions. To set the tone, I invited my grand-daughter Keren who has transformed herself from an artist to a business woman. In her new capacity, she is manufacturing bags which are environmentally friendly as they assist shoppers to cut down on their use of plastic.

It was in February this year, the world outside China, heard about Covid-19.   March 26th is the date of the initial Stage 5 Lockdown in South Africa. “But, what is the connection to Climate Disaster?” was constantly running through my mind. Comes August 7th, not only my eldest daughter’s 60th Birthday but news of The Great Reset. At last, someone was articulating the connections I had been feeling in my gut since the beginning of the year.

Covid-19: The Great Reset by Klaus Schwab and Thierry Mallert

By June 2020, Klaus Schwab the founder of The Economic Forum had started to articulate the long term significance of what a minute virus was doing for humanity. Before that date, I had felt embarrassed to even think that the world wide suffering of the past six months may have a silver lining.  I shared my ideas with but a few broad-minded acquaintances. I was cautious about suggesting that maybe this microscopic non-living matter was here to humble us. But yesterday (Friday, August 7th) I decided I can come out of the closet.   I received an email from The World Economic Forum which stated:

“There is an urgent need for global stakeholders to cooperate in simultaneously managing the direct consequences of the COVID-19 crisis. To improve the state of the world, the World Economic Forum is starting The Great Reset initiative.”

The process has been started. The World Economic Forum is leading The Great Reset by recommending that politicians, economists and sociologists as well as climate activists consider a radical transformation of both values and goals – a new world order and a major transformation of objectives is projected.  One important aim is to close the gap between those born with advantage and those who come into the world with multiple challenges. If you have any doubts about the advantages of being born both Male and White then read Rob Wijnberg, Editor of The Correspondent who wrote an article entitled, ‘What I learned about racism by talking to people who experience it.

When I heard about The Great Reset, I was really happy about the letter I wrote last week:

“Dear Jeanne

Covid-19 has brought some unsettling features into the life of people all around the world. It has affected my sense of security and my perspective.

When, earlier this year, I learned that you were offering the one-year training for Sage-ing Facilitators online, I was very excited. Whilst it was impractical for me to participate in this course if I needed to travel to the USA, doing it online seemed an entirely feasible project.

Hence my excitement when I learned from you I had been accepted on the course.

However, on reflection, and due to the circumstances, I feel that someone on your waiting list could make better use of the training than myself. This past week I participated in an international training run by Climate Reality. This opened up my awareness of the emergency of our situation on planet earth.

Despite scientific predictions over the past century that the warming of the planet would destroy life as it has been known, those in power have chosen to ignore many of the warning signs. Politicians in league with the oil and gas industry have allowed pollution, which has already caused massive climate disruption in the form of droughts and floods throughout the world, to reach a situation of irreparable damage to our ecology.

In addition, the untimely and brutal death of George Floyd has emphasised the discrepancy in economic status between the rich and the poor on this planet. The spread of Covid-19 has also effected the poor disproportionately.

The juxtaposition of Covic-19, the Climate Calamity, and Class clashes has made me feel that there is something more important for me to do than enhance my “Sage-ing Ability.”

I feel the urge to expend my limited energies and time left to me to try and do something in the form of Climate Activism. Helping to develop structures which may diminish the discrepancies of the opportunity between the rich and the poor.

So, it is with reluctance that I wish to withdraw my participation in the training offered by Sage-ing International. I appreciate the time and professional manner in which you have handled my application. I am indebted to you for treating my wish to undertake the training, with both compassion and professionalism. I am really sorry to have to announce my decision to withdraw from the program.

My best wishes to all the personnel at your organisation. I big thank you to you Jeanne for your kindness and hard work.

Best wishes

Grace”

Having been a facilitator of Conscious Ageing for the past decade with members of the University of the Third Age as my participants, I felt a strong urge at the beginning of 2020.   It was the need to refocus my work from emphasising the personal growth of the individual senior and awaken my cohort to the dangers of continued climate disruption.

First Meeting of the year

So it was at our first meeting which took place at the beginning of February that I tentatively suggested to those present the proposed shift of focus.   My motivation emerged from some unknown inner forces emanating from deep within my body.   I was not able to determine why I started to liken myself to Joan of Arc, of all people.   I just felt this need to share with my friends, family and associates this intuitive feeling that each and every one of us needed to do their very best to come to terms with the dangers on our doorstep.  Civilisation which had progressed for many millennia was going to regress, and in the worst case scenario humankind as we understand it was going to undergo a major disruption.

Covid-19 comes to South Africa

It was the following month of March that the knowledge emerged that the Covid-19 virus was going to be a threat to life here in South Africa, just like the rest of the world.   It was now on my doorstep.  Until this time, it was something that was happening in China, far away from us.  So, it was just those few weeks after I had publicly announced my realisation of the association between the Covid pandemic and climate change, that this juxtaposition started to appear in the public domain.

As I look back from the present moment in July, just four months after the lockdown was announced in South Africa, I realise how my early hunches are starting to penetrate the consciousness of all around me.   I still feel a little alarmist when suggesting to people they need to take up a vegetarian diet, or dedicate themselves to a less consumptive lifestyle, or suggesting they should regularly be showing their gratitude for being protected by their comparative financial security.

Becoming a Climate Ambassador

However, I am now just one week into my global training as an ambassador for Climate Reality.   I have been exposed to the thoughts, philosophies and activism or people throughout the world who have enriched my understanding of the urgency of motivating my contemporaries to play their part in the revolution in thought and values that need to take place.

Emerging from the Social Sciences

I have always been interested in the social sciences.   I studied psychology and social anthropology for my Bachelor of Arts and subsequently was involved in education from many different perspectives.  Now I realise how all the knowledge and skills around teaching and learning, I have developed during my lifetime need to be invested in helping this disturbing transformation in climatic conditions.

Confluence of Critical Challenges

The confluence of Covid 19 with the callous death of George Floyd at the knee of the police has raised public awareness of the structural inequalities in our society.  I am starting to visualise how climate change must be part of the solution.   We need to revolutionise the thinking around our present brand of capitalism, and the manner in which our limited democracies are working.

And, a Silver Lining

For me personally there has been a silver lining to all the restrictions to which I have been exposed.    My facilitations in Conscious Ageing have been moved into the zoom room.   I have all of a sudden developed an international audience.   I have participants from South Africa, Australia, England, Ireland and America for the fortnightly discussions on Zoom   So, what a wonderful way to start working on sharing my understanding of the inter-relationship between human inequality, major discrepancies between the rich and the poor, unequal access to health and education, and denial of opportunities to the present disadvantaged group.

Moving to a Sustainable Future

Let us look at all these factors.   Ideally, they all need to be evolved and transformed to create a sustainable lifestyle on this planet.   There are models that have been developed over the last decade to show that these changes are possible.   Let us work on it together to ensure that humanity not only thrives but becomes more fair and equal going forward.

South Africa has been in lockdown since 27th March 2020 – that amounts to 13 ½ weeks at the time of writing.    What have I learned about myself, society and the human condition during that time?  How am I making sense of all these constraints on my personal freedom?  How am I coping with the anxiety of an ever more threatening future?

Being Subjected to Outside Disciplinary Measures

I live in a village for Senior Residents.   I was told by the Village Manager yesterday that I was not allowed to visit my daughter who lives about 15K from my home and has just returned from hospital after a surgical procedure.   I was somewhat stunned to internalise this restriction on my liberty, but realised that a protest would evoke unpleasant repercussions from my community

So my plans were thwarted.   Despite spending yesterday morning making vegetable soup and kneidlach, spring rolls, and stewed apples;  topped by homemade rolls and a fresh carrot and cabbage salad, my aspirations were stymied.    My intention was to share these symbols of my love with my two daughters over a celebratory supper.

However, when my younger daughter arrived at the security station to fetch me and the fondly made repast, she was not allowed inside the Village grounds.   Not even to collect the food.   Furthermore, I was told by the village Manager that if I left the village to visit my recuperating offspring, I would not be allowed back into my home again!   And, I did not even protest!

School Goers also have Disciplinary Features in the Daily Routine

Our local scholars have just returned to school after three months of home learning.   They are not allowed to play in the grounds during the break, but must sit in their desks to eat their snacks.   Teachers are not able to walk between the children’s desks, let alone hug them or shake their hands.   Standing in line to have temperatures taken and hands sanitised is the opening ritual on arriving at school.   So, I am certainly not the only person in the world whose activities are being thwarted.

Some Sanity from a Wise Psychiatrist and Environmentalist

I had the privilege of listening to Ian McCullum putting into perspective the anxiety-provoking circumstances of our present lifestyle.   He drew my attention to some profound new understandings initiated by the confluence of the Covid pandemic, together with the virulent reaction to the death of George Floyd.   There have been many demonstrations over the years when police violence in America has been out of proportion, however this particular event was witnessed all over the world with the 8 minute 46 second video, circulated by a bystander.  The unexpected consequences have been monumental.

Our Defence Mechanisms

Dr McCullum offered some profound insight.   He described the response to the present unique circumstances in terms of four “viruses.”  More traditional psychological theory might have labelled the qualities ‘defence mechanisms.’

  • Ignorance is manifested by those who do not have the ability to recognise that all humans and animals are interconnected. Many do not have the curiosity to internalise this concept of inter-dependency.
  • Entitlement is a quality possessed by many people who are in denial of their privileges. The present challenges have demonstrated clearly that it is the poorer and less privileged who are the worst victims of this scourge.    It is not true to say, the virus does not discriminate.   Statistics show that a lower socioeconomic status puts the individual at greater risk.
  • Indifference is displayed by arrogant people who think it is their right to come first, and are incapable of internalizing the significance of their privileges.
  • Defeatism is used as a tool for those who declare it is too late to do anything about climate change. They declare that to be optimistic is to be foolhardy.   However, active hope is an essential tool for humankind if we are going to find a “new normal”
Covid-19, Racism and Climate Change.

The confluence of the challenges of Covid-19, Racism and Climate Change has brought to my attention the necessity for each and every one of us to examine their personal values and beliefs.  We have just undergone a massive worldwide change in our behaviour.   All over the globe citizens of many countries have had their freedom curtailed by government regulations.

The threat of the virus is immediate, whereas the threat from climate change is long term.   There is no immediate repercussion for the individual if he or she continues to use plastic indiscriminately.   Racism has existed all our lifetime and the destruction of the spirit of those with darker skin hues gets condoned because their hurt feelings are not visible.

We can change our behaviour, turn our lifestyle upside down virtually over-night when potential death is on our doorstep.   What an amazing demonstration of the fact, “Where there is a will, there is a way.”

My Hope

The unprecedented times through which we are passing allow us to slow down, feel our feelings, examine our thoughts, meditate on our actions and re-evaluate our belief systems.   My hope is that the wisdom bearers amongst us will be able to use the present circumstances to mobilise human resources to create a more fair and equitable world.   And, I predict that it will be the generation of my grandchildren who will come up with the necessary revolutionary perspectives and creative ideas to enable the transformation of human behaviour and its relationship to the environment.

 

“Your true purpose is found at the intersection of your greatest aliveness and the world’s critical needs.”  This statement was made by Frederick Buechner to define wisdom.

My Search for Wisdom

It was some years ago that I realised I had reached the stage of my life in which I was supposed to be wise.   However, I did not feel wise, so decided to make it my business to find out what this state of being was all about, and how I could acquire it.

I have always believed that it is easier to approach such a deep question in the company of others who have a similar mind-set.

Engaging with a group about Conscious Ageing

I approached our local University of the Third Age to let them know I wished to recruit members to explore both Wisdom and Conscious Ageing.    The group has been meeting now for the past decade, and has grown to incorporate new ideas as they become part of the present zeitgeist.

Wisely and Consciously Engaging with Today’s Existential Challenges

In the third decade of the 21st century, nothing is more important than coming to terms with the problems around climate change and carbon dioxide emissions.   Inspired by the clarion calls of Greta Thurber, Extinction Rebellion and other similar movements I have been researching what the present day elders are doing about these environmental threats.

The Role of the Unconscious in Understanding Climate Change Denialism

Jeffrey Kiehl worked for 30 years studying climate change.  He noticed that when he gave public lectures, his audience would become very uncomfortable when he offered them factual information about the dangers of the changing climate. His well researched scientific evidence made his audience uncomfortable, so they tended to reject the quoted statistics and factual information.   Kiehl decided this denialism must be related to unconscious feelings.  He was so keen to understand this rejectionist attitude that he changed career to study Jung’s Theory of the Unconscious. Today he is a respected Jungian Analyst.

How does the unconscious operate?

Studying Kiehl’s ideas has offered me a new understanding of why it is so difficult for many people, business leaders and politicians particularly, to accept the scientific data.   There is a human predisposition to reject information which makes us feel uncomfortable.    No one wants to change their lifestyle.   The public are frightened by the realisation they may have to consume less in the future in order to maintain a healthy environment.

Crises offer us an Opportunity for Change.

I am reminded of learning about Crises Intervention at the Child Guidance Clinic many years ago.   A good time to create changes in the attitude of emotionally disturbed children is when they are going through a personal crises.    Maybe the crises created by the present dangers of flood, famine and fire will help us to understand we all depend on each other to maintain conditions for sustainable life on this planet.  The Buddhists told us many years ago that all mankind was inter-related.   Ubuntu in Africa is based on this mutual interdependency.

In Conclusion

The Wise Elder needs to find avenues for co-operation with the younger members of the community to make progress in finding a way to work together to halt and reverse carbon dioxide emissions.

 

 

Man’s Footprint and its consequences

Do you believe there is a connection between the appearance of the virus that causes Covid-19 and the disturbance of the natural environment?  I posed this question recently in a meeting which had been transferred to an on-line app,  because of the current lockdown. The suggestions was met with silence other than the response of one participant who said, “Grace, do you believe there is an association?”    I could determine through the sound of his voice he was totally sceptical of my perspective.

“Yes,” I responded tentatively.   And then I found myself launching into my understanding of the present predicament. “I believe that because of our destruction of forests and savannahs, wild animals are venturing into populated areas, bringing us into the orbit of viruses which cause deadly diseases.”

Habit of Consumption

My comment was met with a deathly silence.   It is now one week later and I have been listening to some enlightening presentations in a range of on-line meetings.   Consistently I am hearing about the detrimental effects of the selfish habits of consumption perpetrated by the human species.  Whilst this tendency was recorded for the first time over a century ago, consumerism has seriously escalated during the past couple of decades, accelerating the deteriorating conditions of our environment.

Early Warnings of a Pandemic

Bill Gates in his TED talk of 2014 predicted this outbreak.   He lamented the fact that so much attention and money was being put towards the deterrence of a nuclear attack, but yet little was being done about the probability of a major attack by viruses in the near future.

Now, my concerns are around how we are going to live our lives when the period of quarantine is behind us and we find ourselves having to adapt to very different circumstances.    Those who are resilient and who welcome change will cope much better with the psychological and economic challenges of the immediate future.   We need to be prepared to have our value system challenged.  It will be a decade in which a major adaption of both life style and attitude will be demanded.

We will all Need to Change our Life Style and Values

I believe that the largest adjustments will need to be undertaken by those who are financially stable at this moment in time.   For some years I have been suggesting to my family and social circle that I believe that a key disconnect in our world is the acceleration of the size of the Gini Index.   That is the statistical measure of the distribution of wealth between the rich and the poor.    The larger the index, the greater the inequality.   I believe it is a crime that the 10 richest people in the world own the same amount of wealth as the poorest 50% of the world’s population.

I predict that the role of the professionals who deal with mental health problems will be very much in demand.   It is one thing to survive the present ordeal physically intact, but another to cope with the stresses of the situation and emerge without the effects of this traumatic experience embedded in our psyche.

Role of the Internet going Forward

There is no doubt that the role of the internet will be crucial in terms of future health and future business.   Being a boomer, and having learned the internet in my late 50’s, I am pleased that I did not grow up in an era that the internet formed a major part of my entertainment.

I have been using my computer for at least 6 hours a day for the past couple of weeks since I have not been allowed to leave my home except to shop, or to visit the doctor.   During that time I have not played one video game, nor have I visited my Facebook Website.   But I have discovered two outlets for my curiosity and my edification.    Chris Anderson or TED has been interviewing thought leaders on how best to navigate the present challenges of the lockdown.   And Elders for Climate Action have been running some beautiful seminars to help people to adapt to a life style which is more sustainable.

Yes, we are all going to need to adjust to a very new world.   We need to work on our resilience.   Maintain our physical health despite the confinement.   Ensure that our entertainment is directed toward finding healthy outlets rather than mindless pursuits.

Let us Hope a New and Better Era Emerges

We will come out of this with a greater understanding of the human condition.   Mankind has survived many challenges of the past.   After World War 2, new international organisations like the World Health Organisation were formed.   So, despite the hardship and the loss of life, let us be optimistic that mankind will find more sustainable ways to co-operate with each other and the planet on which we depend.

 

“Your true purpose is found at the intersection of your greatest aliveness and the world’s critical needs.”  This statement was made by Frederick Buechner to define wisdom.

My Search for Wisdom

It was some years ago that I realised I had reached the stage of my life in which I was supposed to be wise.   However, I did not feel wise, so decided to make it my business to find out what this state of being was all about, and how I could acquire it.

I have always believed that it is easier to approach such a deep question in the company of others who have a similar mind-set.

Engaging with a group about Conscious Ageing

I approached our local University of the Third Age to let them know I wished to recruit members to explore both Wisdom and Conscious Ageing.    The group has been meeting now for the past decade, and has grown to incorporate new ideas as they become part of the present zeitgeist.

Wisely and Consciously Engaging with Today’s Existential Challenges

In the third decade of the 21st century, nothing is more important than coming to terms with the problems around climate change and carbon dioxide emissions.   Inspired by the clarion calls of Greta Thurber, Extinction Rebellion and other similar movements I have been researching what the present day elders are doing about these environmental threats.

Forest Fires in South East Australia

At the time of writing, uncontrollable fires have been raging in South East Australia for the past six months.    This spontaneous combustion has been caused by both prolonged drought and the raising of the temperatures.   Millions of acres of forest have been destroyed, vast quantities of wild animals decimated, as well as the considerable loss of homes and lives reported.   Despite international co-operation, there is little hope of being able to control this destruction until the rainy season.   This is a wake-up call which must arouse the wider public’s awareness of the potential devastation instore for Mankind.    There is no time to waste.   We urgently need to change our destructive consumption of coal and gas.

The Role of the Unconscious in Understanding Climate Change Denialism

Jeffrey Kiehl worked for 30 years studying climate change.  He noticed that when he gave public lectures, his audience would become very uncomfortable when he offered them factual information about the dangers of the changing climate. His well researched scientific evidence made his audience uncomfortable, so they tended to reject the quoted statistics and factual information.   Kiehl decided this denialism must be related to unconscious feelings.  He was so keen to understand this rejectionist attitude that he changed career to study Jung’s Theory of the Unconscious. Today he is a respected Jungian Analyst.

How does the unconscious operate?

Studying Kiehl’s ideas has offered me a new understanding of why it is so difficult for many people, business leaders and politicians particularly, to accept the scientific data.   There is a human predisposition to reject information which makes us feel uncomfortable.    No one wants to change their lifestyle.   The public is frightened by the realisation they may have to consume less in the future in order to maintain a healthy environment.

Crises offer us an Opportunity for Change.

I am reminded of learning about Crises Intervention at the Child Guidance Clinic many years ago.   A good time to create changes in the attitude of emotionally disturbed children is when they are going through a personal crisis.    Maybe the crises created by the present dangers of flood, famine and fire will help us to understand we all depend on each other to maintain conditions for sustainable life on this planet.  The Buddhists told us many years ago that all mankind was inter-related.   Ubuntu in Africa is based on this mutual interdependency.

In Conclusion

The Wise Elder needs to find avenues for co-operation with the younger members of the community to make progress in finding a way to work together to halt and reverse carbon dioxide

I wish to introduce you to The Correspondent.   This new publication was founded in September 2019.   It offers a unique contemporary approach to journalism.   The reader is introduced to a brave and bold approach to playing their own part in the process of news consumption.   The exchange of ideas between journalist and reader is encouraged.  An attempt to counter the present devastating trend towards “false news” is articulated in the rationale for this new publication.   The deterioration in the quality of reportage has escalated during the past three years, during Trump’s presidency.    The Correspondent hopes to create a balance to this unhappy trend with its unique approach of fostering an interaction between writer and reader.

The Relationship of this Contemporary Initiative with my Passions

One of the criteria I like to emphasise in my advocacy of Conscious Ageing is the ability to explore new and novel ideas  whilst understanding you may suffer the consequences.    I heard a lovely quote from Mark Zuckerberg yesterday, “The biggest risk is not taking any risk.”    The Correspondent is, however, taking plenty of risks.  And I trust this confidence will be rewarded by the longevity of the publication

Below is a listing of the deals of this new venture:

  1. The Correspondent is not interested in the latest hype or scare, but rather the forces which shape the world. They do not cover the weather but are interested in the underlying climate.

 

  1. It is an ad-free platform. It will only collaborate with other organizations on condition it has full editorial independence.

 

  1. The Correspondent will fight harmful simplifications and keep away from breaking news that is designed to shock

 

  1. They practice Constructive Journalism which means they write stories which can influence events in a positive way. They are interested in activism, making a positive contribution to future lifestyles.

 

  1. They are happy to collaborate with their readers. The readers are not mere consumers, but can act as knowledgeable contributors as well

 

  1. They do not pretend to be ‘neutral’ or unbiased.  The Correspondent is open about where it is coming from. Facts are important.   Interpretation is equally important.

 

  1. The Correspondent aims to serve the reader rather than the shareholders. They wish to maximise trust over financial gain.

 

  1. They understand that as journalists they may not have all the answers. They are happy to interact with their readers and recognise when their ideas do not hold up in the face of new evidence.

The headquarters are in Amsterdam

However, The Correspondent has appointed editors from all over the world.  These are some of the categories:

  • Climate Challenges,
  • Sanity,
  • Everyday Colonialism,
  • The 1000 Days (the earliest days in our life),
  • Numeracy including Artificial intelligence,
  • Othering (about diversity, exclusion, social inequality and active empathy), and
  • Better Politics (What policies work?  A practical approach)

I perceive a strong bias towards the social sciences in this choice of specialities.   I continue to be fascinated by the role that sociology, psychology and anthropology play in helping us to understand the politics of today.   For this reason I am looking forward to watching the progress of this new vehicle for the dissemination of contemporary thought.

Adapting my Plans

And now I am feeling shocked.   I read a brilliant article last night by the Climate Editor of The Correspondent, Eric Holthaus.  He described a visit he enjoyed in his American home from Greta Thunberg and her father Svelte.

At this moment the two Thunbergs are travelling in America where they have been invited to speak at various international conferences.   I read an article about them late last night (10th October 2019) in The Correspondent.  I was too tired to concentrate at that late hour, so decided I would come back to it this morning.   Guess what?   It has been taken down.

And here is the reason. ‘The Thunberg family did not see the piece pre-publication. After it was made public, they raised a number of concerns around sensitivities within the piece.”  Holthaus understands their concerns.   Based on that understanding he and the team at The Correspondent decided that the right thing to do was to remove the article from the internet.

I was so excited when I first read this revealing story about Greta and her father.   It offers a very personal perspective of this young 16 year old Climate Activist.  She is at this moment a favoured contender for the award of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.  In his story Holthaus included the informal WhatsApp postings between himself and Greta when they were negotiating her stay at his home.   As far as I recall, his two young sons are aged about 3 and 5.   A beautiful picture of the two youngsters interacting with Greta and their soft animal toys, illustrated the story.

As I continue my tale, I am aware it may not be a fully accurate reflection of what I read as I am unable to check my facts.   I will forge ahead anyway!    I am a great fan of this young Swedish woman and am not prepared to abandon the story because my source material has disappeared into the ether.

The image remains with me of an unaffected but passionate young woman who has made sacrifices in order to promote the ideas she feels so strongly about.   Greta and her father have been away from home for a couple of months already.   They were offered a trip across the Atlantic in a yacht as air-flight is totally against Greta’s principles.   The pollution produced by aeroplanes is far too extreme.

As I do not have Greta’s memory for articulating facts, I need to speak in generalisations.  What I learned in the article was that an alternative fuel for aeroplanes is going to be very difficult to find.   Batteries are too heavy, and other potential sources of energy have other practical difficulties.   Therefore the possibility of them being used for air flight in the near future is very low.

The Challenges of being a Celebrity

In his description of the stay of Greta and Svelte, Holzhausen gave me an idea of the sacrifices the couple have made by spending so much time away from home and the rest of the family.   Greta’s mother and younger sister remain behind in Sweden, and it may be a good few months before the family is once again united.   Greta and her Dad have been invited to a major conference in South America in March next year.

The one problem with attending this conference will be negotiating a return trip to Europe by sea in March 2020.   Apparently at that time of the year the currents are not favourable for sailing from West to East.    The travelling duo has still to overcome that practical issue before finalising their plans.

An idealistic new piece of journalism describes the story of an idealistic Climate Activist and her father.   And, true to the aims of The Correspondent, the delightful story has been taken down because of its sensitive content.   I hope my memory grasps the essence of the story without causing any offence.

What is Generation Theory?

American research and literature have been including references to Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y and millennials for some time. Now the terms are starting to appear in the newspapers in South Africa. In the Cape Times of this morning, Wednesday 2nd October 2019, two articles suggest the public become aware of the influences underlying the habits, values and behaviours of the youngsters of today.

Mannheim’s Generation Theory regarding the influence of current events onyoung minds was brought to the consciousness of the West in the 1950’s.   He believes that significant events in the life of a young generation will be transformative as far as their values and lifestyle are concerned.

Boomer Generation

Thus the Boomer Generation, whose youth was dominated by the Second World War, has only known growing prosperity and a heightened standard of living. America witnessed tremendous economic growth in the decades following WW2. Increasing prosperity influenced the lifestyle of this generation. Children born during and shortly after WW2 were a generation who witnessed an age of growing consumption and wealth.

Millennials of Today

The present generation has been the first cohort to experience the move towards Minimalism. Vegan and vegetarian lifestyles are significant aspects of this new culture. They are eating patterns which help to preserve the resources of the earth while minimising CO2 emissions. The last couple of decades have witnessed the lowering of the standard of living from one generation to the next. This generation is the first one since WW2 in which children experience a lower standard of living than their parents.

Learning from Milennials

With this very brief introduction to Generational Theory, let us now examine “What millennials can teach us about office life!” They have shown us that you don’t need to be in the office from 9 – 5 to be effective. Workforces are becoming more versatile and flexible as technology allows one to conduct one’s business in cafes, trains and even during overseas vacations!

Many bloggers are grateful to be able to work from anywhere in the world. Travel does not challenge their regular flow of income.

Working from Home

When I hear about this concept of a continuous income, I recall reading Vance Packard many years ago. He predicted in the 1950s the introduction of Cottage Industry. Businesses being run from home, cutting out the need for travel and rental of office space. In those days, I remember thinking that sounded like a fanciful dream; however, today it is a reality.

The downside of being able to work from home wherever you may be, whatever the time, is there exists no downtime. Burnout, caused by the stress of being on call at all hours of the day, is a phenomenon of the past twenty odd years. Youngsters starting their careers are made aware of the necessity of time management. This has become an essential skill in order to include leisure and family time are not compromised and are part of the daily agenda.

The Millennials of today are aware of the dangers of being dominated by their careers and are making choices. They realise that the top salary may involve a sacrifice of their mental health and are choosing a lower salary which allows them a more flexible lifestyle

“Don’t let the old man in; Baby Boomers break the mould again.”

This is the title of the second article of this morning’s Cape Times describing changes in the business environment dictated by a generation of retiring boomers. Today retirement does not necessarily mean the end of the time when you earn some money. As Nelson Mandela said, “This is the second time I am retiring from retirement!”

Retirement Villages have become a popular way for boomers to spend their senior years. What is being advocated in this latest study is the potential for building new retirement villages. While most contemporary retirement developments have been built as sanctuaries for non-working people, changes will be needed in the next 20 years. Contemporary retirees are looking at lock-up-and-go lifestyles with facilities for maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle. This will require future facilities for seniors to conduct their life with high-speed internet facilities, exercise equipment and spaces to socialise and entertain.

Further suggestions for future developers of senior lifestyle facilities are offered. It is suggested that wheelchairs and nurses be kept discreetly in the background as residents sip their chardonnay on the patio!

My personal experience

The recent severe drought we experienced in Cape Town has ensured my generation is acutely aware of the potential of further water shortages in the future. We will never squander water in the way we have in the past. The idea of witnessing a dripping tap is an anathema. No longer do we wash our dishes more than once a day. We all cut down on the use of the washing machine. We know water is a precious commodity.

Today and the Senior Lifestyle

As senior citizens, we have the chance next week to acquaint ourselves with what we can do to save our planet from environmental pollution. Dynamic young women like Greta Thurnberg, who at the moment is favoured to win the Nobel Peace Prize, have made us aware of our responsibility to educate ourselves and others regarding the use of our natural resources. We must understand the impact our daily habits have on global warming. We may not be planning to visit America by yacht, rather than by flying, but we need to be controlling our waste and learning the art and science of recycling.

Let me suggest a good place to begin. A crucial online seminar is starting this month. I suggest you go to this link and sign up. I have confidence you will learn what needs to be done to save our planet from the irreversible damages of human ignorance and mal-practices.

Chantell Ilbury is considered to be one of Africa’s most creative strategic thinkers.    This modest and attractive young woman spoke at a meeting under the banner of the Cape Town University of the Third Age, at our local Baxter Theatre.

Scenario Planning

What a treat it was! Chantell is consulted by major companies all over the world, who seek her advice on the possible happenings in the realm of scenario planning. In this role, she makes predictions about the most significant changes that are likely to happen in the next five years in all fields of human endeavour. She is consulted by major businesses all over the world to advise them on the way forward.

Chantell shared with us some of the ‘flags’, she and her partner Clem Sunter study in their role as scenario planners. They make predictions about the most significant changes that are likely to happen in the next five years in all fields of human endeavour.

The Flags 

  1. The Religious Flag: The biggest danger to watch is Iran. If this country should follow through with any of its aggressive threats to attack Israel or the USA, then the price of oil will be heavily implicated.
  2. Trade War Flag: They need to watch what is going on between the USA and China, each of whom wishes to dominate in this arena.
  3. Environmental Flag: We are already seeing dramatic floods, heatwaves and droughts, yet the denialism of President Trump needs to be monitored. The role of young people is proving significant in this area.
  4. The Ageing Flag: This is described as a ‘clockwork’ feature – it moves steadily in one direction. The proportion of aged in the populations can be monitored and is becoming greater, and this creates a burden on the younger generations
  5. Anti-Establishment Flag: We are going through a stage of Populism, where the elite are being maligned. The role of President Trump in the USA  and Boris Johnson in Britain are taking the Western World into this somewhat regressive posture.
  6. The National Debt: Today this figure is increasing, and many of the world’s leading countries carry a foreign debt of over 60%

What about Africa

Chantell informed us of the aspirations of the African continent. I learned about the African Union Agenda for 2063, which envisions an integrated and prosperous merger of member states during the next couple of decades. This bold aspiration is planned to commence with an economic merger. It is hoped that the warring factions will be silenced and the 54 countries of Africa will have initiated a range of co-operative ventures across the board.

In fact the front page of today’s daily newspaper Cape Times carries news of the 2019 World Economic Forum (WEF) which opens for a three day conference in Cape Town today.   Over 1000 delegates, global leaders in government, business and civil society, have gathered to explore the creation of inclusive sustainable growth for the countries of Africa.

Education

Chantell Ilbury, together with Clem Sunter are in the process of visualising an educational strategy for high school students. They feel that too much attention is given to learning factual material, and not enough to encourage the thinking strategies of today’s young people.

Isiah Berlin was a prominent philosopher at Oxford University when Clem studied there in the 1960s. He wrote a book which he called The Hedgehog and the Fox. This title was based on a quotation of the Greek poet Archilocus nearly 2700 years ago who realised, “The fox knows many little things, the hedgehog one big thing”. Scenario planners fall into the category of foxes. They are able to adapt their preferences according to prevailing conditions. Surely this demands a fresh educational perspective! This is what this talented duo are fostering in this rapidly changing world.

Charles Darwin spoke about the “Survival of the Fittest” This does not refer to the strongest members of society, but to those individuals who are able to adapt to changing circumstances. The species who were able to make rapid changes in a competitive environment are those who will stay ahead of the game. Our world is changing faster and faster as each year passes. I remember being fascinated by a course I studied in the 1950s about Social Change. We were told even then that technology changes faster than our ability to absorb the changes. How much more significant is that concept today. Social media influences need to be monitored by citizens with flexible minds who can adapt to the ever-evolving technological innovations.

Karl Popper divided the world’s phenomena into ‘clocks’ which could be analysed according to the parts which move and are relatively predictable, and the ‘clouds’. The latter category tends to be random events which follow no rules. Children need to understand the relative effect of both these types of events

David Hume is remembered for his 18th century postulation, “Reason is the slave of passion”. The earlier that children understand the difference between our conscious and our unconscious motivation, the better their chances of thriving in today’s world.

The partners in scenario planning have already introduced this program called “Growing Foxes” in a private school in London.  They are now negotiating for their program to be introduced into South African Schools.

It was indeed encouraging to learn about this relevant and creative approach to emphasising contemporary, relevant criteria within the field of pedagogics. It promises to assist our youngest generation to make better decisions about their own lives. In addition, they are helped to make well reasoned decisions regarding the ecological impacts of today’s lifestyle.

In Conclusion

It was most reassuring to learn these two progressive thinkers are prioritising a sustainable educational policy for today’s youth. May there be more practical and academic participants performing this crucial role of educating the youth, and advising on future scenario planning.

Some problems mankind has had to cope with since time immemorial, including famine, plague and sickness.   Yuval Harari in Homo Deus argues coherently from this premise.   However in his recent book, The Better Angels of our Nature, Steven Pinker eloquently describes the comparatively peaceful times in which we live in the 21st century.   Per capita, there are fewer threats to personal well being than have ever existed in the past.

Indeed, I have personally been influenced positively by Pinker’s arguments, and have taken much comfort from his detailed comparative analysis of the eradication of famine as well as the reduction in conflict at the present time.    Plague has been eliminated except for minor intermittent episodes.

Today’s Challenges

However, there are two existential challenges around today which need to be on the conscience of all grandparents – the problems created by plastic pollution and the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere.

This morning I attended a lecture by Professor Peter Ryan who is involved with the Fitzpatrick Institue of Research at the University of Cape Town.   He offered us a vivid picture of the research that he has done whilst supervising both masters and doctoral students.

He cut an elegant figure as he took the stage for his presentation.   Whilst his feet were bare, his nicely-fitting t-shirt together with causal draw-string pants, created an apt image of minimalism for a man talking about plastic pollution!

I found his opening comments alerted my attention when he announced to the audience, “What you are about to hear may well be different to what you expected!”

Plastic Pollution

Peter shared with us the fact he had been playing with plastic for a long time.   He illustrated and endorsed this statement as he went into the history of the aggregation of plastic waste and his team’s efforts to control it.  He has been actively researching  the damage that plastic pollution has created since it’s introduction in the early 1960s

Yes, I was born into an era before plastics were developed.  We managed with paper packets in my youth.   I  recall that when plastic bags first became part of our shopping experience, we would wash them out after the first use, and reuse them multiple times.  Maybe that is something we should think about doing once again!

A time before Pollution!

I also recall the first time I ever heard the word ‘pollution.’   It must have been the late sixties when my children were in conversation with some American youngsters who had accompanied their parents on a sabbatical to this country from Philadelphia in the USA

“You know,” they said, “you should not throw things out of your car as that will cause pollution!”   At that time pollution was not part of my everyday vocabulary.  So this concept came as quite a shock to me.   Can anyone remember when we actually did throw things out of the car window when disposing of waste matter?

Plastics

Professor Ryan showed us some haunting pictures of dead sea birds photographed adjacent to a range of plastic objects.   This matter had been found in the stomachs of dead birds which had been washed ashore.  Often scores of bottle tops and assorted materials were part of the collection of man-made products retrieved from these deceased birds.

Other photos of sea creatures enmeshed in plastic string or netting forced me to contemplate the agonies experienced by sea animals due to mankind’s inability to dispose of his waste in a manner which was respectful of the natural habitat.

It would be difficult to live without plastic wrapping today.   One of its main benefits is its ability to preserve certain foods.  It is cheaper than glass to manufacture.  Without plastic, the production of fruit and vegetables would need to be increased putting further strain on the earth’s resources.

Carbon Emissions

The surprise came when after presenting such startling evidence of the damage plastic has created to our oceans and our sea animals, Professor Ryan went on to let us know that a different man-made problem was even more worrying.   He reminded the audience that we may have already passed the time of no return due to the pumping of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.   Many authorities believe that the melting of icebergs, the consequent rising of the oceans, the floods and droughts affecting more and more parts of the world, are all the irreversible symptoms of a dire future for the inhabitants of planet earth.

Youth Activism

Greta Thurnberg at age 16 has made a name for herself internationally for castigating political leaders for neglecting to pass legislation limiting the emission of noxious gasses.   Due to her leadership, 1.66 million people in 133 countries participated in demonstrations in major cities around the world earlier this year.   Their aim was to urge the world’s leaders to take the needs of future generations into account when making political decisions.

Senior Activism

Have you thought about what you would like to do to ensure that your descendants enjoy the earth’s natural resources as much as you do?     Will your grandchildren be able to enjoy nature walks, mountain climbs and beach strolls in an unpolluted environment?

Maybe you would like to make some suggestions about practical steps which could be undertaken by senior people.     The Comment Box below is awaiting your contribution.