Climate change work is radical culture change work. We can’t talk about needing to live more sustainably, consuming less, driving less or converting to reneweable energy without asking people to change their behaviors and what they value. We also can’t ask people to change their behaviors and what they value without examining the current values and the culture we have. Yet we never really attempt meaningful culture change work or get beyond the small group of converted sustainable living practioners; why is that and what do we need to do instead?
What is Culture?
What is that culture we have then? And how did it come to be? We rarely ask these questions or even examine our own assumptions and biases as we adopt and internalize whatever narrative we are being told, sold, indoctrinated with.
Culture is a construct. It is made up of the beliefs, practices, ways of knowledge sharing, communications, governance and values of a group of people. (There’s probably a more academic discussion on what culture is exactly but for this purpose it suffices to understand that culture is made of various constructs). They are chosen and passed onto others, sometimes through dominance and oppression, and sometimes without intent or awareness.
So it is with this understanding that culture is completely made up; constructs that someone has chosen and deemed ‘this is the way it should be done’, that we can begin to understand how we can un-choose certain things that no longer serve the world and has indeed, never served those who have been systemically oppressed, colonized.
What is Our Culture?
From the time the first settlers dominated Indigenous groups in North America and elsewhere, they exerted their cultural beliefs and ways of working and relating onto others. White dominant cultural characteristics we now know of as being individualistic, paternalistic, the need to be right, that emotions are inherently irrational, that there is no and, only either/or, among many others. We have adopted and internalized these belief without even realizing. But they are all constructs. It doesn’t mean that the other ways of knowing and relating to the world are wrong or don’t exist, ie spirits and other energy or the like. It’s just that we have created a culture that has indoctrinated us with the idea that their existence is not real or accepted. It’s time to question that.
The dominant cultural narrative has for a long time valued the individual and viewed the earth as a resource to provide for our existence. A narrative that has led to the exploitation of our planets resources and the exacerbation of our planetary limits. The dominant cultural narrative has never allowed the existence of a different spirituality or acknowledged the interconnectedness of all things on this earth beyond the visible, tangible, scientifically calculated and studied material flows. This is not new. We have known for a while that this harmful narrative that ‘the earth is a resource’ is what we need to shift if we are to change the way we consume and reverse the damage we have done to the earth, yet we continue to struggle with shifting this narrative. Why?
The Problem with Climate Change Work
We have never prioritized culture change as part of the climate change work. We talk about needing culture change, and we implement policies and incentives to try to nudge people in certain directions and change behaviors, but we’ve never really attempted real culture change work because we’re still operating in the current paradigm and current cultural constructs. We talk about needing people to change their behaviors but we’re not open to changing our own perspectives. We haven’t created room for other voices and other ways of understanding the world and yet we’re asking for people to change their behavior according to what we say is good for the world now.
We can’t see the matrix that we have created so it’s hard to imagine the full scale culture change that is really needed, or the possibilities. We don’t know what dismantling the current dominant culture would look like, so we are afraid to attempt it.
Our current cultural narrative is one that sees the earth as a resource to be exploited and not something we are in a symbiotic relationship with. Unless we address this fundamental construct we cannot shift our actions enough to save the planet. And we can’t shift that narrative without looking at the entire set of beliefs that we have internalized, which is the entire set of white dominant cultural characteristics.
What is Really Needed
What do we really need? We need radical culture change. We need more spaces for alternative ways of knowing/doing/being. We need more awareness of the ways dominant culture creates barriers and in fact guides us erroneously to causing more harm. We need more people sharing and showing what being whole looks like, and what having an enlightened relationship with creatures and souls on this earth, looks like. We need more people wanting to feel their wholeness and rebalancing what leadership looks like.
Ok sure but where do we actually begin? We were talking about climate change weren’t we? So where do we begin with creating the culture change we need when it comes to climate work? First off, its impossible to separate climate change work from fundamental culture change work that we see being demanded by the various social justice movements and the pandemic, that has lit up 2020. These crisis are intertwined. The soul of humanity is hurting because this culture has not been working for many people for a very long time.
So I point to a lot of the work that has been underway, that many people have been seeking and offering training on, equity, antiracism, decolonization, allyship. Do that work and be open minded.
Do that work and then be the one that creates that space in your organization to do climate work differently. To embody that allyship work. Create policy and programs that are equitable, incorporate different ways of knowing and doing. Participate in questioning, shifting and nudging the current ways of doing things. Be open minded to the other ways of knowing and get curious. Our culture has created numerous barriers, one of which is do as you’re told or accept the way things are and conform. Question those, question everything, get curious about why those beliefs have come up and where they come from.
And Level up. Level up and get in touch with your intuition and the spirits around you. Learn about the spiritual world by whatever modality pulls you. Choose intentionally who you want to be and how you want to show up. Choose to embody your wholeness, your higher self, because that higher self KNOWS how you can serve the world with greater purpose and ensure the survival of humanity.
Sound kooky? Maybe. But it’s no coincidence that those who have sought a deeper relationship with the spirit world and their higher self are more atuned to their relationship with the earth. We are all interconnected. Culture is a construct, question those beliefs that don’t allow you to consider that possibility. Develop a new conciousness, this is the radical culture change we need.
Climate change work is ultimately radical culture change work because a new level of consciousness is required if we are to understand that earth is not a resource and that we are all interconnected. Yet we haven’t really been successful because we haven’t been willing to dismantle the full dominant cultural narrative. Those who are doing the work to become an ally, and who may even be open to other ways of knowing and doing, may still find it difficult to embrace the idea of a spiritual world. The Cartesian duality in the dominant cultural narrative is deeply internalized and spirituality is seen as irrational, a weakness. Yet it is our spirituality that is going to guide us into a better relationship with each other and the planet. So if we are to shift this narrative, we need to be ready to fully strip away all that we currently believe in and believe the things that we can’t always see or touch.