Everyone who came to Paris made some kind of sacrifice to be there, but how do we ensure that as we take leaps forward, that we are still ourselves when we arrive? In this long distance relay run to save ourselves, we need to look after each other to reach the finish line.
Our identities evolve over time and encompass our behaviour and habits, which are highly influenced by the immediate culture we live in. The environment movement learnt some painful lessons from the Copenhagen COP. This time discussions were about ‘beyond Paris’. Everyone was aware of the trap of pinning hopes on governments or burning yourself out for the sake of just a couple of weeks. But even with that awareness, some who were there for weeks or months still found they were not themselves by the end. An awareness of the global crisis, unheated squats, terrorist attacks, police raids, organisational crises, late night noisy parties, and no defined breaks were just some of the challenges.
Creating a sustainable culture of resistance involves prioritising the basic support infrastructure – food, shelter, sleep. It also involves organising ourselves to reduce the stress of situations and respecting other people’s needs and valuing rest. A tendancy I observed was for people to get sucked into a habit of not taking breaks. When there are no organised rest breaks and no ‘work free’ areas it’s hard to relax because around you other people are stressed and you feel guilty. The use of alcohol and other substances for stress relief is only effective in the very short term as the body becomes resistant and leads to further stress on the body the next day.
When people become stressed over a prolonged period of time, the hormone cortisol builds up in their bodies, causing harm. Decision making becomes impaired and further stress is caused by the resulting bad decisions. To avoid serious damage there must be periods of time where hormone levels return to normal. Dancing, shaking and laughing are good ways to remove cortisol from the body.
Some tips for arriving as ourselves:
- Take care of the basics – food, sleep, shelter, exercise and time in nature
- Plan effectively. Anticipate things that may go wrong and arrange spare capacity
- Learn to let go, to delegate and to put people and processes before outcomes
- Never feel sorry for yourself. Embrace your power and do not regret
- Celebrate, forgive and be grateful for yourself and each other
- Value and make time to be kind and loving to each other
- Avoid the use of substances for stress relief except for the very short term
- Remind yourself of the broader long term perspective. It will pass
- Practice resilience and self care when it is easy, so that when it is hard it has become habit
- Take breaks with friends and reinforce a subculture of resilience
- Invite and be grateful for the wider support of the community
Over the next ten years the tactics, work and results of the whole environment movement will evolve. It is my hope that as we take power of our global culture, as we succeed in creating the world we want to live in, that we will arrive there as the people we wish to be.