Why I joined the Greens

If everyone seeks the same direction, and that direction proves to be the wrong way, then the whole flock might easily meet its destruction.

-Fridtjof Nansen (translated)

Ever since I began volunteering for the Norwegian Green Party (miljøpartiet de grønne), people have been facing me with accusations about my political views, sometimes even claiming that I’m some kind of political extremist, supporting crazy ideas and marginal thoughts. In a reality where mutual understanding is shattered by accusations and reason is lost, I shall try to provide a reason for my actions.

In short terms: My growing concern for the planet and society as a whole finally made a physical manifestation. I decided to act.

What are the problems we are facing as a community? If you’ve read my previous entries, you already have an understanding of my viewpoint. There is a big gap between our way of life, and the limits to what the ecosystems of the Earth can handle. That we even define ourselves as consumers, beings that consume resources, is a symptom of this disease. There are definite consequences to this way of life. During our lifetime, more species of animals and plants will face extinction than ever before in history. That the way society is developing, to lay claim to more and more of the Earth, is looked upon as “progress” by many people, appear to me as perversion.

The loss of life fills me with sadness. That my children might not experience the diversity of the forests that I experienced as a child, or breathe the same pure air, is to me a great distress. I do not think I’m the only one who shares this feeling, but this seems to be tabu in general discussion. Maybe people hide their fears for the planet, or live in denial, thinking: “It can’t be that bad.” All in all, very little is being done in public to meet our common problems.

When faced with the choice of protecting either the environment or the growing economy, politicians tend to say that they prioritize both, when in truth, they choose the latter. The reality is that we must downscale our rate of consumption, and therefore also the economy. During the financial crisis, when GDP actually dropped, emissions of CO2 went down, and less tropical forestland was desecrated. The drop in financial activity did actually something good for our planet. But what was the governments’ first reaction? “Consumption must rise!” Spending tax money on the banks, the machinery of society soon went back to business as usual, and emissions went back up.

It is clear that the system of economic growth is unsuitable to tackle the situation. At the same time, no one in the ‘left-to-right’ axis of traditional politics dares to question the model. Some, like the prime minister of Norway, believe in the dream that “technology will save us”, as if technology can bring the great rain forests back, or negate climate change. The real problem lies in our minds, that we see consumption as a way of life, that other lifeforms are just another commodity, ready to be made and paid for.

The fact that there is one political party in Norway that acknowledges that the economic system isn’t flawless, but that it in fact is bringing us closer to collapse by the day, led me to Miljøpartiet De Grønne. It is a small, but very diverse group of concerned individuals, some of whom are using all their resources (spare time, work hours, money, etc) to make a change in the stagnated political landscape. During the last three years, they have doubled their numbers many times, and have recently gone past Rødt (the socialists) in the polls. The coming election this fall might very well be their breakthrough in many Norwegian municipalities.

The solutions presented by the Greens aren’t perfect, but at least they have understood the problem, which is far more than one can say for most parties. These people acknowledge the fact that the well-being of human society depends on the well-being of nature, and that to ensure a prosperous future for both parts, a different approach to ‘growth’ is needed. I watch this movement grow with great pleasure, and try my best to do my part. Maybe I’ve become a damned tree hugger, but in a funny way that doesn’t feel bad at all.

Looking forward to my first attendance at MDG’s General Assembly in Trondheim this weekend!


Parkour as an alternative

David Belle once said something along the lines of “A good traceur trains until he/she gets it right. An excellent traceur trains until he/she cannot get it wrong.”

-excerpt from Urban dictionary

Modern society, with all its comforts, has made natural movement obsolete, and thus our bodies are falling into disuse. The symptoms are clear: health problems among both young and old have skyrocketed. And so fitness has become big business, with diets, pills and training programs generating huge profits every year, while advertising makes people more unhappy with their bodies. Seeing as health has become a commodity, something to pay for, the small discipline Parkour can represent something else.

What’s so special with Parkour, you ask. It’s an “underground” physical discipline, that basically has no rules. The only rules are that the landscapes of your surroundings is your playground, and that your goal is to navigate these landscapes as efficiently as possible, using only your body. Your body is a blank slate, and you must yourself decide how to train to acheive your goals.

My first encounter with the term parkour was in fall 2006, as my brother got back from California. He had “something wild” he wanted to show me. A youtube-video of a Russian boy running through industrial landscapes, scaling old communist blocks and making insane drops. He moved in a such a beautiful way, I didn’t even know it was possible to move like that. For a sixteen year-old boy who had given up regular sports a couple of years before, it was to discover the first steps of how to really move.

The first steps were perhaps the hardest. How does one learn an art, a craft, without a teacher, and no active milieu in my hometown for parkour? My brother provided me with hints and tips, as well as being my first parkour partner. Struggling to find good spots to practice (Norwegian suburbs are really boring), we found ourselves travelling to schools and kindergartens in order to find suitable terrain. The first years also involved a lot of conditioning, probably quite a lot compared to many other practitioners. Conditioning for parkour has since been a major part of my training.

Parkour has always been about self-improvement. To get better you have to work hard on your own. The aid of friends and fellow traceurs can only get you so far. In the end, the improvement you experience, the sense of mastering, is due to your own toil. A private project, of which the rewards are many. A functional body, a clear mind, and a calm spirit.

The attributes of an experienced traceur are different than those of most athletes. For one thing, a professional athlete is usually specialized in a few things. The runner has really good cardio, whereas the weight-lifter has specialized in “explosive” strength. An experienced traceur is specialized in being diverse. Fit for both running distances, jumping gaps with high precision, as well as scaling walls.

For the next, regular sports are subject to high competitiveness, with rivalry, drug use and overtraining as some of the side effects of the high pressure. More than once have I met youth who simply “weren’t good enough” to be included on their teams, and were cast out from their old sport. My hope is that parkour can be something different, that it can get people to enjoy physical activity without having to compete. When people compete, someone has to lose.

All this understates my impression of parkour as a project for the self. The discipline should be free from that clammy hand of competition which brings out the best in some, but also the worst in many. Parkour has the ability to make people look at their surroundings with new eyes, it connects them to the concrete-and-steel environment of our time, but also to the savanna of the ancient runners. It is a natural way to experience one’s surroundings.

Introduction: The descent of a society

I can’t shake the feeling that I’m living during the peak of civilization. That, in a few years, things will unravel, and we find chaos where there now is order. Consequently, we might find order where there now is chaos. I shall explain this further.

Collapsing civilizations is nothing new to man. Just look at the Mayans, the Ananazi people (the Pueblo people), or the Romans. These were all advanced societies that, in some way, overstressed sustainable living, and succumbed. The Roman Empire, stretching from the Middle East to the British Isles, could not handle the internal destabilization of opposing politicians and masses of wandering peoples, combined with the invasion of the barbarians. The collapse of the Mayans during the 8th and 9th century, is a mystery, although it is commonly believed to be a result of ecological stress. Whatever the reason, their culture was advanced in both art and science, but to no good. Ananzi indians however, was most probably subject to hunger and plague, provoked by widespread deforestation.

All cultures were noted for excellence in mathematics, architecture and language. As they collapsed, the knowledge was for the most part lost. Every descent brought forth by great catastrophes. The catastrophes were often consequences of human behavior, such as deforestation, or groundwater pollution. And catastrophes often have mechanisms for positive feedback, so that when one dire situation is over, a new one, even more dire, emerges. Basic commodities, such as food and water, become scarce. When people starve, society unravels fast.

Interestingly, even though the globalized culture of the 21st century has knowledge of these downfalls, and of the actions that brought them forth, we still haven’t learned. Many crises are emerging on us now, although they aren’t visible to the general public. To act on them early might be of importance to the survival of civilization. But to identify the problems, I suggest we start with identifying a stable society.

A stable society is just what it sounds like. A society that isn’t under pressure from destructive forces externally or internally. It is not a culture where nothing happens, nothing is ever invented, or no changes are ever being made. It has to be dynamic, so that it can handle such challenges. But the way it exists must not threaten its existence. Cultures that depend on finite resources, are, in a way, a threat to themselves. But cultures that are imperialistic, or big weapon exporters, are also like this. Their existence is based on forcing others through violence, to serve them. If one thing is certain, it is that violence follows violence, and that they will succumb to others.

A stable society is part of a natural cycle where everything is constantly being torn down, and renewed. Garbage is just another resource, but if treated wrong, as in our culture, it will eventually strangle us.

This is the essence of the crises that the global Western culture is facing. Our economy is based on a yearly growth in resource consumption, mainly depending on energy resources that are finite (coal, oil an natural gas). These are soon going into depletion, but that is not the only problem.  The use of these resources is threatening the very ecosystem that us humans are a part of. Every previous society that has ever meddled with its ecosystem, is now gone.

The effects are becoming clearer every day. Climate change, loss of habitat, mass extinction of species. On the other side, our consumption is driving forth situations such as Peak Phosphorous and Peak Oil. The result is a food price that has never been higher*. This again is driving rebellions against bad leadership all over the world, such as the recent rebellions in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

I expect the situation to only get worse in the coming years, eventually reaching the heart of the Western world, and changing our very culture. Hopefully to the better.

*FAOs statistics on food prices: http://www.fao.org/worldfoodsituation/wfs-home/foodpricesindex/en/