We started this website in 2019 following an impression. Our impression was that there are people who, like us, feel an irrepressible urgency to do something about climate and ecological breakdown and that, like us, these people feel ridiculously amateurish in the process of trying.
Of course, there are lots of reasons why trying to do something about climate and ecological breakdown – and its massive injustices – can make you feel insecure and frustrated: The problem is so big and wicked that it is tiresome to even think about it. In our everyday lives, there is little space and time to talk about it. In whatever social setting we might find ourselves – from lunch with colleagues, to the annual family gathering, to the Whatsapp group with highschool friends – mentioning ecological problems can feel like breaking a taboo, spoiling the mood, creating awkwardness, or even provoking hostility. Trying to do something about it also comes with lots of doubts: Will what I’m doing here make any difference? Is the info on which I base my actions reliable? Are my actions consistent – and what about my shortcomings? What will others think of me speaking of ‘climate breakdown’ rather than ‘climate change’, refusing to eat animal proteins, or engaging in civil disobedience? Will they write me off as a native treehugger, a radical eco-extremist, a self-important wannabe planet-saver? And, why am I minding these opinions at a time when, every day, lives (human and non-human) are lost to the effects of climate and ecological breakdown? How to process my grief about this loss? What to do with the anger I feel towards polluters and their lobbies, under-active governments, and ignorant fellow citizens? We had the impression that there are few spaces where it seems acceptable to discuss these questions – with like-minded friends perhaps, or in activist circles, but that’s it.
Therefore, we wanted to build a space for confused ‘planet-amateurs’ – amateurs trying to save the planet. The notion of ‘saving the planet’ as well is amateurish, of course. The planet doesn’t need our saving. We can at best save ourselves and some other lovely species. And, we cannot do it alone – especially not just with a website. If anything will be saved for good, it will be through collective action – the kind of action that changes legal regulations, social institutions, and culturally shared values. Collective action is key. And yet, all of us wake up in the morning as individuals – individuals with everyday worries, needs, obligations – hopefully also pleasures. At times, matching our everyday lives as individuals with the need to act quickly and collectively to halt ecological breakdown seems like the attempt to square the circle. It just doesn’t seem to want to add up. And yet, people try to make it add up every day. We wanted to share our own ideas and experiences, sources and arguments, successes and mistakes in this attempt.
What happened, then, is that we shared quite a few sources and arguments, but not too much of the rest. As academics by profession, developing an argument and backing it with evidence is something we’re used to – a genre of writing into which we fall back easily. Sharing personal ideas, experiences or even mistakes, in contrast, feels far away from our writing habits. In academic research, a single person’s idea or experience is not a reliable source. In addition, academics are trained not to let their own experience or opinion weigh in too much when collecting sources, assessing data, and developing an argument. In many ways, then, writing about our own experience runs counter to what we’ve been trained to do for our profession. And yet, the whole point of this site was to do something different – something that is not just about reliable sources and valid arguments, but also about everyday deeds and dilemmas, insights and confusions, trials and errors.
As of now – September 2022 – we want to have more of this on this website. We want to keep on sharing sources and arguments, but also share our experiences with – for example – going to protests or trying to travel low carbon. We might even go as far as to exchange some cooking recipes. The point, of course, is not to shift our focus to what George Monbiot has called micro-consumerist bullocks (genre: ‘the best reusable cocktail straws in 2022’). Our position is clear: We don’t believe that green consumption alone will be enough to halt ecological breakdown at the speed and scale required. This doesn’t mean that we’re against eco-lifestyles of various sorts (minimalism, zero waste, plant based diets, etc.). We engage in these lifestyles, but also realize their absurdity. To give an example: The fact that more people are shifting to a plant-based diet does not necessarily mean that meat consumption is going down (see here). While some are reducing their individual eco-footprints, others are filling in for them. That’s one of the reasons for why we need new rules and institutions.
However, we also realize that not everybody can, at each moment in their lives, engage in the kind of collective action that might bring about societal change. Throughout the past two years, we got our own ‘reality check’ in this respect. Because we had to deal with a rather serious health issue, we had to temporarily cast our big and bold ‘planet-saving ambitions’ to the side, focusing on survival and care. This felt awful, as our sense of urgency vis-à-vis climate and ecological breakdown didn’t go away in that period. We just didn’t have the time and energy to act on it to the extent we thought it appropriate. We imagine that many people feel this way – somewhat stuck between personal and planetary crisis, feeling insufficient. To at least move forward a bit, we diversified our plant-based cooking skills (we still needed to eat, after all), and we collected other people’s insights and actions, creating little archives with sources on:
Extreme Weather Events (list of recent events & extreme weather attribution)
We’ll keep on filling and updating these archives to the best of our capacities, hoping that they might serve planet-amateurs.
Throughout the past years, we realized that trying to do something about climate and ecological breakdown comes with lots of setbacks, moments of pause and rearrangement, impatience, and a nagging sense of inadequacy. All of this is typical of amateurism. The point is to keep on trying.