‘A life-affirming culture’ is a culture that cares for people and the planet. It is an umbrella term that encompasses the goals and aspirations of much if not all of the environmental, progressive and faith communities that care about the environment. It stands in contrast to economic growth as a guiding goal for our time.
Here is an indicative description.
What might a life-affirming global culture look like?
It is impossible to predict the future in detail. But we can sketch out some aspects of a life-affirm
ing global culture that are both utopian and realistic. Utopian, because they represent a positive ideal. Realistic, because a society that does not evolve some version of this ideal will self-destruct. If you are already au fait with current themes of environmental and social well-being, many of these ideas will be familiar to you.
First off, we will have transitioned to a steady state economy with as much local production as possible. Advertising will no longer be a deductible business expense, and there will be less of it. The massive transnational corporations will have been broken up or responsibly regulated, and the World Trade Organisation and Free Trade agreements will have been wound back. Likewise, declining populatio
n will be welcomed.
Countries will invest vast sums in cultivating the internal conditions of social well-being. These include social safety nets, food security, child health, and respect and opportunity for women. Military
investment will be for defensive armaments only, and nuclear weapons will have been phased out; arms sales will no longer be regarded as ‘good business’. Indeed, affluent countries will aim to contribute to the well-being of other countries.
People will grow much of their own food, even in urban environments, and food will be sourced locally. Commercial agriculture will be organic. Some people will choose to have less meat in their diet, thus vastly reducing the amount of land devoted to the production of livestock.
Reducing the amount of land devoted to livestock will allow great tracts of forest to regrow, thus drawing down massive amounts of excessive atmospheric CO2. In addition, governments will pay for farmers to plant deep-rooted grasses that draw down CO2 from the atmosphere.
People will accept that air travel is not a democratic right, but something you pay for, and air fares will be so high that most people can’t afford them. Rather than complain, people will appreciate this because it reduces CO2 emissions.
A life-affirming global culture will be characterised by aesthetically designed functional goods that are built to last. Closed-loop recycling will be the norm, so waste will virtually disappear. Not only will our buildings be energy efficient, they will make people feel good.
In a life-affirming culture, emphasis will be placed on cultivating psychological well-being. Both children and adults will learn and apply ‘do-it-yourself’ techniques that enable people to resolve their own emotional upsets. Organisational bullying will not be acceptable, and management styles that support employees’ well-being will become the norm. And, of course, devolving the massive power structures and removing the twin threats of nuclear war and environmental collapse will go far towards reducing people’s (perhaps unconscious) anxiety about the future, and liberate new levels of joy.
Many formerly ‘fringe’ ideas, such as non-authoritarian education for kids, will be sought out by mainstream people because they promote wellbeing. They will be seen as integral to our evolution to a life-sustaining society.
The task of our time is to evolve a life-affirming culture, rather than continuing on our present course of ecological self-destruction. Each of us can contribute to this by communicating about it through their networks. Tools to make this communication effective, including Kitchen Table Conversations, on the Inspiring Transition website.
Greta Thunberg will have reason to hope when she sees that mainstream society is committed to turning things around.