Awaken into the Nightmare

There are a few things I’ve learned from my career as a market researcher, when it comes to understanding human behaviour and what triggers changes in this behaviour. At a time when our conduct on this planet needs to change dramatically if we are to salvage whatever pieces may remain, my decades of observation of consumer behaviour stand true to this day: the main driver of behaviour change is not a “get up and go” mentality. It is not even determination, and it certainly isn’t hope or positivity. What changes our behaviour is a fundamental awakening inside of us, to the need to change in the first place. We are a purpose-driven species and will only execute a new behaviour if we really believe in it, and if we believe that we have something to gain from it. Only if we fundamentally believe that something has changed, will we recognise that we need to change as well, in response. Once this awakening happens, action is easy. It is rapid and cataclysmic. We can literally move mountains.

This is why as an author and activist I have not focused on “climate action”, and have sometimes been perceived as a resigned doomist that seems to have an obsessive fetish for the Apocalypse. But this is not because I don’t believe in, or do not want to see “action”. It is because I fundamentally believe that we are not ready yet, because we are not awake. Without an awakening, any climate mitigation action will fail. Everything I write, everything I say, has been and will always be about what is needed before even action begins: a long overdue, rude wake up call. We are simply stuck at the awakening phase, unable to wake up in a house that is burning all around us. Bombarding consumers with climate action messages hasn’t worked, and will not work. They are all too asleep, too sedated by the meaningless pursuits our system has addicted them to so that they can keep on feeding The CO2 Machine. The real action needed first is an intervention, a rehab, a complete reconsideration of the value and meaning of our existence, as well as a realisation by the addicts themselves that they are facing their own existential threat. As much as it sounds impossible to bring about this fundamental change in awareness, without it we will sleepwalk ourselves into “solutions” and “actions” that never go the distance that they need to go. The house is already burning down. But some of the furniture could still be salvaged.

Those politicians at the climate change conferences who vote year after year to reduce emissions are only doing it because it is the “accepted” thing to do these days, part of the pantomime choreography they’ve all been given to follow. I’ve had private conversations with some of them, and it appears that many are not even convinced climate change is that urgent. If there is no awakening, there is no urgency. If there is no urgency, there is no action.

Similarly, many of the scientists have not woken up to the importance of their role not only in providing data, but in putting their careers on the line, if needed, to paint the picture in its true colours: devoid of numbers and carefully crafted jargon that no one cares about. Being a scientist myself, I know that charts and figures function as nothing else but lullabies for an already asleep humanity. We need scientists that embrace emotion, this misunderstood hormonal response that science has shunned for centuries. Only emotion can paint the true extent, true implications of climate change. Because its numbers are infinite. And its jargon flies like a comet across time and space, as opposed to scientific terminology that falls to the ground and vanishes into dust. 

So, I will continue to focus on the negative. I will continue to try and awaken us to the darkness, before we can even take any last minute mitigating action. Because only if we awaken to the dark nightmare of our failed system in its totality, only then will we truly believe that our civilisation is the monstrosity that it has become. Only then will we consciously decide that we don’t want to be in this place any more. That we want a better place – not because it is nice to have, but because it is an issue of life and death. Until then, all of our delusions, consumeristic distractions and avoidance of pain will continue to keep us from taking any action at all. Just like the climate science data, the damage to our ability to wake up is greater than previously thought. Our sleep is much deeper than previously known. Our gap with reality is far greater than we had assumed. And our ability to move in the right direction ever so much weaker than previously expected.

It is time to wake up, and enter the nightmare. Are you brave enough?

George is an author, researcher, podcaster, chemist, molecular biologist and food scientist. You can follow him on Twitter @99blackbaloons , listen to his Spotify podcast George reads George, join his mailing list, or enjoy his books

8 thoughts on “Awaken into the Nightmare

  1. Great truths you speak in your article; I agree with all your reasoning. However, how it’s too late, whether or not humans are just waking up or not. We’re way past the tipping point. I tell all my clients “party your ass off”. We’re watching Rome burn. Allison Frank

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  2. Hi George, we humans all live inside a cultural story. Have you read Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael series? The story is always a creation myth. A comfortable lie that we share. It doesn’t matter if you are a hunter gatherer or a civilized intellectual. We are pack animals, not lone wolfs. There is no such thing as an individualist. We make up the story to avoid the fear of death and the complete pointlessness of our short existence. We build our monuments for a tiny bit of immortality. Our extra level of awareness and cleverness is a potentially fatal mutation. It is a gift and a curse. Biologically we are wired to pursue self interest as individuals and as a tribe (pack). We are victims of our own collective success. We emerged a long time ago as the ultimate predator and have carried it to a wild extreme. Simple subsistance in a symbiotic give and take is the only way a species survives long term. Humans are “takers” as Ishmael the wise ape tells us. As we became more successful we entered a state of perpetual overshoot. Our cleverness at kicking the can down the road along with our fatal optimsm buoyed by our creation myth of human specialness and superiority blinds us and insulates us from our individual existential emptiness and the deep dark abyss of annihilation. AKA DEATH. Collectively we are likely to keep kicking the can down the road untill we have exhausted the biosphere’s ability to keep us alive. We cannot face the fact that maybe we are not as clever as we thought. Overshoot combined with our biology has created a neurosis that seems impossible to escape from. Life presents itself as a seduction. Away from pain toward pleasure. A deep aversion for most of us away from death, but sometimes death can become an irresistible seduction individually and collectively. We suffer both physical and existential pain. We underestimate the power of the myths we live by. ( AKA CULT URE ) It takes an extremely self aware human to recognise what is motivating them on a moment by moment basis. It is difficult to imagine a mass of humanity becoming awake enough simultaneously to realize that there is no free lunch. That our explotation of the planet for our exlusive pleasures is completely and utterly physically unsustainable has become anathema of our collective culturally suicidal story. The majority of humans on the planet are acting out the same story now. Shakespeare was right. All the world is a stage and all are actors in the drama of a story. We are unconsciously adlibing moment by moment by moment. We are convinced that we are the crown of creation and that evolution on earth ends with us and we are acting out that story towards its collectively suicidal end. The end of the evolution of life on spaceship earth. Our insane mythology and biology has us trapped. Love Rick

  3. But George, the new generation claims to be WOKE! Preposterous, I know. Tell me, is there another option for purchasing your books? I really don’t like Amazon. Thanks, KG

    1. Sorry, Amazon is the only platform that allows me to publish with zero costs. As much as I don’t like them either. I’m trying to revolt with what I have available right now, sorry 🤷🏽‍♂️ and your support matters.

  4. Many more people may have woken up than we think but hesitate to commit or act because of fear: fear of losing items or positions or wealth or prestige. And they are probably correct. Major changes, or upheavals or revolutions, however one might choose to describe such change, may well have such impacts. So how does
    one cope with this “fear” problem?

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