Over the next few days and weeks, headlines around the world will be seized by the Global Climate Strikes and Extinction Rebellion, sharpening our collective focus on climate change. Maybe your kid will be taking part? Maybe your nan will.
I’m throwing up a few words about it, for the next time you find yourself scrolling (as a passenger) in a traffic jam. Or basking in the lovely but unusual autumn sunshine.
This year I finally got around to one of the most important books that I’ve ever read, This Changes Everything, by Naomi Klein. ‘Becca, what does this have to do with fitness or the gym?’ I can hear you saying already. The clue is in the title – this book considers our entire existence as the human species. Everything.
In the first part of the book Naomi Klein explains in detail:
The impact of our current capitalist economy on the planet. A capitalist system believes that profits, the money left over for shareholders once costs are paid, must continually grow. There can never be a point of ‘enough’. If this was the mindset of a man living in a house stacked full of newspapers, we would say he was ill. But this clearly impossible belief is what our economy is founded on.
The belief is impossible, because capitalism extracts materials from the planet to produce resources, as well as much useless stuff. Human industrial development has raced ahead at a pace that way outstrips evolution or geological change. So, we will, at this speed, run out of materials to extract, and places to extract them from. Let’s not forget that people live in the places where this pre-stuff is buried.
Why we are not changing course to a safer direction. The book was a terrifying read, because all of the alarming deadlines that scientists were warning we need to make drastic changes by had passed… by several years. That doesn’t mean it’s too late to do anything worthwhile. Humans are smart. There are lots of safer, fairer, more developed ways that we could live, arrange our society, and flourish. These ideas are known about. And yet politicians stay completely locked into the same path of environmental destruction. It’s not because of ignorance of the facts.
Big business, the fossil fuel industry, and manufacturing based on oil, will not accept a change away from the endless pursuit of growth. They have already stuck a price tag on continuing to extract, burn and sell exactly as we are right now.
That sounds pretty faceless, but each of these companies has an executive board made of individual people. Rich, old, mostly men, overwhelmingly white. They don’t care about black, brown and indigenous people whose homelands are in peril. They don’t care about ordinary people, the vast majority, who will suffer the worst impacts of climate change – food shortages, fires, floods – as they won’t be around, and their wealth will ensure their descendants are more protected than everybody else. We should think of these executives as dangerous newspaper hoarders.
But this is not (just) about bad guys with no morals either. It’s about power. These people are organised. They work together to lean heavily on governments and dictate their direction with intensive lobbying and eye-watering donations.
As a personal trainer, my interest in fitness has always been about how it helps us do everything else. Humans are now facing our most urgent mission ever. We need to change everything. And we could.
I heard a great quote in a podcast this week, from Brecht, who was a German playwright.
It takes courage to say that the good were defeated not because they were good, but because they were weak.Brecht
We need to be strong. Getting stronger physically helps us to be stronger mentally and emotionally. Because change is difficult and we find it very uncomfortable.
And like the profit-hungry executives, we need strong links between us.
That is why my next priorities for Big Bag Training will be about how I can help to build and strengthen community around and through my fitness business. Strong community lets us press for change more effectively, and help each other survive the huge difficulties that we will all face together as climate change speeds up.
In the second part of the book Naomi Klein shows:
How organised indigenous communities on the most impacted land have already been standing up against unlimited extraction for years, and winning. They give us all an example to look up from our scrolling and come together for the fight of our lives.
I recommend his book whole-heartedly, but if you want to know more before getting hold of a copy, or if you just think you won’t have time to read it, try these handy summary notes.