The Big Idea
Net zero strategies. Carbon capture technology. Electric aeroplanes. Genetically-engineered ‘super trees.’ They’re all great but they’re missing the point.
Climate change isn’t the problem, according to 22-year-old climate justice activist and artist, Daze Aghaji. It’s a symptom.
The real problem is a society that has reached breaking point and allowed us to get to a point where we treat the Earth and one another with extreme callousness and lack of care.
The way to solve it? A gargantuan, systems-breaking, mould-shattering amount of love.
A superhero origin story
Suing the government? Standing for election? Consultancy with big business? They’re all types of activism, according to Daze.
All of these strands are all part of Daze’s work.
So how did she get here? It’s a real superhero origin story.
After experiencing health issues due to air pollution because of an incinerator in the vicinity, Daze went into a deep depression and anxiety for years. Then she turned to her own house and went vegan, zero waste, and all the other individual actions you can think of. But she still had a deep distrust of organisations. “Greenpeace — urgh. Friends of the Earth — urgh,” she recalls thinking.
During university and riddled with climate anxiety, she found out about Extinction Rebellion which she remembers thinking “a bunch of Caucasians glueing themselves to the floor. Umm, no thank you.” But as a proud member who now describes herself as having a “love-hate relationship” with the activist organisation, what changed?
“I went there and it changed my life forever. It was just insane. I remember going to that meeting and someone asked how was I and actually wanted to hear it,” she says. “I fell apart.”
After a transformational emotional experience, she became a coordinator and helped plan to shut down all of central London’s roads mere months later: “That was the beginning of everything” and a test-and-learn education on all things organising and climate education at break-neck speed.
The importance of finding your community
If you want to make a difference to the world, you’ve got to find the people who will ask you how you are, who will hold you and invite you to the next crazy thing.
It can be intimidating joining the climate movement with the amount of knowledge you’re expected to have, but you don’t actually have to have anything except the willingness.
“I came from a place that wasn’t based in political action but was based in a place of care. It’s about creating care in spaces that need it,” says Daze.
The individual vs. the system: who’s to blame?
In Daze’s view, climate change is the symptom of a much larger issue, not the cause. The real cause? A system that allows us to treat each other with little to no care.
“Everyone is so focused on it being about the climate. It really is not about the climate. The climate is merely the byproduct of f*cked up shit that keeps f*cking up. And that’s what people don’t get. People think it’s about carbon. It’s not about that. It’s about how we’ve learned to use and abuse each other through history and how it’s playing itself out today. Whether it’s racial issues or homophobia. We’ve learnt how to treat each other like shit. We took the same energy to the Earth and she was like ‘Yeah, nah.’ “Climate change is merely her saying: Enough is enough.’”Daze Aghaji
A lack of care
In indigenous wisdom, the Earth is a living being in itself with its own consciousness. Our economic framework, capitalism, is fundamentally at odds with that theology because it teaches us to dehumanise one another and to see things in terms of profits, losses, and resources.
Climate tech such as carbon capture, for example, is important but only focusing on climate tech is a missed opportunity.
“If we’re only talking about climate capture, we’re really missing the point. If we go down that route, the next thing you know we’re going to be breaking other planetary boundaries and finding ourselves in the exact same place of catastrophe.”Daze Aghaji
So how do you solve a problem like the climate crisis? A holistic approach.
As clichéd as it sounds: love.
“We have to solve the social ills. In order to solve the climate crisis, we have to think, how do we act in love, duty and care? How do we take our moral responsibility — as humans and as people living life on this earth —to shape the physical and cultural work?”Daze Aghaji
With a blinkered focus on net zero strategies, “we might as well pack it up and go home.”
Sounds like a tall order. How do you avoid activist burnout?
In a nutshell, regenerative culture. Here is Daze’s five-point plan to staying sane rooted in wellbeing:
No, it’s not just face masks and long baths. “It’s no good relaxing on one day of the week as you run yourself raw on the rest,” says Daze.
Instead, it’s about how we take care of our minds, our bodies and our souls. But it’s also about doing the inner work. The inner work is asking ourselves what part we play into a society that we don’t like. “It’s very uncomfortable work but it’s necessary,” cautions Daze.
- Interpersonal care
Step two is all about taking that same understanding of softness and care that you’ve learned how to give yourself, to others. Ask yourself: How do I care for you? How can I hold you emotionally through what you’re facing? How do I learn how to tell you the truth, even when the truth is really hard?
- Community care
Step three widens the lens and is all about asking: How do I take this into the larger context? How can we hold each other as a community? How can we see when someone’s suffering and ask “Do I have the capacity to be able to help this person?”
- Action care
Action care is often talked about in activist circles around moments of high pressure, explains Daze. For example, asking yourself how to behave at a protest with sirens going off, someone’s glued themselves to the floor and it starts pissing down with rain. It’s about asking when is the time to put yourself in discomfort for the greater good.
- Planetary care
The final step is about taking that same energy of love and care to the Earth. Despite the fact we’re actively destroying it, the Earth has so much love and care for us. “She is still providing us food, water, air to breathe, she is our lifeline,” says Daze. So how do we respond in kind?
What is extractive activism?
Our mindsets are extractive. Our economic systems are extractive. So our activism shouldn’t be.
“The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”Audre Lorde
An extractive mindset which plundered communities and the natural world is exactly the mindset that got us into this mess.
“In these systems of abuse, no one wins. Very, very few people win. And even those people you can actually argue do like Jeff Bezos… he’s literally so scared of the world that he’s helped create, that he’s literally trying to fuck off to another planet. Is he really winning? You know? Like, does he sleep at night in the same way that the rest of us do? Probably not.”Daze Aghaji
The same applies to activism. If you’re depleting yourself by never filling up your own cup, it’s simply not sustainable. Remember: it’s a marathon not a sprint.
What does a perfect world look like?
Everything has to change. From grown adults playing outside in the wild to being prescribed baking classes to help treat anxiety, a system that puts care at the centre would look very different.
“I want to see a world where we are so connected to nature, we recognise that nature is us. And we are nature. And that’s the only way we can see the world.”Daze Aghaji
If that sounds like a paradigm shift, it’s because it is and we’ll have to “break through a lot of social conditioning,” says Daze. “We need to purge ourselves […] to see the world in the ways that it could be.”
But it’s not just playing with mushrooms. There’s space for a multiplicity of ways of connecting with the Earth. It’s a utopian vision, but that’s exactly why it’s so exciting.
Until next time – stay curious!
Tune in to the latest Climate Curious by TEDxLondon with co-hosts Maryam Pasha and Ben Hurst from New York Times’ Climate Forward event as we ask, is it time to enter your climate activist soft era? As Daze explains, “in these systems of abuse: no-one wins.”