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Nothing like a 21-hour flight to catch up on podcasts and Net ix. My friend Leonie Joubert’s podcast with Lee Rael (MASTER wizard of unearthing a story) is first on my list, long overdue… Leonie is a climate change activist and science journalist (amongst many things). We know each other socially, and it is intriguing to hear her in her professional capacity. Articulate, eloquent, knowledgeable, honest. We met each other only in the past year or two, but there was an instant connection and the friendship has developed into a very close one.

There are a few things about the podcast that linger with me. Leonie says that we all have a “yearning for this bigger thing – we have become disconnected from nature, or distracted, focussed only on extracting from nature, instead of being part of nature”. She makes the very logical statement that the earth is our home, in fact, our only home. And if we destroy it, we will not suddenly be able to get onto the ark with Noah and sail for another home. We will be screwed. She also connects mental health issues with the reality of climate change – the feelings of being overwhelmed, and depressed.

One of the Net ix series I watch is about the pharmaceutical industry, and how it is manipulated for pro t. Essential medication (in the USA it is insulin amongst other things) is becoming so expensive that people literally cannot afford to buy it. Within the medical model, the pharmaceutical industry has become one of the biggest capitalist, pro t driven systems. Our society is making people sick, and many are prevented from getting affordable treatment. This is not only a developing world problem, but the USA is also top of the pops, and alternatives like psilocybin and cannabis are simply pushed out of the equation for the risk that it might be too cheap!

Considering all of this from a broader perspective, we have now fallen into what Leonie calls an “eco-system collapse”. At the rate that we are destroying insects, we will very soon not be able to grow the food that is needed, forests make way for grazing, more and more fossil fuel is mined and the atmosphere polluted. Extreme weather conditions make for devastating droughts, horrific storms and cyclones and raging res.

For me, the ecosystem of families, our social connectedness, is a very real and lethal threat to our well-being. The separating of older people is contributing to the eco-system collapse, separating them from society, and institutionalising them. It deprives the rest of us, and especially the children, of learning opportunities that cannot be substituted by any amount of IT. It cuts us off from the circle of life. We are eco-bio-psycho-social-spiritual beings. When we take one of those building blocks out of the Jenga structure, it will collapse. And we have done it.

Our existential crisis has become one of “making sense of the world”. What are we doing here? Is there any hope? What does the future hold for us? While we are constantly trying to measure and label, quantify, explain and control, we seem to move further and further away from a real sense of knowing. We see more and more people with mental health issues that simply are not held within society, are pushed to the edges, and lost any sense of belonging. And yes, the same goes for older people, and more so for older people living with dementia.

(This infographic is based on the talk of Dr Bill Thomas at the Eden Alternative Conference in Brisbane, Australia).

We are not only failing older people. The bigger tragedy is that we are failing young people. Not only have we managed to just about destroy our natural habitat, but we have managed to prevent our youngsters from growing up with their Elders. We are sending young people into the world without the values that only Elders could teach them. These youngsters have no idea of or connection with wisdom, deep spiritual insight, the notion of patience or self-reflection, humility, or service. They somehow only know ME, and the world according to ME. They think no further than their own need for immediate gratification. They are sel sh, short-sighted. It is not their fault, it is ours. We have denied them the privilege of their Elders. And yes, they are angry. As much as we must help to repair the earth, we will need to start integrating intergenerational living back into our communities if we want a longer-term strategy of making sense of the world. We need a broader perspective, we need to be challenged on every level of our understanding of what it means to be alive on this planet. It is from diversity that we learn to question our own assumptions and perceptions. It is from being challenged by people who are not our age, not from our culture, and not sharing our belief systems that we expand our knowledge. The more homogenous a society we create, the more shallow our knowledge, and the more short-sighted our decisions.

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