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We're all doomed? Not while we have hot-water bottles and fluffy jumpers

PUBLISHED: 13:13 18 March 2019 | UPDATED: 13:13 18 March 2019

The soundtrack album from Shine (1996). Photo: Liam Heitmann-Rice

The soundtrack album from Shine (1996). Photo: Liam Heitmann-Rice

Liam Heitmann-Rice

“The world is rapidly running out of food … In fact, the battle to feed humanity is already lost, in the sense that we will not be able to prevent large-scale famines in the next decade or so.”

Liam Heitmann-Rice. Photo: Liam Heitmann-RiceLiam Heitmann-Rice. Photo: Liam Heitmann-Rice

If that sounds familiar, it may surprise you to learn that this cheerful prediction for the future has in fact been extracted from the past. Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb, published in 1968, proposed that we would all have starved to death by the early 1980s — and yet here we are, still kicking and dancing.

We are, however, faced with a whole new shopping list of disasters, namely rising sea levels, climate change, depleting oil reserves, overreliance on fossil fuel, uncontrollable population growth, Brexit, Trump, fake news, and so on and so forth.

No matter how far we develop as a species, it seems that the continual underlying narrative of human evolution is one of limited space and finite resources. We are constantly reminded every generation that there are too many of us, and that we’re all screwed.

I am 22 years old. I have, allegedly, my whole life ahead of me – so it becomes difficult for me to feel optimistic about the future if we’re being led to think “what’s the point?” So I try not to subscribe to the idea that we’re all irreparably doomed and instead make a conscious effort to find the good.

I rather like being alive, and for the most part life is pretty good fun. There are plenty of good things to detract from the impending end of mankind: we have music, books, bicycles, we have weekend sleep-ins and hot water bottles, we have hugs, love, fluffy jumpers, we have carrot cake and legwarmers and, of course, coffee. It’s not all bad.

Please allow me to clarify a point here. I am not proposing that we adopt an attitude of closed-mindedness, that by simply ignoring bad things they won’t bother us.

The idea I want to convey here is that, instead of absorbing every environmental horror story you find splashed across the headlines, it is much more effective to tackle these issues by starting small.

For instance, if you are worried about climate change, start recycling. If you want to save the cows and become a vegetarian, great. These are the small steps that you can realistically take to create greater change, because while it is important to keep alert of the surrounding issues in our society, there is only so much you can do.

You need to change your world before you can change the world.

The Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson has a neat tip for this: clean your room. The bedroom is the architectural support base of the human soul, and so what Peterson says is that “If you want to change the world, you start from yourself and work outward”.

One’s bedroom is really their base of operations, it’s their ‘good place’ – it’s where you sleep, it’s where you read and study, it’s where you wind down, where you structure yourself.

And if you are able to make your bed, to vacuum your floor, to organise your bookshelves, if you can order these parts of your own life, then you are enabled to think more clearly about the wider world around you. If your bedroom is cluttered, then your ability to navigate through the world will be cluttered too.

This is all about solving smaller issues first – start from within and then work outward. Because, as much as you may wish to, you will not be able to solve every humanitarian crisis, every famine and water shortage.

So when you check the news on your phone, or in this very paper, remember that there is always something good to hold on to. Find the good. Look at a photo that makes you smile. Listen to a great song. Hug your dog, or your friend, or your spouse.

Find the good and share it with those around you, keep it close.

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