I did it. Colleagues admire and envy me. When I meet them around at conferences even unknown people approach me and say:
“I followed your bike trip last year to Tallinn. And this time by train from Vienna to Edinburgh. You are incredible!”.
“We have been discussing your train trip in my sub-theme at the conference: you are setting an example!”.
“You are unique, an example for all of us. I have to interview you! I am writing a book on academic activists”
“You are our guru!”
“Did you come by bike?” “No, by train”. “Good, so I have more space on the plane.”
“Look at Giuseppe, he published an ASQ [top tier academic journal] and nevertheless arrives at the conference by train. That’s why I am following his example!”
My reactions followed in steps. At the beginning, I felt uneasy and a little embarrassed, soon substituted by some kind of narcissist satisfaction. Feeling guilty of the narcistic response I tried to rationalize: “Giuseppe, your action is having impact. Colleagues are beginning to reflect, they are following your lead. They understand that we also have to make our contribution to the reduction of carbon pollution. You should not despair. We can still save the world”. A bit too grand as a mission, indeed.
Tonight, however, I had a bad dream. I was trying to save the world but a bionic monster with a form of a snake was stronger. When I woke up, today is my birthday, I realized what was going on in me. Sadness. Therefore, I am writing this piece, to get rid of it, for regenerating. Sadness to realize that something very basic and simple like taking a train to get to a place in one day and one comfortable night in a sleeping cabin is considered a heroic act. How spoiled has our culture become? How could we ever realize the radical transformation necessary for decarbonizing our economies and supporting the poor people who are already suffering the temperature increases if we consider travel on fast trains and comfortable night cabins as an act of heroism?
Should we realize that our culture is irreformable, that we are heading towards probable or inevitable societal collapse like the Deep Adaptation movement is telling us? I leave to you to decide what is the most probable future.
For me, looking outside the window and seeing my vegetables grow in the garden, my wife laughing at me, thinking at my children, I decide that I will not make any forecast about the future. For now I will enjoy the present, live according to my values and see the hero in all those who are doing more than I am, like the Friday for Future school children or the XR rebels who engage in nonviolent civil disobedience, or the poor in the world that keep on living despite it all. And do what I can to reduce the upcoming crisis.
Personal changes are difficult, and even I considered a heroic act the simple change of moving to a vegetarian or vegan diet. Just changing the place where, in the grocery store, you pick up your food. Not a big deal.
So, let’s all celebrate together the heroic acts of our crepuscular civilization!