Mini-manifestos: Part 6
The collective spectrum of Doomer Optimism
The umbrella of Doomer Optimism is not one vision for the future, it is an orientation that says: we see the world as it is, and we move forward with a practical, positive vision despite the challenges.
We defined Doomer Optimism as “a collective dedicated to discovering regenerative paths forward, highlighting the people working for a better world, and connecting seekers to doers.”
To demonstrate the variety and breadth of people engaging with such a perspective, I have asked for Doomer Optimists to write mini-manifestos clearly stating the vision for the future they are working toward.
I hope this exercise will make clear the very many thoughtful people working on practical initiatives to bring about a better future. I also want to make legible the specific philosophies and toolkits being used, so that others may find what resonates with them and thereby, find their community.
Doomer Optimists don’t all have to agree with one another. In fact, many virulently disagree. It is my goal to highlight the good work people are doing, and to lift them up. I also think of our collective as a place to interrogate each other’s perspectives. With public vetting and pushback, each of our individual visions can become stronger.
I will be releasing these mini-manifestos in parts.
Part 1: Aris Roussinos, Tara Ann Thieke and Empty America
Part 2: Joe Norman and Chris Ellis
Part 3: Shaun Chamberlin, Jeff McFadden and Adam James Pollock (AJP)
Part 4: Roxanne Ahern, Tucker Max, and Matthew Pirkowski
Part 5: Chris Dancy, Pentti Linkola Stan, and Julie Fredrickson
In this part we hear from Kathryn (@artsyhonker), Simone Cicero, and Solarchiect.
In future manifestos we will hear from Chris Smaje, Anarcho-contrarian, Willow Liana, Gregory Landua, Stone Age Herbalist, Mary Harrington, and Chelsey Norman among others.
Start Feeding People
Thought: none of this is "the new normal"; all of it is the interim normal. And it looks to me like things may be that way for some time to come. The stability that many of us have been led to believe in was always a bit of a charade, and the underpinnings that kept those appearances up are crumbling. (Yes I'm talking about climate catastrophe again. Though it could also be about Brexit or even COVID. Everything is interconnected.)
So: how to live in the interim normal, when you don't know how long that interim lasts or where we're going? I haven't worked this out, and I suspect there's no "correct" answer. But... what would a good answer look like?
Despite so many things being in flux, there are also many things that remain constant. We all need water, food, shelter, companionship. We all produce waste streams of some kind and there is no "away". If absolutely everything is provisional and unpredictable, then one approach is to work for resilience and flexibility in how you meet those very basic needs.
For me the main focus in this resilience is food. It's partly because I've always been interested in it; I do genuinely enjoy my vegetable gardening, foraging, preserving and cooking, and suspect I would also enjoy farming if I had the means. But the thing is, in gardening and foraging and preserving and cooking, I learn a bit of all the other stuff too. I need water for my plants, so I learn a bit about collecting it and so on. I build supports for my plants. We repair the shed.
That means if I need to collect water for myself, for washing and drinking, I'm ahead of the game. It means if I need to build a basic shelter, I have some idea of structures that will and won't work. I need warm clothes for allotment visits in winter, and yes, I could just go out and buy the latest fancy-pants waterproofs, but... I prefer to find other solutions, and so I now know more about repairing my clothing and how to make my own than I otherwise would.
And let me tell you, there is nothing like homegrown food to encourage companionship and connection with other people. I give food and drink as gifts. I teach people to grow food. I learn from others growing food, as well as making many mistakes and "experiments" of my own. Start feeding people, start working with others to produce food, and you suddenly have a community; probably a very diverse one.
I suspect you could pick any one of these basic needs and do the same: learn other skills and find community. It hardly matters where you start. A lot can go wrong. The land you grow on could literally disappear, or burn down, or whatever; you may have to move; and growing food (or making clothing or etc.) in a new context will be different. But much will be transferable, and nobody can take those skills away from you.
If you're not sure where to start when faced with all the uncertainty and doom and gloom, my advice is to start feeding yourself, then start feeding other people. Maybe that means growing food; maybe that means helping at a soup kitchen or food bank.
It's a good place to start.
The end of delegation
Simone Cicero @meedabyte
A few years ago I began to really understand the scope of climate change and the ecological collapse we’re living through. It was the famous Deep Adaptation paper that threw me into misery for months until I, finally, went through my doomer-to-bloomer metamorphosis.
Then covid and the supply chain and energy crisis have helped me to get past the blind acceptance of the modernist episteme. I started questioning the old and embracing the new: engaging with “lostness” and uncertainty, something that has been lacking in my life for decades, as I was busy ticking all the boxes as I came across them.
But when you begin to understand that everything around you is fragile - and not stable - how do you recast yourself? How do you commit to something when everything you took for granted for decades suddenly seems transient - if not just on the plain brink of collapsing into chaos?
My answer has been to refocus, first of all, my priorities and my attention: from consuming to producing, from trading to investing, from short-term to long-term, from just barely being involved into trying to have as much skin in the game as possible on everything I do and plan to do in the future.
We have to now develop a full-stack leadership. Like the samurais of Japan that followed the principle of serving their masters, we have to serve our authentic self, and the context of our relationships, our landscapes, our communities, and our families.
We have to envision ambitious organizational development plans. We have to stay true to a core set of principles: skin in the game, building for the long term. We have to patiently relearn what it means to cure relationships, nurture capabilities, build infrastructure, and engage in the creation of new institutions.
This challenge is nested: are we advocating for a return to tradition and localism? Is this a refusal of progress? As much as we’re tempted to say “no, we can’t forget who we are now - with our cities, global connections, internets, blockchains, screens, and zooms,” and it’s certainly true that we can’t - we have to accept that yes, the challenge is partially that of refusal.
We have to become more austere with technology and embrace a particular form of circumspection for technology that - as Illich posed it - will help us to be able to connect with joy, presence, and respect for our fellow neighbors, teammates, and community members, and not just care about a globalized and watered down abstraction of what a fellow human is.
If we don’t subjugate these immense technological powers, they will simply follow their own and we will just become tools...of our own tools.
For these and other reasons, we have to accept the challenge of showing up in beauty and willingness to confront our shortcomings. As members of our families, we have to learn to say sorry and do better. As inhabitants of our landscapes, we have to learn what the landscape is about - its indigenous nature - and enthusiastically perceive it as a home, a place to care about. As members of our communities, we have to learn to master skills of all kinds - from the practical to the abstract: be righteous and gentle, craft new imaginaries, design new financial systems, run new types of productive organizations, and nurture our decision-making and governance capabilities as collectives.
In what other ways can we contribute to an institutional reinvention if we just get stuck in the empty act of imagination? What can really happen if we dare to participate in the act of building?
Simone together with Alessandro Pirani is launching a new podcast and community for Italian readers on the topics of climate change impacts, system transformation, and what it means for us as citizens, entrepreneurs, and investors. Subscribe for upcoming releases here:
Grown in Nature, heated by the Sun, built for generations
Here is an excerpt from some of the principles I have developed throughout my work:
1. Solar. Sun is energy, health and abundant wealth. However powerful we feel, our lives all revolve around the Sun, every day. Our body is tuned into the circadian rhythm, or if not, we can hardly be in flow with Life. The Sun is the central heating of our solar system, Earth and all ecosystems - including our body. It can also be the main heat source for our homes and buildings. Many basic but essential activities for which we currently rely on electricity, fossil fuels, and complicated technology could all be powered by the sun. The sun’s power could be harnessed for anything from drying clothes, meats, vegetables, and heating water.
2. Passive and Passivhaus. Passive solar in essence means we maximise solar heat gain in the interior of the home via large south facing windows. The heat then is trapped by the very well insulated thermal envelope of the building.
3. Ancestral. The greenest form of energy is what we never consume. None of my ideas are new. They are based on ancestral principles which are being proven by contemporary studies. Other ancestral ideas are building transitory, outdoor spaces that maximise living in the outdoors, in gardens - for example outdoor kitchen, workshop, or living rooms.
4. Durable ("Firmitas"). A 500 year old house is 10x more sustainable than a 50 year old one. We should aim to build as durable as possible, learning from what people achieved around the middle part of the last millennium and adding our new-found scientific knowledge about natural materials. Since it's impossible to build a zero maintenance home, we should target easy maintenance for durability.
5. Functional ("Utilitas"). The abundance of the 20th century drove the sizes of many homes to monumental scales. Through my practice I always propose the smallest, most functional layout for a project. I can guarantee that most building designs could be at least 30% smaller, while getting an improved functionality - sometimes with even overlapping uses for multiple rooms.
You can find more principles from Solarchitect in his upcoming substack. Sign up here: