Skip navigation

Indymedia UK is a network of individuals, independent and alternative media activists and organisations, offering grassroots, non-corporate, non-commercial coverage of important social and political issues

6 Things You Must Do

Keith Farnish | 28.12.2007 11:36 | Analysis | Climate Chaos | Ecology

Another list? Well, yes, but one that actually addresses the root of the environmental degradation we are causing. This is one new year's resolution that is worth keeping.

Lists are useful things: shopping lists, lists of things to do, lists of addresses, lists of names and numbers, lists of articles to write. I do keep a list of articles to write, but making a list of “x ways to save the world” has never been among them. A while ago I did write an article called “4 Essential Ways To Save The Earth”, which was not exactly a list (it was over 6000 words long), more a way of describing the types of systems that have to be changed. But it was a good way of putting my thoughts in order.

Then the environmental blogs started to fill up, much like the environmental books had years before, with lists and lists of things you should do in order to be a good green person. Meanwhile the Earth carried on heating, the forests continued to be cleared, the oceans became more acidic and the population kept growing and consuming more and more. I have not seen a single list that actually takes people to a genuinely sustainable place, let alone addresses the root causes of our situation.

It’s about time that was put right.

Not too long ago I visited a school to talk about climate change, and realised that I would probably be asked to tell the students what they should be doing to make things better. Buy organic milk; recycle more; change your lightbulbs; do lots of other really trivial things that on their own will have virtually no impact. How could I get around this problem without frightening the students into retreat, leaving them confused as to the best actions or giving them something that wasn’t worth the paper it was written on?

Finally, after some time breaking things down, analysing everything I know about the way systems (cultural and ecological) work, throwing out the trivial stuff and talking to my 10 year old daughter, I whittled everything down to just 6 main subject headings. They need a little explanation individually, as does the thought behind them. Essentially, if you take them all together and if a large enough number of people follow them, two things will happen:

1) Humanity will become far more sustainable, reversing the trends we are seeing in our consumption and damaging activities.

2) The systems that drive this culture’s terrible behaviour will break down, having no option but to change or die.

Each action taken alone is enough to fundamentally change and even take down one or more of the damaging systems that the industrial world makes us think are essential – they are not. These systems include the motor industry, the industrial food production system, the corporate fiscal system and many others. Many of them are interlinked and dependent upon each other, and when one falls, others can fall too. The real beauty of the 6 Things You Must Do is that they are all eminently achievable: they can be completed in one go or in steps, and you can concentrate on one or two at a time, so long as you get there by 2030, the year that we have to have become sustainable if we are to prevent runaway and irreversible environmental change.

I am not saying that the 6 Things are easy to achieve. People have been hardwired in the West, and increasingly in other parts of the world to behave in a certain way – an orthodoxy – which even the environmental organisations take as read. Not only is our behaviour controlled and thus difficult to change without considerable motivation, there are many things that are not achievable without fundamental changes taking place in society. But behaviour is the most important. You may think you are making great sacrifices, but you are actually making your life far more satisfying and in tune with how humans naturally behave.

So, here are the 6 Things You Must Do, if you want to ensure that we have a future on Earth:

CONNECTING : Get back in touch with your planet. You are part of nature so act as though you are. Understand your place in nature, how you affect it and how it affects you.

CONSUMING : Don't buy anything that you don't need. If you have to buy something, remember the 4 R's: Reduce, Repair, Reuse and Respect.

EATING : Become vegan, or as near as you can to remain healthy. Buy local. Eat simply.

LIVING : Reduce the energy used in your home to the bare minimum. Change your behaviour to allow for this. Become energy independent.

TRAVELLING : Travel as little as possible. Don't fly. Don't drive. Instead: walk, cycle, use the bus, go by train.

EDUCATING : Convince yourself and everyone you know - children, parents, politicians, teachers - that we need to change completely and we need to change now.

Simple, challenging and very effective. If you want more details then write to me at There will be a lot more information and help in my forthcoming book, A Matter Of Scale [].

Keith Farnish
- Homepage:


Hide the following 8 comments

It's a political issue

28.12.2007 16:15

Nothing wrong with the suggestions made here, as such. But the notion that "if a large enough number of people follow them" is delusory and naive. True in abstract theory, of course, but it can only have a marginal effect on the real world. That's the real world in which only a minority of people are ever going to follow the precepts suggested and a much larger number, for example, are going to carry on buying destructive crap as long as it is in the shops and they have money or can get ruinous credit. We really must give up the idea that the parlous state of the planet is susceptible to individualist solutions. The crisis the planet faces is political and societal and only a political or societal upheaval is going to avert disaster.

I can't help feeling this persistent reliance on individualist solutions is somehow rooted in the long, slow-cooking, cultural residue of chistianity on our thinking, though I'm not..errm...dogmatic about that. On the other hand, you could say my point of view has a lot to do with the christian notion of "original sin". My answer to that is that "original sin" is simply a completely wrong explanation of why humans (as well as other animals, such as apes) behave as we do. The explanation may be crap, but the observation on which it's based is accurate.

Society is more than the sum of its parts.

mail e-mail:

True, but I have a plan...

28.12.2007 18:43

Hi Grumpyoldgit

Don't worry, I do have a plan. You are completely right that without a motivating factor then any "solutions" are bunk, which is why I am working on that motivating factor. The 6 Things are for those who are getting confused as to what they *should* be doing, as all the lists are really pissing me off - all of them work within the bounds of the system as opposed to my list which is designed specifically to change that system.

Individual actions are utterly necessary. As soon as you move actions into any kind of dependent state then the power once again returns to the top -- wherever there is dependency then there is a hierarchy, and we once again lose the ability to choose. I don't believe that anything like a majority of people have to take the radical disengagement activities described in the list, but the evidence for that is still being written. Who knows what the actual figure will be. Let me know if you want to help find it out with me.


mail e-mail:
- Homepage:

Individual actions only go so far

28.12.2007 19:11

Hi Keith,

A good, simple list there. However, in broad agreement with stropyoldgit, I believe that individual actions only go so far and if we're to achieve anything approaching sustainability in the future, we also need to plan a new society and new ways of living- for the sake of people and the planet.

I'm sure you're aware of this and you did kind of touch on it in 'education', but I just wanted to get my thoughts in as well.

On the education topic, I think we need to come up with better ways of communicating our messages, whether we're environmentalists, ecologists, anarchists, socialists or whatever. We need to work out how we can fight the propaganda that the industrial capitalist system creates. I know I'm not always very good at it and I often lose my cool. I feel that most of the eco counter-propaganda is too full of half-truths and oversimplified, whether by design or because the author is not full aware of this, and thus lacks the needed impact.

Individual action is the first step, but it must be combined with social action. 6/7 billion people aren't going to change on their own

Rising Tension

Stroppy not Grumpy + RT response

28.12.2007 23:17

Soz for calling stroppyoldgit "grumpyoldgit", I'm sure you can forgive me my adjectival failure.

Rising Tension: beneath the words lies an uber-cynic. Sometimes the words have to be adjusted to make them palatable, but sometimes I find it very liberating to lay into people, especially those who think they have the answers while still bowing to the system (Greenpeace, are you listening?) I'm thinking about the answers very carefully, though - I don't really want a crash and would prefer a soft landing. Except maybe for the bastards who put us in this position in the first place!



Too Damn Late

29.12.2007 13:18

There is nothing you can do to prevent catastrophe. If in 1987 the Monetarists had stuck to their principles and not fled the fireld of battle when the big anti-inflation guns on their own side opened up, had there been a severe downturn in the Economy, it might have been possible to recover. Now that the Methane has started coming out of the bogs it is too late.

Those Vegan dreamers in reality want to genocide a large part of our co-evolution. They talk of having thirty six billion human vermin eating the food that should be going to sheep and cows, chickens and horses.

Unfortunately it is too late to put things right by exterminating Homo Saps, Homo Saps have ensured there will be a total mass extinction. Christians like Brown and Bush and Blair are agents of Satan. They use inflation to keep the Stock Market rising, so that Fossil fuels contine to be burnt and guarantee the destruction of God's Creation.

It is too late to build survival Units as proposed in 1991 and now shown in the appendixes to "The Negative Outcome of Economics" in that IWW forum. Maybe a floating Unit could be built in time if there were a Manhatten Project priority applied. It is almost certainly too late for The High Frontier.

The only thing to do is have a bloody good gut busting laugh every time the Stock Market rises, and hang on to fill your ringside seat at the Grand Finale of all Human History.

- Homepage: http://

So true, Keith

29.12.2007 16:27

"Individual actions are utterly necessary. As soon as you move actions into any kind of dependent state then the power once again returns to the top -- wherever there is dependency then there is a hierarchy, and we once again lose the ability to choose."

You got it in one - a fine example of healthy living enabling crystal clear thought.


To all you who cry "Doooooomed" and fall back on intangibles like 'politix' I say you're just making excuses for lack of individual action. Check out the Hundred Monkey Syndrome and be comforted by the historical fact that revolution has never entailed more than 5% of a population to succeed... It could be also that you are city dwellers; if so, you need a paradigm as well as a geographical shift before you can think clearly.

Living simply and self-sufficiently is reward in itself. Don't let's go all the way to 'Children of Men' before discovering that which the NWO do not wish you to...


one more..

30.12.2007 08:47

I agree with you Keith, but would add one more - or at least tack it onto the Educate part. We need to impress upon our young people (at home, in schools etc) of the need to plan their futures to survive. Not like it is today, with careers advice on how to make lots of money, how to consume and waste as much as you can pack into a lifetime and how to strive towards the material, but instead teach them to plan to work together and build shelters, grow food in extreme conditions, harvest and purify rainwater etc. Of course, the government will have water lapping round their ankles before that's allowed on the curriculum, but we should try to make that knowledge accessible to them. And if anyone reading this is a teacher - start that subversive work now!


'travel as little as possible'?!

30.12.2007 23:24

I think that suggestion is silly at best, dangerous at worst.

eg. we learn a lot from different cultures in different places, most 'activists' i know got radicalized by travelling and meeting people, plenty of nomadic groups of people have lived or now live with low carbon footprints... i could go on.

However, I appreciate your worry and your advice.



Server Appeal Radio Page Video Page Indymedia Cinema Offline Newsheet