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I’m Sian, and I’m a fossil fuel addict: on paradox, disavowal and (im)possibility in changing climate change

I’m Sian, and I’m a fossil fuel addict: on paradox, disavowal and (im)possibility in changing climate change

Once upon a time in the wild west

Sometimes life brings experiences that give pause for thought.

In recent years I have returned to west Namibia to work with elders of families I’ve known for over almost 30 years – a legacy of a childhood split between Britain and southern Africa. We have been documenting histories of land connections prior to a series of clearances of people from large areas of the west Namibian landscape, that occurred some decades ago.1 Often now perceived as an untouched and pristine wilderness, our work instead draws into focus a landscape intimately known, named and remembered by people who once lived there. Oral histories recorded as we find and revisit places my companions knew as home, have increasingly struck a chord as a record of lives lived more-or-less untouched by fossil fuels.

In the contemporary terms defined by modernity, industrialisation and capital, theirs was an economically impoverished existence. But this is not how they define and describe their experience.

Beyond the nostalgia that people tend to have for times past, their prior existence is valued in some of the following ways:

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How to Transcend Duality and Think Within Paradoxes

How to Transcend Duality and Think Within Paradoxes

I read a few years ago somewhere that a hallmark of a genius is being able to hold opposites together and transcend duality. This stuck with me and over time I tried to make sense of it, because at first it was a very confusing concept. With some luck this concept began to make sense thanks to a random assortment of other things I read over the years following my discovery of this tidbit.

This train of thought has now become one of my favorite things to ponder. I feel it has taught me the dangers of holding onto apparent absolutes. Once you believe in something as an absolute, you are automatically precluding yourself from believing in the opposite, which means that in some ways a part of your freedom of thought as a human being is forfeited as a result. A good example of rising above these conventional kind of thoughts constructed with absolutes is the Wave-particle duality. I love this example because it is somewhat recent and shows the possible errors in absolutes and how they can prevent you from thinking “outside the box” so to speak.

Wave-particle duality is the concept that all matter and energy exhibits both wave-like and particle-like properties. Physicists argued for a long time whether light was a wave or a particle, and their insistence on their present beliefs prevented them from realizing the possibility that light could be both at the same time. While this is a very specific example, even using abstract thought experiments seems to work as well. Take these two opposites for example:

You are nothing. You are everything.

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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