We are currently overwhelmed by various crises, inequality and the gap between rich and poor is getting bigger, health crisis due to obesity in the rich world as a result of poor nutrition, and due to hunger in the poor world as a result of lack of nutrition. Overproduction and overconsumption in the rich world at the expense of exhaustible resources and ecosystems in the poor world. Pollution of the environment with industrial waste, plastics, medicine residues and other indigestible substances. We are dealing with a rapid decline in the world’s species diversity and a draconian decline in biodiversity. Climate change as a result of human intervention, increasing drought, deforestation, fish mortality, rising sea levels, etc. etc. EU Commissioner Frans Timmermans calls this a “jumble of crisis”.
We can summarize this as follows:
- economic crisis, many people do not have the economic resources to provide for their basic needs;
- ecological crisis, the excessive human footprint on the earth;
- social crisis, conflicts, displaced persons, refugees, inequality of opportunity;
- crisis of sovereignty, people lose the right to self-determination;
- safety crisis, as a result of contaminants in food and other products due to the use of chemical fertilizers and chemical pesticides in their production, use of microplastics in personal care products, epi- and pandemics, insufficient resistance from the population.
We are already so used to this that it hardly evokes a “contrast experience” for many. New ideas and new values are needed that bring about a culture change, with a “reappraisal of all values”. From Friedrich Nietzsche, who lived in the second half of the 19th century, we can learn a lot, as Henk Manschot showed us in his: Blijf de aarde trouw, Pleidooi voor een nietzscheaanse terrasofie (Remain true to the earth, Plea for a Nietzschean terrasophy). Nietzsche already sensed that in the relationship between man/woman and earth something must have gone fundamentally wrong in modern culture. In his: Thus spoke Zarathustra, a book for everyone and no one, he let Zarathustra say: “The earth is sick and the disease is called man.” Nietzsche takes this personally and he makes a radical break with his life as a professor in Basel and begins a way of life that brings him closer to nature, by the sea and in the Alps. He develops a new philosophy that does not focus on people but on the earth, and he became even more critical of modern culture. In that nature he is the first to see the importance of nutrition because food is the most profound link between people and their “place on earth”. After all, what we eat is “converted” and literally becomes part of our body. This only dawns on us in the 21st century when the internationally operating “eating designer” Marije Vogelzang points this out to us (https://www.marijevogelzang.nl/). Nietzsche thinks cultures can be understood as ways of feeding. A conscious culture of feeding and eating is the quality of food to be influenced as one of the vital sources of our existence. This applies not only to our material food, but also to our “spiritual” food, the information that “comes to us” through the media. Here too we should not unconsciously and indiscriminately swallow everything, but monitor the flow of impressions that we “let in” and their quality.
Nietzsche opposes any metaphysical and supernatural claim, sees nature as the only reality and tries to understand man/woman as a whole. To the question of how we should live, Nietzsche answers in The Gay Science that nature is the guiding principle. He advocates “naturalizing man/woman”. This is a “deified nature” and concerns identification with human nature. To “naturalize” means in the first place the struggle to recognize that man/woman is a natural being with driftage frame. We need to break free from the Christian morals that have frightened man/woman (giving in to urges is a bad thing) and develop a vision of nature from a naturalistic perspective. Second, we must create a “work of art” using an aesthetic perspective of our own character. Nietzsche here uses the metaphor of the gardener. By this he means that human nature can be represented as a piece of land that is still open for cultivation and, just like the gardener, every person has the freedom to style it.
In the ancient Chinese and Greek philosophy man’s/woman’s relationship to him-/herself, to others and to the cosmos was studied. In Eastern philosophy this still plays a role, think of the influence that the Book of Changes (Yi-Jing) still has, but in Western philosophy from the Renaissance onwards the individual freedom of man/woman and his/her pursuit of independence have been the founding principle, and the cosmos no longer plays a role. Nietzsche focuses the gaze on the earth, not from the earth to the universe, but from the height to life on earth, just like the gaze of the eagle, which is similar to the gaze of cosmonauts looking from the cosmos at the planet earth and discover how all life on earth is connected in one great ecological network. This is a new orientation in philosophical cosmology, which Manschot calls “terrasophy”. The relationship of man/woman to him-/herself and to the greater whole, of which they are a part, is the key question.
Nietzsche defines culture as the link between a collective of people and their “environment”. Each community creates its own culture. There is a close relationship between the local community and its “place on earth”. “Cultural diversity is as necesary for humankind as biodversity is for nature” (Unesco, Universal Decaration on Cultural Diversity, 2001). Areas where indigenous people live with their own indigenous culture are of exceptional importance for the preservation of the earth’s biodiversity. Native cultures and their ecological knowledge and wisdom have been threatened by Western activities for centuries. Organizations such as “Slow Food” worldwide try to preserve and develop the knowledge and wisdom of the “old” communities. Whereas from the sixteenth century onwards it was the European colonial powers that have come to rule the world, and with strategies of power, legitimized by Christian religions, have threatened and intimidated local tribes and peoples, today it is the Western big banks and multinationals that threaten local cultures again in the violence of ongoing globalization. Involvement in the local environment has come under severe pressure and has been made subordinate to the values of neoliberalism. This is accompanied by the problem of urbanization, with extremely environmentally unfriendly and highly polluted living environments. This makes it increasingly difficult for local-rural initiatives to develop.
We must restore the connection with the earth by reassessing being locally situated. There are already many initiatives, and the number is growing, that want to revive local involvement. Examples are initiatives that promote locally produced food, generate local energy, and many forms of urban agriculture and urban greening. Citizens are also motivated to make their immediate living environments livable, also from an ecological point of view, and there is a growing interest in sustainable development in the field of housing and transport. This testifies to a new connection with and responsibility for the “place on earth” where one lives. Personally, I have been able to work for many years in this field on the development and growth of local initiatives. In the Overijsselse Vechtdal a community has emerged of cooperating farmers, bakers, butchers, nature and tourism organizations, who regard the natural region around the river Overijsselse Vecht as their “place on earth” and form a beautiful community with the residents. In the middle of the Netherlands, a collaboration has arisen between various food producers and consumers who together give “Boerenhart” (Farmersheart) a double meaning. In and around Amsterdam I was able to participate in bringing food producers from the area together with chefs and public from the city. The farmers around the National Park “Loonse en Drunense Duinen” have a beautiful “place on earth”, where they make a wonderful connection between this nature and the people in the surrounding cities. In and around Rotterdam, farmers from the rural area and ‘makers’ from the city come together to convert innovative ideas into beautiful food products. In the vicinity of St. Petersburg I was able to work on improving the Russian quality of potatoes, which are made available in shops and supermarkets and make expensive imports superfluous. In Krasnodar, Russia, short chains have arisen from the small farmers in the vicinity of the city and shops, web shops and restaurants in the city.
The global nature of the crises is noticeable locally. Everyone begins to experience the consequences in their own living environment. However, there is a big gap between local life and international politics. International players, such as the United Nations, the Climate Conference in Paris in 2015, are drawing up “top-down” measures that must then be worked out locally. What is needed is a powerful “bottom-up” movement that makes local communities, with their pluriformity and diversity, an influential actor in this process.
We must put into practice the things Nietzsche puts forward in order to achieve the necessary cultural change. We can let ourselves be helped by the 2local platform. For several years now, this platform has been preparing to connect people all over the world on a local basis in a modern way, using new technologies. With the help of cryptocurencies, consumers can buy local and sustainable products from connected producers. To make purchases affordable for everyone in the world, consumers receive a monthly cashback.
The main points that Nietzsche mentions are realized in this 2local initiative:
1. Culture change. Restoration of own power through independence and own control over spending;
2. Local environment, own ‘place on earth’, development of own culture;
3. Relationship with nature. Restore human-earth relationship through sustainability and biodiversity;
4. No threat from major powers, banks and multinationals;
5. Global connectivity. Orientation from philosophical cosmology. All local “places on earth” are connected by the common crypto currency. Communication and reporting already in 17 languages;
6. Untangle the “jumble of crises.” No pollution, because of sustainable products. No poverty, because of cashback. Good health, because of sustainable food.
2local Loyalty Platform supporting Sustainability and Prosperity for all: https://2local.io/
Harry Donkers, May 7, 2021