Happy 2015. It’s that time of year we’re meant to uncover a new us; to turn over a new leaf. Since solipsism and myopia are rather unattractive, I’d like to set a friendly challenge to readers: this New Year let’s put our collective willpower to work on more meaningful goals than how many hours we’ll clock at Crossfit, or how quickly we’ll tame our inboxes using the Pomodoro Technique.
Why should our resolutions for this year be more ambitious than those made in Januaries past? Well, if you haven’t read This Changes Everything yet, please use that gift voucher from your aunt to buy a copy, or pick one up from your local library asap. In the book, Naomi Klein becomes the latest brave commentator to argue that the next few years offer humankind our last realistic chance to transform our socio-economic status quo in time to avert the worst effects of climate change, and the widespread abuse of our earthly habitat.
The transformation called for isn’t about swapping out the office light bulbs, schlepping your shopping in a chic canvas tote, or signing a Facebook petition. The task at hand is much bigger than that. On the bright side, it’s also a hell of a lot more exciting. How will your business, your neighbourhood, your local government, your university, transform to become part of what Klein calls the “beautiful solutions” to the global crisis we face? Because if you’re not part of the solution, you’re…
Feeling overwhelmed? That’s understandable, but no longer sufficient excuse. The time has come to make history before we become history. Bring it on January.
Since this piece is published by an architecture and design site, I include some tips especially for that crowd. I also suggest some dates to add to your diary now to help stick to your resolutions throughout the year.
1. Quit smoking.
First things first, we need to kick our collective addiction to fossil fuels and the dangerous greenhouse gasses they emit. Every intelligent adult reading this should know that much already. The challenge is getting off our seats to do something about it. Pronto.
A good place to start is to join the growing global ranks of citizens who are demanding that their banks, employers, pension funds, alma maters, local governments, and their cultural institutions divest from their fossil fuel holdings and affiliations. 350.org is an excellent platform to learn more about divestment and locate a campaign near you.
For the design-inclined: the Living Building Challenge’s site features inspirational buildings around the world that take ‘sustainability’ to the next level, alongside a practical research library and assessment tools.
Date for your diary: Global Divestment Day, 13-14 February 2015.
2. Lose weight.
If you want to have more disposable income, more free time, and more peace of mind, the fix is simple: shed your excess stuff and buy less of it in future. Think about it: of the objects you received for Christmas or picked up in the sales, how many will be a genuinely useful part of your everyday life a year from now?
If you’re ready to break the trance that equates the accumulation of possessions with status, and shopping with self-expression (or even patriotism), the Minimalists propose a 21-day plan to get you started.
For the design-inclined: Life Edited offers a well-curated archive of ingeniously pared-back, elegantly designed dwellings to inspire you and your clients to live more fully with less.
Date for your diary: Buy Nothing Day, 27 November 2015.
3. Spend more time with friends and family.
By spending less time lost in your screen(s). By the way, congratulations if you’ve read this far in the article without switching tabs to a news site, What’sApping a friend, or checking your email. You’ve certainly been more disciplined than I was writing it.
A growing number of books suggest practical steps to ensure that digital devices remain tools in our service and not the inverse. Try adopting a screen-free Sunday policy and discover how much calmer, more focused, even happier it makes you feel. If that sounds too drastic, try banishing your smartphone from your bedroom and dining table during January and enjoy how your sleep and your conversational skills improve.
For the design-inclined: Rediscover the rewards of putting pencil to paper by joining an Urban Sketchers on-location drawing workshop, organised in cities around the world.
Date for your diary: National Day of Unplugging, 6-7 March 2015.
4. Drink less
Just kidding. Go ahead and enjoy that whisky mac. It’ll ward off the January chill and stoke your courage.
Sarah Mineko Ichioka is an experienced leader, influencer and innovator whose diverse portfolio includes high-profile management, curatorial, and editorial work with some of the world’s most respected institutions of culture, policy and research. Her latest project explores new intentional communities in post-industrial American cities.