I am on strike.

Since the start of 2020 I have lived on the basis of what is best described as the gift economy. I left my life in the city of Berlin and with it a stable job and fairly high living expenses. What I was looking for instead was a way to live a simple but good life. A life whose premises are best described with what eco-anthropologist Tim Ingold calls “The Sustainability of Everything”.

I longed to learn as much as possible about living sustainably and self-sufficiently in a small community. The goal was to gather knowledge on how to work the land without compromising biodiversity, and how to build places that can be a refuge for animals and plants alike. I wanted to learn how to make things from scratch and use all the resources that nature provides. And I wished to cut back as much as possible on spending money. This was also a necessity, given the very limited financial resources I had. Above all, I wanted to exchange and trade knowledge with a wider community of people.

Over the course of 2020 I documented the lessons and experiences of my climate strike on this blog. A lot has changed over the course of this year, and I cannot see myself returning to the old walk of life. So project “I went to the Woods” proceeds.

It is not an easier life in many senses, although I am privileged to even have had the choice to implement radical changes. But being much closer to the natural world has brought me both joy and and grief. The fjord in front of our house looks serene and beautiful and we had fun swimming all summer long. It was only a while ago that a fishermen told me the fjord was essentially an underwater waste land. Most fish and shellfish have disappeared over the years, and the water is polluted and overfertilised with agricultural waste. And this is only a local consequence of what is being done to forests and waters on a global scale. To be close to nature one starts bearing witness.

Bearing witness has traditionally been the realm of writers, poets and artists. In working with the emotional aspects that this activity entails, I try to be as honest and truthful as I can. I often think of grief as a wild creature, with its own rhythms and life cycles. And I ask: What can you teach me about living life as fully, as engaged and as compassionate as possible? Being on strike is my way of Bartleby saying “I would prefer not to”.

Picture: Raphael Gagliano