AJ Abbey

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Progress depends on nuance, not blame

“There’s never gonna be change unless we start banning things!”

That was the summary of a recent conversation I had with a friend on climate change. As far as my friend can see, the biggest barrier to progress is an overwhelming hoard of deniers and selfish capitalists. Given the desperation of the situation and the impending ‘tipping points’, we have no choice but to start twisting arms. The time for conversation is over, we need action.

I can sympathize with the feeling of desperation. The narrative on reversing climate change is mostly pessimistic and has been for a long time…


Your New Year’s resolutions don’t need to be trade-offs. Learn to pay attention and succeed where self-restraint fails.

Before you dive into that new exercise regime or throw out all of that booze or sugary food, step back and take another look at what lead to this. Why set these goals at all? Why resolve to change these habits? It’s easy to run with a simple, superficial understanding of what you’re ‘meant to do’ and it’s even easier to pursue what you feel instinctively will make you happier or better off.

Those two things are woven together — our culture and societal norms play a big part in determining our understanding of what’s acceptable, desirable, admirable, and so…


COVID-19 should be a wake-up call to embrace a preventative, holistic approach to health.

2020 will go down as a famously terrible year. As the virus spread, the prospect of healthcare workers having to choose who to save and who to let die was so intolerable that the sacrifice of lockdowns became the best of several bad options. Governments around the world had to resort to unprecedented social restrictions at a humongous cost to the global economy and the livelihoods of millions. If we couldn’t control the virus, we’d have to control the population. No more face-to-face business. No more gatherings. No more hugs.

When a person or institution is disconnected from the reality…


Zero-sum tactics won’t cure the root cause. Systemic change demands a new system of anti-rivalry.

It’s not hard to understand the emergence of an idea like ‘cultural appropriation’ in the context of a rivalrous system. It makes perfect sense.

We live in a system driven by scarcity — there’s only so much to go around and each of us has to do what we can to get our share. Rivalrous dynamics run the show in a reflection of Darwinian ‘survival of the fittest’ principles. Naturally, that produces winners and losers. As we’re seeing lately, it produces a few big winners and a whole lot of losers.

These are the dynamics that create conflict and the…


How I learned to stop aspiring to be happy and be happy now.

Badge of Honour

I’ve always been a dreamer. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have the ambition to emigrate — I wanted to escape the confines of my hometown and home country and forge a new life in the bright, optimistic, and adventure-filled American west. And from the first moments that I can recall considering what I wanted to do with my life, beyond the few days or weeks ahead, I knew that I wanted to sidestep the world of corporate nine-to-fives. …


How to choose resilience over fragility, and why it’s so important for happiness.

The idea that everyone has a right not to be offended has risen to prominence in recent years but does it serve our wellbeing? The knee-jerk reaction to this question may be to fight back, to perceive it as an excuse to let offensive behavior slide and betray victims. But in an attempt to rid the world of all possible offenses, we risk cultivating a damaging intolerance for difference. And despite our best intentions, rather than saving ourselves and each other from hardship, we open ourselves up to misery we need not endure.

We live in diverse societies where conflicting…


A friend of mine has been in poor health for a while and recently made the decision, with advice from medical professionals to lose some weight and improve their fitness. Their first goal was to shed some pounds and they came to me to explain their plan to do it. They decided to use a combination of an unproven, untested weight loss pill and eating only once every 3 days. I was naturally shocked by this and I strongly suggested they reconsider. I recommended a daily exercise regime instead, along with a healthy, reduced-calorie diet. In recommending a different approach…


In the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, we’re getting a real-time demonstration of the how division is fuelled at the expense of progress in contemporary western society. With huge numbers coming out in protest, the news cycle predominantly focusses on rioting and looting, the most explosive and controversial parts of the picture. Battles rage in the comments sections, where one liners and hashtags carry more weight than considered thought. Alienating ideologies flood the public conversation and retribution takes centre stage.

The environment of constant controversy and censoriousness appeals to our most basic instincts — our tendency to adopt…


Impasse

We all know the issue — climate change is one of humanity’s most pressing challenges. Unpredictable and dangerous shifts in weather patterns and rising sea levels are a growing threat to life, prosperity and peace around the globe. Prosperous nations like the US are responsible for outsized carbon footprints, both in total and per capita. China and India, the world’s manufacturing hubs, emit huge amounts of CO2 annually. We’re constantly hearing that we need drastic action to prevent the kind of unpredictable, widespread damage that rapid climate change will cause. …


At 3:30pm on July 14th 1938, a four-man team of Austrian and German climbers reached the summit of the Eiger after more than three days on the infamous, deadly and previously unclimbed north face. The ‘Mordwand’ (murder wall) had turned away or killed every climber before them but Anderl Heckmair, Ludwig Vörg, Heinrich Harrer and Fritz Kasparek negotiated notorious rockfall, avalanches and blizzards to pass the ultimate test. …

AJ Abbey

Focussed on philosophy, wellbeing and systems change. Join my backwards bi-weekly newsletter to contribute and share your ideas: https://ajabbey.com/subscribe

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