The good news is – everything is getting worse!

Yes, everything everywhere is getting worse and that realisation makes me feel so much better.

I grew up in a world which thought it had learnt from the receding threat of nuclear war, which thought it had learnt how to abolish poverty and deal with disease, a world in other words which believed things would go on improving for most of us. The mantra was (and still is in some circles) “economic growth”. As our material wealth increased, as information technology made everything so much easier, as we learnt so much more about how everything from our brains to the cosmos worked, so we would ride the wave of progress to ever more comfortable lives.

A few early mornings ago under a clear sky I walked down to the river and beyond looking for hares. I didn’t see any. All I saw were fields bitten to the bone by thousands of sheep. One of the farmers has recently cut down hundreds of trees, (why not?) All I could see what was missing: the birds, the insects, the animals, the fish in the river. All I could hear was the silent spring.

Then I began to notice something else: this place is beautiful (see above). There are wild-flowers in those hedgerows, the tree stumps are sprouting again. When I got back to the village I saw the swifts, and amazingly there were if anything more of them than last year. (I have yet to take the definitive swift picture)

I spent an hour in my hide by the river. The absence of life is no longer depressing. The grey wagtail is nesting in the ivy, a tiny flower stands out against the water, and suddenly, there in front of me is this beautiful creature – a female goosander fishing in the rapids.

Of course there is a war in Europe – Ukraine is massively resource-rich, and humans are greedy. Of course there are floods of refugees from there and from Africa, Asia, the middle East; in a few years there will be far more.

Of course our wildlife is in free-fall; how could it not be? Of course our lives and culture are dominated by American corporations: they control the internet. It’s only to be expected that the languages and culture of small nations like Wales will be overwhelmed by English language culture. Naturally our politicians are floundering. If they came up with real policies that might make a difference – such as reducing our standard of living – who would vote for them?

Perhaps you have no anxiety problems? Your career is going well, you can easily afford the rising prices, you have a loving family, and you have managed to ignore the signs of impending global catastrophe? If so I suspect you are in a minority. Most of us are anxious, some of us are driven to drugs and therapy to try to make things better. I am one of those, and so far the most promising idea I’ve come up with is this:

If  you can accept that everything, everywhere is getting worse, then you are free to enjoy anything that seems to be getting better.

This is how it works for me:

I am old so of course my memory is declining. It will get worse. My back aches, it’s hard to get out of bed and get moving. I will become less mobile. If I can convince myself that this slow deterioration is not my fault, that it is in some way shared by everybody, then I am free to rejoice in the fact that I can still walk. I can still drive. I may be deaf as a post but my eyesight is excellent. I no longer have to feel driven to try to reverse the tide: to run again, to remember why I went into the next room, to bring back the birds.





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