Everyday stories of transformation

Knowing and caring about global problems won’t deliver solutions without changes in our own behaviour. Ólöf Söebech has been touring Europe, filming people who are adding more meaning and sustainability to their lives. Her first video instalment explores the story of Sandra Kinnaman Nordström. (Video, 5 mins).

Feeling Safe and Free with Others: Sandra Kinnaman Nordström

Let’s start with two assumptions: we know and we care. As individuals we are pretty well-informed about climate change, pollution, biodiversity, factory-farming, social injustice and inequality. Most of us also know that the way we consume and the decisions we make about our lives are important to the larger communities we live in. We know that we are not getting any happier in our current lifestyles, and we know that corporations are creating artificial needs and desires which are satisfied in ways that damage others. No one really wants their sneakers to be made by children in Cambodia or Bangladesh, or eat food laced with pesticides or live in an unfriendly and polluted city.

We know and we care, so what is going wrong? Why are we stuck in non-sustainable lifestyles? What kind of life would provide us with more meaning? And how are we going to get there? Over the past twelve months I have been talking with people across the cities of Europe about these questions and filming their responses. The stories they tell are not fear-driven propaganda, manuals on how we have to live or fairytales about retiring to the countryside to grow potatoes.

This is a series about ordinary people who are finding their own ways to lead sustainable and meaningful lives. Over the next few weeks on Transformation, I will be sharing some of these stories to show what is possible in the here and now, if we have the courage and creativity to reach for it. I think there are many reasons to be hopeful, and to trust that the dominant values of individualism, growth, and the desire to conquer nature have begun to shift towards sustainability, collaboration and a search for alternative economic and social systems. The people I talked with are finding solutions in and from their own communities, and they are coming together to build networks and share their experiences.

Take Sandra Kinnaman Nordström from Stockholm, who took over a vacant house to create a space to experiment with different ways of living that is open to anyone who wants to make a contribution. Or Yolanda in Portugal, who transformed a derelict school in a low-income neighbourhood of Porto into a community center, a hub for solidarity and sharing. Or Carolien Hoogland in Rotterdam, who is testing different ways of living without money and diversifying the way we look at value in the process.

Their stories are real, and there are many more, but there is no one, single path toward greater sustainability and meaning. There are as many as we are.

 


 

About the author

Ólöf Söebech was born in Reykjavik and now lives in Brussels. She studied human ecology, environmental studies and contemporary dance, and has worked in the fields of dance, education, research and activism. After conducting research in academia on sustainable consumption and production, Ólöf left her job to search for people who are defining their own creative ways to lead sustainable and meaningful lives, and launched a new website at www.everydaystories.be to share their stories.