Kamea Chayne is a Hakka-Taiwanese creative, writer, the author of Thrive, and the host of the Green Dreamer podcast. Known for her perceptive commentary and incisive questioning, she’s interviewed over 200 sustainability, social justice, and public health thought leaders.
She addresses the question of “What Could Possibly Go Right?” with thoughts including:
- That “we just have to constantly reiterate and hone and create synergies with other people who have diverse different views.”
- That “collectively we might be able to come up with new ideas that wouldn’t have happened if we were to think and ideate separately in silos.”
- That we are “increasingly waking up to the reality that infinite economic growth is fundamentally incompatible with supporting circularity and the regeneration of life”.
- That “when we orient growth towards the right things, whether that be relationships, intimacy, or complexity, that is what actually can bring us stability”.
- That there’s a growing awareness of the need to “realign our deep yearnings as people, as interconnected communities, as Earth”.
- Green Dreamer Podcast: greendreamer.com/podcast-1
- Book: Thrive by Kamea Chayne
Connect with Kamea Chayne
Hi, Vicki Robin here, host of What Could Possibly Go Right?, a project of the Post Carbon Institute, in which we interview cultural scouts, people who see far and serve the common good, asking them all our one impertinent question in these murky and changing times, confusing and disorienting. What do you see on the horizon that we can cooperate with? What could possibly go right? My guest today is Kamea Chayne. She’s a Hakka-Taiwanese creative writer, the author of Thrive, and the host of Green Dreamer, the podcast and multimedia journal illuminating our path towards ecological regeneration, intersectional sustainability, and true abundance and wellness for all. She is known for her perceptive commentary and incisive questioning and she has interviewed over 200 sustainability, social justice and public health thought leaders. I’ve really enjoyed and felt a kinship in my interview with Kamea as we are both podcasters on a quest to understand not just our question of what could possibly go right, but where is the collective direction? For health, or as we said towards the end, what is Earth yearning for through us? What kind of healing wholeness, abundance, fullness, fulfilment is Earth yearning for through us, through me, through her, through all of us? And how do we feel the intimations of Earth’s desire to be whole and healed in our own lives, in the middle of the entire muddle that we’re in the middle of. How do we feel that? Where do we head? So here’s Kamea.
Welcome, Kamea Chayne, to What Could Possibly Go Right? As you know, I seek out cultural scouts, people who see far and serve the common good, to help our listeners to see more clearly and act more courageously themselves in whatever ways they choose. We’re asking you to help us hunt for possibilities, for insight, for intimations of something more real and true coming out of all that we’re going through. It occurred to me that podcasters and interviewers, whatever the medium, are really great cultural scouts. Through your choice of guests or your questions, we tease out what is emerging in the culture. We shine a light on the path ahead. At least we try to do that. We may have our own opinions, we may have our own 10 point plans or books. But as interviewers, we represent our listeners in their hunt for clues and their desire to make a difference in the world.
So in my perspective and I believe yours, it’s like this great plough is coming through our way of life now. It’s anticipated, it’s necessary, but it’s still disturbing. It’s turning over assumptions, power relations. It’s revealing buried traumas. And the pandemic not only threatens health. It’s revealed a profound lack of consensus about what’s true. And the radical justice uprising, the undeniable climate destabilization, pushing ever more intense migration. It’s just revealing what’s been hidden and it’s required us all to dig deeper and learn more. I think I see this happening in you too. I think I’ve seen an evolution that you’re on a journey of self education yourself, becoming more radical and digging deeper into the roots of our intersecting issues. So with all that for your perch as a podcaster, your own learning journey, your personal capacity to see into the work of the moment, I’m asking you our one question. In all this seems to be going awry, what do you see emerging that we can work with? What do you see, Kamea, that could possibly go right?
Yeah, that’s such a big question. I think the first thing that comes to mind for me is this question of what does going right even mean? Does it mean that we have a plan that we hope to follow and so things are going according to our wishes? And then if that’s the case, what exactly is that plan? Who is setting this vision and agenda, etc. So I think there are a lot of multifaceted ways to approach this question. I’ve personally been called to explore our paths to collective healing, eco regeneration and true abundance and wellness for all. I want to mention that I’ve been recently very influenced by the work of Dr. Bayo Akomolafe and Tyson Yunkaporta and Alnoor Ladha who I just spoke with this morning, and I know you had interviewed him as well.
But just this invitation to reframe crises as cracks and openings to a different way of being, so that even as everything is kind of falling apart and we’re moving into this place where things clearly are not working. I think that, in of itself, is an invitation to bring us into this new way of being. And we might not know what exactly that’s going to look like. I think it’s important to have humility, to not be really rigid in our visions of what that could be. I think we can have different dreams and visions of how we want to feel and what we want to have when we arrive, but not to be super rigid in terms of how it’s going to happen. So yeah, I think just in the present moment, what I see is that people are recognizing that what we have right now isn’t working, and that realization that we are disoriented and that our crises are so deep, beyond the tangible beyond the systemic. I think this slow awakening and consciousness shift is the beginnings to us being able to create an alternate way of organizing ourselves and existing as Earth.
It’s interesting, when you say an alternate way of arranging ourselves. I think about that too, that we’re sort of working off of a cultural DNA, or social DNA, or an historical DNA that actually doesn’t fit our circumstance. We’re living in a story that doesn’t fit the circumstance of being living beings on a living Earth. And so we’re sort of looking for, what’s the next string, what’s the next DNA around which we will start to grow? Or the supersaturated solution when you were like, in second grade, and you put a string in it, and then all these crystals formed on the string. We’re in a solution, something’s dissolving, something is in solution, not solved, but in solution, and something else is forming. I know you’ve had a lot of guests who have different points of view, about what are the emerging patterns on which we could, like in architecture, we could build something that would be healthier. So can you talk about that a little bit?
Yeah, it’s interesting, because when you’ve interviewed so many people, you’re constantly hearing someone say something and someone’s saying something else that sort of pushes back against what this one person said that originally really resonated with me. But then I hear this other person bring up this other point that offers a different way of deconstructing whatever is mentioned. So I don’t even know if I’m capable of building up this architecture of what that might look like. Because for example, we think about finding patterns in our crises, but at the same time, I talk to someone like Dr. Tyson Yunkaporta and Dr. Bayo Akomolafe as well, who say that reality and earth are so complex, that they can’t be systemic and they can’t be framed.
So there might not be patterns that we could even look for, because it might be beyond our abilities to even conceptualize within our little human minds and the limited ways that we are capable of seeing and experiencing the world. So, it’s kind of like a question on top of a question. It doesn’t really answer what you said. But I think that’s kind of our role as interviewers, too, is whenever someone says something, it raises a new question, and it leads us into a different question. I think that’s also part of the process that we have to embrace, is that it might be not possible for us to have a clear vision of what it’s going to look like, but we just have to constantly reiterate and hone and create synergies with other people who have diverse different views that we speak with. And collectively we might be able to come up with new ideas that wouldn’t have happened if we were to think and ideate separately in silos.
It’s so interesting because I am a thinker. I really love thinking.
I resonate with that.
It’s sort of like watching marbles in an environment; you could massage the environment and the marbles move. It’s like watching a kaleidoscope. But even talking about visions and thinking and systems, I key off of something you said, we’re not going to know what’s going to happen, but we can anticipate how we might feel. I think there’s something in what Bayo says that we’re not going to be able to conceptualize, our minds are unequal to the complexity of life. But we can feel it. There’s something that we can feel; oh, this feels right, this feels off. So what are you feeling now as you watch the horizon. What sorts of feelings are coming to you?
I think that, like you said, it’s this different way of knowing that is often devalued in our current system that privileges rationality and logical thinking. It’s a deep part of us that can’t really be measured. It’s not really tangible. But it’s there. I think a lot of people have a deep yearning for a different way of being. I think that’s also something that ties a lot of people together, even if people just have a lot of divisiveness and disagreement, is that I truly believe that we share deeper yearnings for very similar things in life, be it intimate relationships, a sense of community and belonging, a sense of aliveness and vitality and well-being and life satisfaction and so forth. Then, when we come to this reality, based on our upbringing and the ways that our world is presented to us through our education and social circles, that deeper yearning gets contextualized in different ways, and we end up interpreting them differently in terms of what we need to do to feel this certain way.
So I think that this present time that we’re in, I feel like we’re disoriented, because something like the concept of growth, a lot of people are increasingly waking up to the reality that infinite economic growth is fundamentally incompatible with supporting circularity and the regeneration of life. What I’m thinking about is how we can pinpoint that to our innate desire for growth, because when we orient that towards the right things, growth is a beautiful thing. But this innate desire for growth has sort of been hijacked to serve the growth of the system that’s been disjointed from our collective well-being, which would be our extractive economic system that no longer is aligned with our sense of fulfilment, and collective well-being. What I’ve also been thinking about is how, given that there is finite matter on Earth, material growth is really an illusion, because all that’s possible is constant transformation. So we can either transform and trend towards simplicity, homogeneity and separation, which is seemingly the path that we’ve been taking, or we can transform and trend towards complexity, diversity, intimacy, connection, and wholeness, which is what we need, which is what I believe we need to reorient ourselves towards. So it’s not that things like growth, for example, are wrong. It’s just that we’ve sort of pinpointed that innate yearning on this thing that has been disassociated from who we really are, if that makes sense.
It does. I mean, I have like three decades of thinking about consumerism and the logic of consumerism as a strategy for well-being. It’s just like, more is better and it’s never enough. It’s a formula for disease, not ease. I’m just thinking a lot of it is based on… You said, we have a desire for growth. I thought, we don’t. I mean, yes, there’s a desire for growth, but there’s also a desire for stability. There’s a desire for freedom and there’s a desire for belonging. We have our competing desires, and everybody has them. Autonomy and belonging, for example. We just want to be ourselves and then we also want to belong to a group. We want to feel safe, and we want to have adventure. It just makes me think that even the question that we want to grow is, even that word of growth, maybe needs to be challenged, as in what does it feel to be in a mature ecological system, where things are regenerating, but they’re not necessarily growing? So it’s like, almost every desire we have, it’s not that it’s wrong. It’s just that it’s an opportunity to, Okay, what am I really wanting? And is there something I am sacrificing by focusing on growth? That’s part of what I tried to do with Your Money or Your Life, is there’s a trade off here. You don’t just get more and more, you actually get less. Less time, less space in your closet. Things are in a sort of a complex duality. There’s these complex dualities, and it’s in the complex dualities that we’re actually evolving.
And it also makes you think of, I’ll just throw this one in. I don’t know if you ever heard of Manfred Max-Neef. He was a Chilean economist and he developed a system of there’s like nine basic human needs. And then there’s a whole variety of ways to satisfy needs. And so, if I have a need for adventure, there’s many ways to satisfy that need for adventure. It doesn’t all have to be getting on a plane and going somewhere. So it lets you think about needs and strategies for meeting your needs. In a way, what we’re trying to do is this basic human desire, we’re trying to develop different strategies for fulfilling our desires. Sort of just swimming in the ocean versus having three beautiful bathing suits. How do you satisfy that desire for the experience of beach, ocean, sun, sky, warmth? So that’s just a variety of reflections on this question. You’re talking about we’re turning a corner and things are dissolving and nothing’s really quite clear. And where do we look inside ourselves, around ourselves, to develop enough clarity to take the next step?
Yeah, I first want to go back to this way of dialectical thinking that you brought up where it’s sort of like a yes and not like an either/or. So for example, we could want growth at the same time that we want stability. What I’m thinking of is that when we orient growth towards the right things, whether that be relationships, intimacy, or complexity, that is what actually can bring us stability. So if we think about the climate crisis and climate destabilization, that largely has been the result of orienting growth on the wrong things, which would be endless extraction, and a lot of this illusion of material growth, which is really just a rearrangement of a lot of elements of Earth in ways that disrupt the flow of what would be healthy for our Earth body. I’m really interested in exploring too how seemingly oppositional or seemingly binary things are actually true at the same time, and how they actually support one another rather than being oppositional to one another.
Totally. Complexity thinking.
Yeah. And going back to your question of where we go to look for answers. I think it’s everywhere and anywhere. It’s really important, as I mentioned earlier, to have this humility. First of all, I know that it’s not going to come out of the solutions industry, because I just posted this on Instagram, but based on this current system of profit maximization, creating a profit problem and then solving it is more profitable than preventing the problem to begin with. And then creating, having a problem and then solving it in a way that is sort of incrementalist, or just addresses the symptom without addressing the underlying root causes, which would create a new set of problems. Having this constant chain of problem creation and problem solving, that is constantly adding to the GDP and would in the end be a lot more profitable, but be a lot more self destructive. So what I am seeing is that the answers aren’t going to come out of the solutions industry, where the guiding star for a lot of the solutions coming out, is still the same rewards of this extractive system, which would be moneyed interests.
I’m really looking to the fringes, to voices that aren’t really privileged, to voices that are usually left out of mainstream media and mainstream conversations. I’m looking for people that recognize that they don’t have the answers, but they have very interesting ways of understanding how our current system isn’t working, but still with the same recognition that they don’t know, what it’s going to end up looking like. It’s like Dr. Bayo’s fugitive thought; not being boxed into a specific category or identity or way of being, but just noticing, what is this system asking of us? And how do we run away from what it’s asking us to be? So those little ways of noticing what this extractive system is trying to get us to do, and then trying to find little ways to escape that. I particularly resonate with Bayo’s train of thought in this area, in terms of what are the answers? Well, maybe we don’t have the answers and we have to go to the fringes and move away from all of our current ways of knowing and trying to make sense of the world in order to get closer to the answers that we need.
Hmm. Have you talked with or read Vanessa Andreotti?
I have listened to some of her work.
Yeah, because she’s on a similar track, like composting, disassembly, undoing. I mean, a lot of the work is undoing our certainties, undoing our chains of assumptions. So in a way, I’m also hearing that there’s a big piece of inner work on this. There’s a big piece. The theory is, we’re going to solve something on the outer so that we don’t kill ourselves and the rest of life. But a lot of the work turns out to be questioning our own assumptions and unpacking a lot of the mindset, a lot of what’s in our minds, that drives this. And it’s not just a personal journey, it’s sort of like as we do this undoing, we share it with others, like you through your podcast, so that it’s almost like your podcast is an undoing, not a doing. That’s the work of the moment is undoing, in a way.
What comes to mind for me as you share this is, of course, many people are talking about biodiversity loss as an undoing of the creation of life over the past 1000s or 100,000s of years. And more and more people today are talking about this idea of bio cultural diversity, which is a term coined by Dr. Luisa Mafi of Terralingua. But it speaks to how it’s not just about biological diversity that is being lost. It’s also cultural diversity and language diversity. It’s important to see them as one rather than to separate the ecology from the culture or society from nature, and so forth.
In addition to that, something that is internal that I think has also been lost is our conceptualizations of currencies, and we’re trending towards a simplification of currencies as well. I’m still clarifying and reiterating my thoughts on this so that I can better articulate what I’m trying to say. But this idea that money initially was used nearly as a representation of value to facilitate trade when a simple exchange of items can’t be made. But now it’s become the end goal and in pursuit of this end goal, we’ve devalued a lot of other things that can’t really properly be reduced into economic value, whether it is biodiversity or intimacy or relationships, complexity, fulfilment, a deeper sense of meaning, a lightness or spirituality. So this current system that we’ve set up only recognizes the growth of the simplified monetary value, but pretty much not anything else. So in this pursuit of this one currency, we’re losing the valuation of all of the other diverse currencies of life, that cannot be properly encapsulated in this monetary value.
Even people are talking more about cryptocurrency these days as a way to rebel against big money and big finance. I’m not a crypto expert or anything, but what I do understand about it is that it only holds value when everybody using the currency believes that it holds value. It’s the same with other forms of money as well. It’s people believing that this thing holds value is what creates the value itself. It’s interesting, because to me, the real forms of value that don’t require anyone to really believe in, our ecological, spiritual and social wealth, that will always hold value to us, whether other people believe in what it’s worth for me or not, because all of this is rooted in relationality as well. We don’t need an empty faith in these forms of diverse wealth for them to have value and play a huge role in supporting our collective well-being. But it is troubling when the systems that we’ve created really only recognize and privilege this representational form of currency, where it’s kind of become the end goal at the cost of simplifying and reducing other forms of wealth. I don’t know what it would look like to reorient us towards the diversification of what we value. But I do feel like part of that has to come from our personal consciousness shifts. So, wanted to add that piece of there.
Absolutely. You’re sort of tending into the narrative that’s in my first book, Your Money or Your Life, which is money is life energy. Money is not power, privilege, prestige. It’s not even a house, that is not a place to live, nothing. It’s just whatever you trade your life for, you give it value. And the trade is actually worse than you think, because you’re sacrificing belonging, relationships, time, leisure, time for spiritual growth, time in nature. You’re sacrificing a huge amount of your life for this one thing called money and the whole drive of society is to get you to focus on that one thing that we all agree on. It’s sort of like money has become the lingua franca of the world, the only thing that makes sense to everybody now. And it’s really an export from Western society, and it feeds individualism. It’s really about when you talk about simplification. Another form of simplification is the simplification of like, I am a lone individual, scared and frightened, and that I must protect myself, and the more layers of protection I can get and the more people I can make do my will. Really, you get right down to it, it’s a fear based system; like I am alone, I am vulnerable, I am out of control, and I have to do something immediately to deal with that fear.
So you’re really right down in some of the root issues, which in a way, we can’t solve by challenging the story because as we challenge the story, we actually increase the fear. It’s like, Wait a second, you can’t take that story away from me, because that story is the only little paddle I have for this sort of wildly gyrating canoe. It really feels as I listened to you, like what we’re on collectively is this inner/outer journey. It’s like protecting what we love in this world, whether it’s our small communities that are getting commercialized, or whether it’s natural systems or community; protecting the outer instantly has you examining your assumptions. So, in a way, it’s almost like the dominant system, the one thing you’re not supposed to look at, is the core assumptions about scarcity control. You’re not supposed to unhook from that. And even like earballs on your podcast – if there’s such a thing as earballs as there’s eyeballs – everything’s quantified and evaluated by numbers. It’s very hard to get out of that. So what you’re doing, through your podcasts and through your interviews, you’re standing right at that verge, right at that edge of the zone of inner transformation and outer regeneration.
It’s a challenge to be in this in between space because I feel that the dominant culture and society clearly want you to operate out of this one way of being, that is productivity that is centered on what the economic system wants. For me, I’m sort of putting everything under the umbrella of maximalism as an undoing of reductionism, where in terms of productivity, it’s not that we don’t want productivity; it’s that I would want to be fruitful, for example, in my relationships and the things that matter to me that I want to enrich in all of the different currencies, diverse currencies of life that I recognize has value to my life. It’s a reorientation.
So for me, this idea of maximalism isn’t a lifestyle, like minimalism. It’s not an ultimate goal to work towards. It’s not a practice. It’s this reorientation towards all that can enhance life, intimacy, diversity, complexity, fulfilment, and all the beautiful parts of what it means to be alive. With this sort of mindset, a lot of things that I’m also questioning are, for example, even a lot of the counterculture movements still take on the same reductionistic lens. For example, I mentioned minimalism earlier. When people talk about minimalism, what they’re centering is material items, that is what people generally want to reduce. In my mind, I’m like, well, reducing what you don’t necessarily value doesn’t necessarily lead to fulfilment of the things that you want most.
So why don’t we reorient ourselves towards what we want, which will naturally fill out the space and create less need to over consume and to fill our voids with things that don’t really add up to be really meaningful for us. So instead of minimalism, what if we orient ourselves towards the maximisation of all that matter to us? Even things like slow living and slowness? I’m interested in reframing that into something like intimacy and intimate living, where, yes, we are slowing down physically. But that slowness is sort of measured through the dominant society’s measurement of how productive you are, how fast you’re doing things, so slowing down to them in their eyes and through their values, it’s slow, but in my personal lens, it’s a way to allow me to be more intimate in a specific moment. So when I’m physically slower, I can be more intimate with noticing how I’m feeling, noticing my intuition, leaning into my relationship with my loved ones and my dogs and noticing my vegetables and how they’re doing. Slowing down allows me to build intimacy and my goal isn’t to slow down, my goal is to enrich all parts of who I am, even if that comes from doing nothing. It’s still something that allows me to heal and to reach a point where I feel more fulfilled, and I have these more intimate relationships with all the beings around me.
And the last one is this idea of degrowth. Degrowth economics is increasingly proposed as a solution that is counter to this endless economic growth system. In my mind, again, through the maximalist lens, I’m like degrowth still centers growth on the economy, but how about we orient that towards something like regrowth? Regrowth of all the things that matter to us that we really want to maximize? So those are some of the things that are running through my mind. How do we go beyond the tangible to unwiring the ways that we’re thinking, the values that we’ve been centering, and to really reorient that, towards everything that can enhance life in ways that matter to us.
That was beautifully said. And then additionally, the task is to do that in concert with others who are also discovering true worth, true values, true happiness, true meaning and learning how to together create – manifest not create, because create is sort of like acting upon, like God created the world. But to evoke out of that relational field. I think it’s true that we can only intimate that, at this point of the unravelling of the stabilities, that we’re part of Western civilization. Things are unravelling, we can only guess at what it’s going to feel like, what it’s going to look like, when the structures that have been driving us in the wrong direction, even though we don’t want to do it that way, somehow or another, we get stuck again and again in that path. I think it’s hard to be in the space of, not only of uncertainty, but of allowing uncertainty to persist. Uncertainty isn’t our problem. It’s sort of this interesting phase that we’re in, that may last for generations we may not see. That’s part of what this quest is for, what intimations do you see of that more wholesome world that through your observations through your guests. If you have any final reflections? I think what you said was probably a final reflection, I shouldn’t have said anything. It was good. But do you have anything else you want to say about your intimations in this moment of what is growing amongst us, through us, that is a little indicator of something that represents something going right?
I think you summed everything up so beautifully. I guess just this. I think it is very important, even though something like a consciousness shift can’t be measured or necessarily seen, I think that is just really important, because our consciousness influences our worldviews, and therefore our politics and therefore our ideal visions for what we’re working towards. So I think, even though it’s something that we can’t really see, I do feel it happening; this recognition that, definitely the feeling that what we have right now isn’t working, and more and more people are feeling that at a very deep level. So I think this growing awareness as the first step, that we might not know where we need to move towards, but we know we need to move away from what this is right now. I think this growing awareness of how it is important, for example, to sit with hopelessness as Bayo would say. I think that is what gives me some affirmation that there is room being created or the conditions are being set to allow for this new way of being and organizing ourselves to take hold. It’s really a recognition that we are disoriented and trying to find our ways to realign our deep yearnings as people, as interconnected communities, as Earth; how we realign our yearnings with the ways that we end up organizing ourselves and just being as Earth.
I love what you said, that Earth is yearning through us for a more wholesome way to be. Earth is yearning through us for health and wellness, wholeness, relationship, intimacy. Earth is yearning through us. And so it’s what you also say, is that we may not be able to think our way into anything other than another paper bag, but we will feel. Earth is feeling through us, the directions that are more wholesome. It’s a really important aspect, that isn’t on some big book with the 10 point plan. I appreciate you and your quest, and your courage to make your quest public, so that we can all learn through you. Thank you for being on this inquiry.
Thank you. Yeah, it’s been an honor to be here and thanks for having me.
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