Part 1

(18th of May 2023)

I should currently be writing up my PhD (well, copy pasting ~5 papers into it and then fiddling around until it makes some sort of sense) but instead I thought I'd take a brief interlude to reflect on the superhuman strength it takes to do something that I've come to see as completely pointless. If you want to check out my progress over the next 4 months see here (no, I can't imagine why you would either).

My friend recently asked me why I was finishing my PhD and I honestly can't give a good answer. I've been telling myself that I'm finishing up because I decided to finish up, but that's not a reason at all and indeed it hasn't been very effective at breaking the long sessions of staring at the ceiling before I get out of bed. Quite honestly, the real reason is that I don't think I could deal with the crushing feeling of having not finished something I started. I've managed to deconstruct a lot of my attitudes and behaviours recently but my absolute terror of not being deemed "a good boy" is still going strong.

I don't think I mentioned why I think it's pointless. I don't think I can do that in the 5 minutes I allotted myself to write this, but I will say that pretty much everything seems pointless right now. I had toyed with the idea of writing a post simply titled "I'm too cynical and nihilistic for my own good" and that sums up my mood these days. Everything is useless, but some things give me the mental and physical energy to keep going, and trying to force the 30 - 40,000 something words I've written (not including code) over the last 4 years into something that may not make my assessors vomit at the very sight of it is not one of them. I'm marvelling at how much I managed to get done purely thanks to my anal retentiveness at wanting to write good code and scientific articles. I have very little of that in me anymore, which is probably a good thing because this write up would take a lot longer if so.

Anyway, to conclude, 5 days ago I was at Sysiphos in Berlin and it took me til 3 days to realise that it is he of the rolling the stone up the mountain fame later after my friend pointed it out. That thankless task sums up my mood very well right, and props to me for doing this. If anyone wants to send me a medal you can contact me through the email address at the bottom of this website. If you want to be fair you should probably take a page out of Camus' book and send one to every single poor sod on this dying Earth.

PS I really am fine, this is just my idea of light entertainment.

Part 2

(23rd of May 2023)

I think the attitude towards finishing my thesis that I exhibited above is not healthy or entirely truthful. I've therefore decided to compile a list of needs and desires that I'm satisfying by choosing to finish my PhD below:

The need for closure I would like to close this chapter of my life in a "nice" way, rather than just giving up. Related to this is the satisfaction I will get from having 4 years of work neatly packaged into ~200 pages, of presenting it at my public defence, writing the acknowledgements for the thesis and so on.

The desire to speak from authority As part of Scientist Rebellion, one of the things we do is essentially abuse our privilege by arguing from authority. With a PhD I would be able to do that more authoritatively. I'm actually not particularly happy with this as I wrote here on the Scientist Rebellion Belgium website, but it's one of those aspects of life that I grudgingly accept like showering so as to keep my friends (close).

The need for intellectual stimulation I don't necessarily need to finish my PhD for this. I actually enjoy writing in this blog or chatting to friends more. However, I plan to write an extended introduction chapter in my thesis making many of the assumptions that I have worked under explicit and I'm really quite excited about that. Plus that thesis is likely to make more of an impression than this blog though admittedly to fewer people. If I can radicalise a disillusioned PhD student or two however I would be very happy.

The need to let people know how I feel I plan to mostly talk about the chapter I just referred to in my public defence, because I want people to know (even if they don't understand) how I feel. Perhaps I'll also plant a seed of change in their minds, perhaps not. But I definitely won't if I don't try.

I may add to this later on, but this strikes me as mostly complete already.

Part 3

(1st of June 2023)

Stream of consciousness after presenting this to my research group.

I write what I write in this blog because this is what I would like to read. To have read 4, 8, 10 years ago. I would have liked to have known that someone else in the same social groups as me thought what I think, felt the way I do and felt these feelings the way I do.

I feel like many people think the way I do but few feel it in the same way. Maybe they don't allow themselves to. I don't want to assume too much on the part of others.

It's frustrating. It's frustrating that people don't embody their thoughts and emotions. It's frustrating that even if they did, I wouldn't know where to go after that. But at least we'd be in it together.

It's frustrating to worry whether I'm being too dramatic. I don't think I am, but the rest of the world silently shouts in disagreement at me.

I'm frustrated that I can't express myself as eloquently as I would like. In my mind I fantasize scenarios where I rant at length about everything that's buggered with this world with some vague apprehension of change that comes after that, but it's never clear what that is. I know it's not realistic, that at best I can only slowly chip away at (what I think are) the armours of denial people wear to stay sane and in this insane world. But still I'm frustrated.

I'm frustrated that I can never know enough. In those scenarios in my head, people don't reply back. In real life they do, and it takes just the slightest comment to send everything crashing down when I realise I assumed or understood something incorrectly. I guess I should be happy that I don't have the kind of oppressive self-confidence that made this shitty world in the first place.

I'm frustrated that I keep taking up space and don't let others express themselves, even when I deliberately try not to. I'm frustrated that in many ways I don't know how to give others that space, even when they're people nominally like me. I'm frustrated that instead, all I want to do is shout and scream.

(I'm frustrated that I have a pretty serious flatulence problem. I'm happy that I can't stay dramatic for too long. Seriously though, it's been almost 3 weeks now, every 10 minutes or so and they could kill a small animal. Like a vole, or one of the squirrels here in Helsinki.)

It's frustrating to be frustrated.

I don't know if I could ever be satisfied.

I don't think I help anyone. Not much at least.

That seems like a shit way to end this entry. Things will only get shittier though, so perhaps its apt?

Some words that I like, in no particular order. Rambunctious. Belligerent. Obfuscate. Perennial. Flabbergasted. Superfluous. Preen. Bollocks.

Part 4

(5th of June 2023)

I felt a lot better after writing the last entry.

I'm going to send Chapter 2 to my supervisors and some friends to get their opinion on it. I'm a bit disappointed with myself. I don't think I get my point across, I ramble, sometimes I reference exhaustively, other times I just pluck shit out of my arse, some of the things I thought were just wrong (e.g. PATHS2050 has a disclaimer, albeit incomplete in my opinion, about interpreting their annualised costs). I think part of the problem is not being able to write the way I think, which is inherently vague and contradictory. Mentally I work on impressions and I can't do that in my dissertation (I recently searched the difference between thesis and dissertation, it's boring).

I'm disappointed because I do hold myself in quite high regard sometimes, and this exercise has proven to me how little I know and how many assumptions I made to get to the impressions I have. I am not so smart as I thought essentially. My obsession with techno-economic models and how they're fucking useless is probably more of a reflection of how enamoured I was with them four years ago (I really did then IAMs were cool) and how I feel misled by them. Or possibly I am annoyed at past self? Because the thing is, the more I read the more I realise that they're not the centre of the universe, they've just been the centre of my universe for a while now. And in fact I would have "smarter" (whatever that means) if I had thought more intently about what they're purpose was and looked in more detail at how they were used. Another example: the European Commission uses PRIMES as just one of many models in their suite.

I think this is reminiscent of frustrations I have with activism as well. I want the solution to be easy, to be angry at something, but I can see the logic behind almost everything and can forgive a similar range of behaviours and actions. The fact that I'm not angry is perhaps because I know too much or because I'm not radical enough? Do I want to be angry? But nuance is so bloody tiring, and in the meantime the world burns and people suffer...

(Coming back to this after 30 minutes)

I think that I'm often frustrated or unhappy because I fail to live up to my desire to be "good", "right" or "smart". Which is silly, because this is inevitable. (I'm also thinking of capoeira right now). (Also I've just been told that I judge myself a lot, which is a violent form of relating to yourself). It also makes me think of Marshall Rosenberg's definition of "violent" praise, which is praise of what people think you are ("Wow, you are such a kind person!") which you will invariably fail to be all the time, versus "non-violent" praise of what you have done ("I like that you were kind to me that one time").

I was also thinking while outside of "Hand in hand tegen racisme"'s slogan: "Learn to Unlearn to Relearn". I think it was in relation to my feeling in between two or several 'worlds' (e.g. academic and activist) which have their own separate logics underpinning them. But I'm not sure.

My annoying friend (I promise she's real) suggested that I re-read everything I write and check where I judge myself. I guess so that I can then flagellate myself for judging myself? Not sure.

Part 5

(7th of June 2023)

As you may have noticed, I'm quite frustrated right now. Which is fine. However, I've been expressing it quite violently like some sort of millennial Holden Colfield. This is counterproductive and just keeps me in that frame of mind. I've been leafing through The Dawn of Everything and my main takeaway from the introduction is that if you let go of your prejudices (in this case of what human nature is and whether inequality is natural) the complexity of the world reveals itself in all its beauty. So this is me, letting go of my prejudices. Or trying to at least.

Part 6

(28th of June 2023)

I just listened to a 1 hour interview with Phoebe Plumber while cycling to Leuven today. Listening to her I feel so much pride for what she and activists around the world are doing. I also feel anguish that the situation is so dire that they have to do it and suffer enormous consequences for it, especially in the Global South where on average an environmental defender is killed every two days.

It's hard to hear that and then sit down at my desk and work on writing a thesis which I deem borderline useless. Phoebe felt wronged for not having been taught about climate change at school, which reminded me that I was, albeit very informally. It essentially consisted of my science teacher, Mr Blair, telling us about his wife attending seminars (or similar) on the subject and telling us that "if half the things they say are true the future is really, really scary." And then talking about how we shouldn't leave our TVs on standby (I guess it's a start?). That moment, listening to this podcast and countless other moments fill me with cognitive dissonance - what the actual fuck am I doing?

I just re-read the statements above of why I'm finishing my thesis. They still roughly make sense. I'm proud of Phoebe, but when rolling our boulders up the hill we all have our own paths.

Part 7

I watched "Cowspiracy" yesterday evening to motivate myself to go vegan / internalise what I know about animal agriculture and agribusiness i.e. that it's fucking awful. It's a bloody awful, American style film, but still it had some good spots. It was a bit less difficult to get on with my thesis this morning (though cleaning up LaTeX code still feels quite pointless, I wish my chapters could just be references to my papers).

I'm writing this because it made me think of the link between fossil fuels, fertilisers and world population. I found this page from Our World in Data which is the beginnings of some thoughts that I would like to formulate more clearly. Another time...

Part 8

7th of July

This is starting to become wholly unrelated ot my thesis, but whatever. I sent my parents this podcast about young people and climate anxiety and the response was quite dramatic, but in a good way. I honestly didn't think about it much, which I guess is why I'm a bit surprised? I'm so grateful for having the parents that I do and that I can have this conversation with them.

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