Tag Archives: thoughts

The 4 Day Week?

The standard work week in Britain is 38/40 hours long. In America, China and many other countries it’s even longer. We spend so much of our time in paid work because a) we need/want the money, b) our employer might not offer part-time or flexi-time roles and c) our economy is set up to maximise production. Production in the widest sense of the term, of course. We’re not just talking about factory work here – ‘production’ can mean production of the service you’re paid to deliver. Programming, counselling, cold-calling, whatever. You could also add d) because you love your job so much you don’t want to do anything else except sleep and commute. However, although it’s usual to feel at least some level of job satisfaction or even passion for your work, most fully employed people do find themselves rushing around, not having time for a social life or hobbies and being stressed and tired.

Stressed lady. Not my image.

Stressed lady. Not my image.

How would it be if we changed the normal work week, made it shorter?
The New Economics Foundation (nef) has published an article calling for a 21 hour week. That’s quite a jump. How about 30 hours?

There are so many reasons why a shorter work week would be beneficial to our economy, our society and the environment.

  • It would reduce unemployment. As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, reduced working hours would create more jobs as the available work would effectively be shared among more employees. As we know, unemployment causes a multitude of problems so reducing it would go a long way towards reducing public costs and allowing people to lead wealthier and more fulfilled lives.
  • If accompanied by appropriate policies, it could slow down economic growth. If you’ve never heard of post-growth economics then I appreciate this point won’t make much sense – if you’re interested please see the Post-Growth section of this blog or this summary of the concept. For those of you familiar with steady-state or post-growth economics, you’ll understand that optimization rather than maximisation of productivity  would keep profits at a healthy, steady level. On the larger scale, this would encourage economic balance and stability rather than the boom-and-bust scenario which is inevitable when chasing the impossible dream of indefinite growth.
  • It would make people happier. Quite simply, most people would like some time off! While still holding down a steady job, people would be able to spend more quality time with their kids, get their social life back on track, even engage in a fun hobby or two. Particularly driven individuals might choose to spend the extra time learning more about their field of expertise or even volunteering.
  • It would reduce costs to the NHS. Overworking is one of the top causes of stress, and the vast majority of illnesses are caused or exacerbated by stress. Working an 8 hour day plus another hour or two travelling to and from work leaves precious little time for making and eating a healthy home cooked meal, exercising, and getting enough sleep. These three things are vital for good health so making the time for them is logically going to lead to healthier people and take the strain off doctors, psychiatrists and hospitals.
  • It would be good for the environment. Apart from the effect on economic growth, a shorter work week would also allow people the time to engage in greener activities that overworked people can’t seem to find the time for. For example: walking or cycling to work, cooking from scratch, gardening, repairing things instead or buying replacements, playing with your kids instead of fobbing them off with extra toys, making handmade gifts… All these activities are common sense in a decarbonising world, but they require that definitely renewable and yet scarce resource: time.
  • It’s politically viable. So many people would love this policy; it could be a real vote winner. This is particularly advantageous because many things that’d be great for sustainability just aren’t that popular. Like getting people to stop driving cars and buying tonnes of consumer goods, for example. We don’t need a paradigm shift or an attitude adjustment or a revolution to agree to a 4 day week – this could be implemented now, and it would help lay the groundwork for the transition to a steady-state society. My second point on this list about slowing down economic growth could be left out if need be, as the other benefits are reason enough to consider this policy.

I think it’s important to note that nef concedes that a work-time reduction should be accompanied with other policies, namely raising the minimum wage and progressive taxation. It would be nonsensical to introduce a 4 day week without any other changes because although high earners would likely benefit hugely from the time off, workers on minimum or low wages would be pushed into poverty. The work-life balance is all about people engaging in enough paid work to earn a decent living, while leaving enough time for the most important things in life: family, friends and personal development. It is definitely not about stopping people meeting their needs through work. If we’re seriously considering a shorter, healthier, more sustainable work week, then we need to make sure the minimum wage is high enough for 30 (or however many) hours to equate to a decent living wage.

In that case, we could be taking a huge step towards sustainability and boosting wellbeing, public health and social cohesion all in one fell swoop.

Public Priorities

Treated day in and day out as the consumers we’ve become, we’re all used to deciding what kind of products and experiences we’d like.

That should be good practise for a little exercise I want you to do.
I think we should all – as citizens – think about the kind of society we’d like.

So, I’d like you to make a list of all the things that are most important to you. Maybe a decent living wage is your priority, or maybe you think honorable care of the elderly should be at the top of the agenda… Whatever it is, write it down. Make a list of aspects or characteristics of society that are most important to you, personally.

The UK government seems to prioritise economic growth above all social, humanitarian and environmental aims. But in a true democracy, the priorities of the government would mirror the priorities of the people. They’d be public priorities.

I think it’s important to think about what kind of world/country/society we actually desire, because so many people are really all too accepting of a status quo they hate. I’ve heard people come out with things like ”oh this country’s gone to shit, but there’s nothing we can do about it” or ”yeah, life’s a bitch – but that’s just the way things are’.
Um, no. I firmly believe we can create a society that works for the people and the rest of nature, and the first step is deciding what we’re working towards.

So, what’s most important to you?

Here are my ‘public priorities’, in no particular order.

  • High quality and free education
  • True democracy
  • Lots of good jobs and low unemployment
  • Low crime levels
  • Welfare state (incapacity benefits, childcare and eldercare)
  • Localised food system
  • Resilient local economies
  • Renewable energy system
  • Good public transport
  • Strict and scientifically informed environmental laws
  • Diversity and acceptance of difference
  • High involvement in politics and the Arts
  • High quality and free healthcare
  • Independent media
  • Strict animal welfare laws
  • High recycling rate

That sounds like a nice place to live, I could handle this!

Awwww. Not my image.

Awwww. Not my image.

Image harvested from postgrowth.org

We’ve had enough Growth

Lately, I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way our society will be able to become both sustainable and equitable, providing a good quality of life for ourselves while allowing other species to flourish, is if we abandon economic growth and consciously transition to a postgrowth society.

I realise that’s a tall order, but I have to stay optimistic that it’ll happen in my lifetime. Otherwise, I’m just not sure what hope we have. We can use increasingly expensive technofix solutions to mitigate environmental problems, and we can continue to throw money at social charities, but it’ll be like popping painkillers. It won’t heal the core problem.

There are many contenders for the true identity of the ‘core problem’.
Some say it’s the separation of  humanity from the rest of nature. Others get even deeper and say it’s the ideological separation of matter from spirit. Many say it’s human greed, but I’d suggest that greed is just a symptom of perceived scarcity. Some say it’s money, or at least the love of it. But money’s not the problem, although I used to think it was.

No, the core problem is economic growth.

Economic growth has been pretty good for all of human history up until now – so its easy to understand why so few people have cottoned onto the fact that it no longer benefits us, and is in fact is fiercely detrimental.
Economic growth is the increase in the production and consumption of goods and services.
For all of human history, there’s always been lots of space, lots of natural resources, and lots of hungry and deprived people who could do with more goods and services. The latter is still true today, but that’s another issue that we’ll come back to later.

But now the world is full. Full of us, all 7 billion of us, and full of our stuff. Our cities, our roads, our rubbish, our factories, our cars, our Barbies, our Ipads, our disposable razors, and all the rest. We’ve ‘gone forth and multiplied’ so successfully, and created so many goods and services, that we’re using up too much of the planet, and it’s struggling to cope, whilst other species die out every day. The life-support systems of our planet are under strain and the rivers, oceans and skies are being clogged up with toxins.

And while we’re doing all this – all in the name of economic growth – the economists’ holy grail is failing to deliver real social value. Since the 1950s, surveys on life satisfaction and wellbeing in the Western world have flatlined, while public trust in governments has nose dived. Crime, divorce, teenage pregnancy, addictions, anorexia and obesity are still high in America and Western Europe. Obscene poverty in Africa, South America and Asia continues, and the magical trickle-down effect that justifies Wall Street does pretty much nothing, because the interest function of money means wealth is given to the people who already have the most of it.

Economic growth, on the global scale, isn’t helping us anymore, in fact, it’s causing a lot of serious problems.

Who was it that said, ”growth for growth’s sake is the ideology of a cancer cell”?
Whoever it was, I like the phrase. It sums up the common sense wisdom that more is only better if you don’t have enough. Once you have enough, more will quickly become worse. I truly believe that’s the situation we’re in at the moment.

Luckily, there could be a solution, and that solution is the concept of postgrowth. That basically means an economic model where enough of everything is the goal, and the market and society at large works to keep things in balance, in a dynamic equilibrium. I’ve touched on this when I waxed lyrical about the book Enough is Enough and I’ve mentioned it lots in recent posts, but I want to delve deeper into this new and exciting concept. I’m currently reading a book called Supply Shock which could shed some more light on it.

For now, please look at the website of the Postgrowth Institute, a really cool think tank that commits itself to educating people about the concept and promoting it as a solution to the more-more-more-obsessed madness we call free market capitalism.

Image harvested from postgrowth.org

Image harvested from postgrowth.org

Apollo 17, so obviously not my image!

Planetary Education

I often find myself confused as to why on earth more people aren’t freaking out about the contemporary environmental crisis. I assumed it was because most people just don’t care, and I couldn’t get my head around that. Recently, I’ve been coming to the conclusion that actually, it’s more likely to be because most people don’t appear to actually know.

”Knowing” about environmental issues is a bit vague. Most people I’ve come across ”know” it’s good for the environment to recycle and turn off unused lights, and bad for the environment to drive. I haven’t met anyone that hasn’t heard of climate change, although I know a couple of people who think it ”might not be true” and very few who understand it to a GCSE science level.

But what I mean is having a decent grasp of environmental science. Environmental science is about how the world works. How the biosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere and atmosphere interact. It’s the bigger picture. All of human civilization and culture is just one part of the biosphere, and all our complicated systems (including the global economy) are within that.

Yet many people seem to be under the impression that human society is the world, and nature is something that happens out in the countryside, or on BBC documentaries narrated by David Attenborough, or in National Parks.

Part of this fundamental ignorance in terms of our place in the world, must surely be because environmental studies is not taught in school? In my school, we were taught biology, chemistry and physics. All fascinating disciplines that place a magnifying glass up to particular parts of science. The bigger picture was missing. It wasn’t until college that I had the opportunity to study environmental science, and I obviously could easily of chosen not to.

I think environmental studies should be taught in secondary schools, alongside the natural sciences and humanities.

This all came to the front of my mind recently from a university class I had.
At university, I study Environment and Media Studies, a dual course that means I go into environmental and geography classes, social science classes and media classes. Recently I had a media seminar around ”the media and the environment”. Unsurprisingly, me and my course-mates knew quite a lot more about the topic than my peers who study straight-up media degrees. What emerged was a really interesting and dynamic discussion.

On the topic of climate change, the class was divided into several responses that were a pretty good representation of wider society. One guy said he honestly didn’t care about climate change because it wouldn’t affect him. One person said we didn’t know enough to know what was going on. Two girls said they didn’t really know anything about it. A couple of people said they thought climate change was just a natural fluctuation, i.e. not human caused. A couple of people (as well as myself) knew quite a bit about it and thought it was a pressing problem.

We went on to discussing why environmental problems don’t get more media coverage. Many of my peers said they don’t get more coverage because people aren’t interested. And yet interestingly, the whole class was very involved in the discussion, with every single student wanting to give their opinion. That was somewhat unusual. Usually in this same class, a few people give their opinions while the majority stay silent or even play on their phones. Given that they’re not environmentally minded at all, and yet really wanted to be part of the debate, made me question the assumption that ”most people” don’t care. This questioning was taken further when one of the girls who said she didn’t know about climate change (a media student) spoke up and said she thought more education was needed  regarding environmental issues. She said she knew nothing about them at all, hadn’t been taught about them in school, and would care if she understood them.

The seminar made me conclude two things:

  • Students that study other subjects tend to lack even basic knowledge of environmental issues/processes
  • Some students desire more knowledge in the environmental field, but are unable to access it

I really think environmental science should be mandatory in school, as even this basic level of understanding would lay a healthy foundation for later life. Everyone should have some knowledge of the ecological processes that support human life.

Everyone should have some appreciation of the scientific complexity that is our planet Earth.

Apollo 17, so obviously not my image!

Apollo 17, so obviously not my image!

I wish this was my image, but it isn't.

On Journalism, Blogging and Aspirations

I wish this was my image, but it isn't.

I wish this was my image, but it isn’t.

Okay, now I’m going to sentence you to my musings, thoughts and half-baked plans.

As you may know already, I’m studying a degree in Environment and Media Studies. I’ve just finished my first year, and I can’t believe how fast it’s gone. This September I’ll need to organise my placement year, a 12 month optional paid work placement taken before the final year of my course. Lately I’ve been getting very tempted to pursue journalism.

I adore writing. Although it’s a highly competitive field to get into, I feel desperate to try.

Ideally I’d like to work for a green publication (no surprises there) but I realise there’s only a small number of those kind of jobs up for grabs, and they’re often voluntary or poorly paid. Nonetheless it’s something I really want to get into, so I’ve been taking some steps towards that goal.

I’ve applied for an editorial position with my university’s student newspaper, The Verse.
And I’ve sent off a short piece – about a new ethical supermarket coming soon to my city – to a local magazine called The Brighton Source.

I’m really excited about this, and I’m really hoping they’ll publish it. I’m already quite proud of myself because it’s the first time I’ve had the guts to approach a publication and just say ”hey, will you publish this?”.

Published articles are like gold dust for the aspiring writer, so I just hope I can get my foot in the door with these guys. I’ve had a couple of things printed before, when I was doing a voluntary internship with Inspired Times magazine last year, but this is the first time I’ve tried to go freelance..

This blog has actually been one of the main drivers in pushing my interest towards journalism. I absolutely love having this platform to express my ideas and communicate with people. It’s by far the best hobby I’ve ever had, so much so that I wish I could make a living out of blogging. It is possible to do that, if you have tonnes of readers (waaaay more than I do) and you sell advertising space. But the thing is, having adverts would, 90% of the time, run counter to Earth Baby’s ethics. I’m quite critical of consumerism, so it’d be pretty hypocritical to have ads on here.

My vague (and decidedly optimistic) idea is to pursue a career in green media, and keep Earth Baby as a personal voice. I love the way the Internet allows us to self-publish in this way. One of humanity’s better inventions, to be sure!

Also, Earth Baby got to 100 followers today! Thank you to all you lovely people!

Sorry if this was all a bit self-indulgent, I’ll get back to writing insightful posts about what’s going on in the world – I promise!

Not my image!

Population: The Elephant In The Room

Not my image!

Not my image!

“The elephant in the room” is a funny phrase because if there was an elephant in your room, you’d definitely talk about it. Pretty loudly, I’m willing to guess. If there were two elephants, there’s absolutely no chance the issue would be ignored.

And yet many people continue to ignore population growth and consumption growth.

Population growth hits the multiply button on every single environmental problem we face. The Earth simply cannot sustain 7 billion people at a Western level of consumption. We’ve all heard the statistic that if everyone lived like the average American we’d need five to six planets. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, we’ve only got one to work with!!

I’ve written lots on Earth Baby already about consumption, but even I’ve shied away from the population issue a bit.
Not really intentionally, but it’s more a case of thinking (rightly) that I don’t have a right to lecture about how many babies people should have. Of course I don’t. I’m a British 19 year old young woman who isn’t planning to have children for several years. I may care for the world as a whole perhaps more than many of my peers, and I try hard to educate myself about other cultures as well as environmental, political, economic and social issues…

But the fact remains that I’ve never been outside Europe. So how can I really know what’s going on in the rest of the world?
What do I know about women in India and Ethiopia struggling with poverty and motherhood?

Well, just slightly more than nothing thanks to this brilliant documentary called Mother: Caring for 7 Billion.
It’s free to stream, please take an hour of your life and watch it.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdEspxlq3bo&feature=youtu.be]

It raises lots of issues but it provides answers as well. according to this film, population growth is best dealt with by educating women, raising their status in societies, reducing poverty… All things that are good in their own rights as well. Safe and effective family planning coupled with a shift in attitudes.

I didn’t catch her name, but I found one young woman in the film particularly inspiring.
She lives in a village in Ethiopia with her large family, who are very poor. Her mother married her father at the age of twelve and had many children. This young woman started listening to a radio drama about family planning produced by the Population Media Centre and it had a profound effect on her. She encouraged her mother to use the pill as they couldn’t afford to eat more than one meal a day, let alone support any more children, but her father was dubious. She refused her arranged marriage, even though the man was rich. Her younger sister died of AIDS five months after having a baby daughter. After this tragedy, she became like  a second mother for her niece.  She works full time in a family planning centre and supports her family, while going to school on the weekends. When she comes home from work she helps with household chores and childcare, before doing her schoolwork late at night. All her brothers and sisters look up to her and her father has completely changed his attitude. He regrets arranging marriages for his other daughters and is very proud of her. She even gives advice to the other children in the village, who admire her strength and purpose.

What an extraordinarily strong and inspiring woman, to go through so much hardship and still create positive change. All my own “problems” are suddenly put into perspective!

I really can’t recommend this film enough, it’s realistic as well as incredibly touching.

We Societies & Cooperation

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6nuvqVui5c?feature=player_detailpage&w=640&h=360]

This little video (by Sustainable Man) got me thinking about cooperation vs. competition.

We’re often told that competition is they key to survival – in nature, and in human society. Think Charles Darwin. And that is true, up to a point. But it’s not the whole story. Nature would be complete chaos if cooperation wasn’t also woven into the fabric of everything. In fact, scrap that, I think none of the natural world we recognize today would exist without it. Chemical reactions in the early days when Earth was a baby changed the atmosphere to make it hospitable for life. Photosynthetic bacteria emitted oxygen way before plants were on the scene, and this in turn allowed other types of early life to breath.

The scientific theory of symbiogenesis – which is fairly well accepted among scientists – shows that symbiotic relationships (cooperation between species) may well of lead to the evolution of complex life. The theory goes that early microbes developed symbiotic relationships with other increasingly diversified microbes, basically dividing up the tasks of living between them. Over a long time they formed ever more integrated networks and eventually evolved a kind of casing to protect the symbiotic system and keep it contained. According to scientists, this was the origin of the cell.

Fast forward millions of years and this early example of labour division reminds me of a gradual process that happened with human societies. Before the industrial revolution in Western countries, most families grew their own food and produced their own clothes and tools. Today in the UK few people have the skills or indeed the inclination to do this, but it’s normal to have a skill or profession that isn’t common to everyone. The very idea of working at a job and being paid in money, which you can exchange with other workers for food or other goods is a system of specialization.

I think one of the major differences between us and other animals is that we cooperate on a larger scale. None of the historic achievements of the  human race would be possible if we didn’t work together.

People should remember this when they’re getting carried away making sure they have all the money and all the best stuff. It’s not like you can live in a vaccum or without the help of other people and other forms of life, so it doesn’t make sense to be selfish.

I think we can safely say that although competition does have a useful role, it is competition that really drives evolution and progress.

Symbiotic pollination

Symbiotic pollination. Not my image.

We are all connected.

An Ethical Question

Continuing on from my last post, The Consumption Engineer, I now have an ethical question in my mind.

On the one hand, I believe it is wrong to manipulate people in any way, and that we should always have freedom of choice.

But on the other hand… Maybe Public Relations (PR) can do for sustainability what it at first did for consumerism? Maybe there are lessons to be learned here about how to mobilize public opinion and create real change. Maybe all environmentalism needs to be adopted by the majority is a sexy make-over and some good PR? I’m really not joking. I think it could be done. Obviously one or two pretty posters wouldn’t cut it, but with a full-blown effort I think skilled PR could promote what one of my lecturers calls ‘The New Environmental Paradigm’.

But is this just as bad as what Edward Bernays did?

I personally don’t think so, but perhaps that’s just because environmentalism is my personal mindset. Of course I like it. But is this taking away people’s free choice?

Contrarily, should people have free choice to trash the planet? Isn’t that taking away the choice from future generations, not to mention all other species?

There are a lot of questions flying around my mind on this subject. If you have any thoughts on the matter please share below..

Actual Democracy Would Be Nice

Image

First of all I want to express that I’m incredibly grateful and lucky to live in a country which has a democracy, and also to live in a time period where women have the vote.

But wouldn’t it be super awesome and, you know, right, if we had even more than that?

If we had an actual democracy?

I heard somebody saying, the other week, that true democracy means the people get to vote on every law that’s to be passed. Not just on what ”lesser evil” party they prefer out of an increasingly similar three or two choices. In the UK it’s not mandatory to vote, and many people don’t. ukpollingreport.co.uk says “Turn-out for the last few elections has only been around 60%”. One  might deduce from this statistic that just under half the populace is contented with things the way they are and are happy to let everyone else take the reins. Anyone with their eyes and ears open will contest this however, saying it’s not that they’re contented it’s just that none of the options (parties) appeal to them. Or they think it won’t make a difference. Or they think the polls will be skewed. Whatever the reason, the average Jo has much to complain about in terms of the government, and little in the way of warm fuzzy feelings of trust.

And is it any wonder we don’t feel our vote has much power?

Prime Ministers and Presidents aren’t under any legal obligation to do anything they say they will during their election campaigns. How ridiculous is that? Plus the two or three main parties seem to get more similar all the time.  And then all governments appear to have an outrageous weakness for corporations’ checkbooks. It’s almost like they’re more interested in money and power than the needs of the people… Hmm…

And then there’s all this controversy over the silly zero-heavy salaries they take home while the rest of us are staggering about in the grips of a recession.

I can’t help thinking perhaps all this politician malarkey is a bit of a waste of money.

Before you write me off as a crazy anarchist, let me make it clear that I do actually still want a government. Just a radically different political system. I still want a local MP to represent my views and interests. I still want specialists like the Minister of Justice, Minister of Health etc. But I feel it would be fair if we all voted on every law and policy.

I know what people will say to this:

“People aren’t well informed enough to know what’s good for them!”

Mm. Okay. But is that really a surprising accident? Aren’t we in, the West, conditioned to be stupid and thoughtless? Isn’t our education system tunnel-visioned on passing exams and securing a mind-numbing but well-paid office job? And isn’t our media stuffed full of, I’m sorry, inane bull***t, celebrity gossip, trivial sports statistics, barbie-doll beauty and ”reality”?

If we had the right (actually I think it should be mandatory) to vote on everything, then it should be the responsibility of the media to provide well-rounded education on all of the issues covered. There should also be regular free-for-all talks by specialists and coffee-shop discussions in every town. There should be discussion shows on TV where experts and ‘ordinary’ people with different views hash it out. There should be a plethora of events, talks, public debates, news and blogs to harbor a vibrant public sphere. People should be presented with the resources they need to form an intelligent opinion.

What do you think?

6 Steps to a Green Economy

If the leaders of the most influential countries and the CEOs of the biggest corporations, plus other key players working for large NGOs came to me and said, ”So Tegan, what do you propose?”, this is what I’d say.

STEP 1. TAKE STOCK

The foundation of a green economy is truly efficient use of resources. For this to be possible, we need to know how much of everything we have. Ideally gather as much data as possible on the state of all four types of capital: natural capital, produced capital, human capital and financial capital. If this isn’t possible, then it should be the priority to gather data on just natural capital, which is already admittedly a mammoth task. For this information to be fully maximised it needs to be freely available for everyone. This means all data should be available in an online database open to all but only updated by qualified scientists. The database should disclose up-to-date statistics on all known reserves of minerals, ores and fossil fuels. Also the areas of temperate, coniferous and tropical forests should be provided, as well as professional estimates of freshwater mass, the biodiversity of all regions, habitat biodiversity, results on the composition of the atmosphere, estimates of the populations of species and their rate of growth or decline. Levels of pollutants should also be measured and recorded on this database, as should average temperature levels. The more detailed it is, the better because precision is key when planning efficient environmental management.

 

STEP 2. ASIGN VALUE.

Values are crucial because they lead the way for choices and actions. Here I am going to assume that we value human life and wellbeing. But that is not entirely sufficient. The key to survival on planet Earth may be competition, but the key to thrival is cooperation. If we are going to evolve and live in mutual cooperation or synergy with our fellow Earthlings then we must begin to assign all living things an inherent value. This means we acknowledge that other species have the right to life – as in, even if they aren’t obviously useful to us this doesn’t mean they can be exterminated. Systems ecology shows that all living things in fact are useful to us, but this ethical process must assign them value in their own right – even if this were not the case. For this process to be completed, large scale education in ecology and ecosystem services must be undertaken so that valuing the natural non-human world becomes second nature. Or first nature, if you think about it.

 

STEP 3. GIVE RIGHTS.

Now that we have assigned other species the right to life, it becomes obvious that all humans also deserve this right. Further, they also deserve a good level of well-being and life satisfaction. The declaration of human rights is a start, but actually implementing it is the next step. Developing and Undeveloped countries should be assisted by richer nations along the path of sustainable development. All people should be able to access food, clean water, and sanitation. They should also have a home and an appropriate education. They should have land and community rights that companies cannot override, however large they are. It has long been said that we have enough food for everybody, if only it was shared sensibly and not wasted. People should also have the right to forms of contraception. Rich and powerful companies, governments and other groups do actually have the power to solve world hunger and desperate poverty if they so choose. This step makes it imperative that they do so. We cannot have a green economy or hope to be a civilised race if we let this tragedy continue.

 

STEP 4. PRIORITISE.

What with providing basic human rights to everyone and protecting endangered species and sensitive ecosystems, you might think this will all be very costly and perhaps not very good for the economy. This step ensures that this doesn’t matter because the economy is about to be rebooted. It is ridiculous to prioritise anything above the entwined duo of humanity and our home planet. Combined, what could be more important than those two things? Yet currently ‘the economy’ holds that lofty position. I’m sorry if you’re emotionally attached to the status quo, but this cannot continue. In the sustainable future, the green economy is just one third of this trio:

 

GNP measures unhelpful but nonetheless economic things like pollution and prison convictions. Similarly, it doesn’t measure many important things like subjective well-being. In a sustainable future the most common way of measuring progress will be the Happy Planet Index. This Index assumes that the role of the economy is to turn natural resources into human well-being. It follows that whichever system produces the most well-being with the fewest resources is the most efficient.

 

So, the priority of money as the ultimate end will be phased out and the new priority of creating as much human well-being as possible while having the smallest ecological footprint possible will be the new thing. In the green economy, money will still exist but only as a means of exchange – a means to an end. It absolutely will not be more important than people and planet.

 

STEP 5. TAX POLLUTION.

We can’t expect this to just happen magically. The above note about using money as a means to an end is crucial here because money can be used by governments as a powerful tool to guide the economy into a green future. The first thing to do is to introduce heavy taxes on all forms of pollution. Oil slicks, landfilling, carbon emissions, water pollution and all other forms of pollution will incur high taxes. They will be high enough to cover the cost of clean-up plus an extra percentage on top. (This will go towards green subsidies, detailed below). The aim of this is obviously to make pollution financially expensive and unviable, so industrious businesses find creative ways to avoid polluting. If they don’t, they will lose considerable amounts of money and be forced to put their prices up – but this will disadvantage them in the market place. Failing to pay pollution taxes should be strongly punished, with a criminal conviction being placed on the CEO of the company. This will of course harbour the growth of clean-up enterprises which will cash in on this new policy, while filling a vital function.

 

STEP 6. SUBSIDISE.

Taxes alone won’t be enough to green the economy. It is also necessary to instantly withdraw subsidies from harmful enterprises like fossil fuel based energy companies and pesticide monopolies. In their place, this money plus the money incurred from pollution taxes (after clean-up is paid for) should go to subsidise the cornerstones of the green economy:

  • Renewable Energy
  • Recycling
  • Organic Agriculture

In addition to these, large subsidies should also go into electric (renewable powered) public transportation and education. A large proportion of government funding should also be extracted from military funding and used to fund large scale research into systems ecology, renewable energy and clean-technology.

 

Sound like a plan?

 

Funnily enough, I’ve just finished writing this and it now makes more sense to me that these steps be followed in the opposite order – from 6 to 1. What do you think?