A lot of people seem to think that we’re hopelessly mired in our current less-than-optimal state as far as social justice and environmentalism is concerned. Simply, there are no good solutions, because society is just built in a certain way that precludes things getting better.
I don’t think this is true, however. I think there are some things which, as solutions, are pretty much no-brainers. You don’t need to be a genius to work them out. All that is lacking, all that has ever been lacking, is political will.
Here are three concrete political goals which I think are achievable with the right activism:
1. Meeting the world’s energy needs entirely from solar farms. See this page for a visualisation. It’s an achievable goal; as the linked page says, the world’s golf courses combined currently cover about 10% of the surface area we would need. Setting up a load of focusing mirrors isn’t all that hard compared to making an immaculately tailored and maintained golf course, even. Plus, the mirrors provide shade and cool the ground which would allow some more flaura and fauna to appear in previously desert land. It would actually have a positive environmental impact even asides from replacing fossil fuels as an energy source.
2. Creating a basic minimum income. This is the politically understandable version of “take from the rich and give to the poor”. It’s only because of the propaganda of the rich that this idea doesn’t register as a “well, duh” solution for most people. There are different minimum income systems proposed, but they all involve some kind of negative tax – e.g. free money from the government – allowing everyone to have a dignified life, whether they have work or not.
This was done as an experiment in a town in Canada. As a result, no one worked less, except for a few people who would have really benefited from working less such as new parents. People want to do productive things with their time, and don’t need the threat of poverty to motivate them.
A minimum income allows poor people to have things that are considered human rights such as guaranteed food, shelter, and healthcare. So you could argue that a minimum income or something like it is a human right. It would solve pretty much every problem related to extreme poverty including most crime and much illness. It also gives workers much more power to negotiate wages seeing as they are not majorly threatened by the idea of losing a job. It would remove the need for minimum wages, the current welfare systems of our respective countries, pensions, and so on. It would likely save as much money as it cost: consider how giving homeless people free homes resulted in a net monetary gain in Utah.
3. Removing subsidies for animal products and the soya/grain fed to those animals. People are becoming more aware nowadays that meat and animal products are damaging people, environment and the animals themselves. The UN issued a report telling us that a significant proportion of climate change comes from farmed animals.
I know it is hard to convince people not to eat meat, but I think it’s only reasonable that we stop paying them to eat meat. Though exact figures are hard to come across, it seems that meat would cost about 10 times more without subsidies. Meat costing ten times more might sound scary to some, but imagine the flip side; the equivalent amount of tax money could be returned to you. Doesn’t it make you indignant that the government is effectively deciding for you how you’re spending your food money?
Now, is it so hard to fathom having the political will to do these things? Well, pressure from the people works, especially in our democratic societies. (Democracy is a strange thing and often given unrealistic expectations to uphold, but at the very least it gives us effective avenues through which to pressure our politicians).
I wonder if this sounds trite, but I think we spend too much energy campaigning against things and too little energy campaigning for things. Or simply, we never have a clear goal with what we’re campaigning for in the first place.
If the Occupy movement campaigned with such intensity as it did for a minimum income, I think it’s far more likely that it could have achieved something. By being more against than for, I think it mostly just attracted resistance. Also, without a clear goal in sight, I think morale is greatly impacted. More people would be attracted to the cause and people would have stayed for longer if they knew they had some chance of achieving what they actually wanted rather than just, uh, venting.
I think the climate change movement could strengthen its case by focusing on the concrete goal of desert solar farms, as well. It’s easily visualisable and has few real downsides apart from needing political will. Just saying “we need political action on climate change!” is good, but politicians might just respond to that by making token gestures and nothing more.
If the vegan political movement focused on getting people their subsidy money back, then I think it would make a lot more headway. Protesting animal circuses or attempting to disrupt animal food factories for a time seem to be relatively less effective ways, and focus on fighting against rather than for.