What I would do tomorrow if I was in charge

After the last post where I talked about how much it feels like what we’re doing now is leading us straight to extinction; I thought I would indulge myself and come up with a list of things I would do immediately if I was in charge of the country (and assuming every other country was led by someone with exactly the same ideals). In the process show any doubters that I am in fact positive about the future. Just one where we make massive changes; rather than one where we waste precious time tinkering around the edges of our disastrous current system.

Rather than write a lot about each policy idea, I just want to simply lay out the basics of my plan, and perhaps go into more detail in future. Especially on topics I haven’t previously covered.

  • End capitalism
  • Nationalise all essential industries, and shut down all businesses that don’t bring a clear benefit to society.
  • Bring in a universal income so work is optional and only for the benefit of society as a whole; not for individual gain.
  • Ban all new and begin rapid phaseout of existing fossil fuel infrastructure
  • Implement the MEER Reflection Framework, Marine Cloud Brightening, Ocean Pasture Restoration, and other Geoengineering / solar radiation management techniques.
  • Tax the rich 99% (everyone lives the same way)
  • Ban all unsustainable building materials
  • Ban private cars for everyone except for those who couldn’t live without one today (disabled etc). Begin rapid phaseout of diesel taxis and the small number of private cars that will remain in favour of EVs.
  • End deforestation and give back vast areas of grazing land to nature.
  • Ban all cryptocurrencies, mining, NFTs etc.
  • Ban pesticides
  • Ban meat production
  • Ban all new road, airport, port, and other developments intended to increase trade and GDP.
  • Ban all new single family homes, luxury apartments and mansions, and begin the process of converting existing large homes into many tiny apartments or buildings for other societal purposes.
  • Ban landlords
  • Begin rapid phaseout of fossil fuelled vans, trucks etc. Aim to replace most vans with cargo bikes. Demand for vans and trucks will drop due to massively reduced consumption levels.
  • Ban private jets, super-yachts and all other privately owned luxury transport.
  • Ban second homes
  • Severely restrict flying. Mandate that people may only take one return flight per year, regardless of wealth. Only holidays, visiting family, moving overseas permitted. Business travel by air banned.
  • Mandate that ground transport must be used for all trips where the destination can be reached within about 24-36 hours. Air travel only when absolutely essential.
  • Immediately invest massively in public transport, bicycle parking, and begin the phaseout of diesel buses, coaches, trains.
  • Immediately begin phasing out plastic and mandating the use of reusable containers and schemes to return them to shops for reuse.

I could probably go on endlessly listing more and more things, but I think this covers a lot of bases. Imagine a real politician coming in day one and doing all of this. It would be incredible compared to everything we’re used to. But we shouldn’t forget that what I’m talking about here isn’t some crazy nonsense. What politicians do right now is pure insanity. What I’m proposing is entirely logical and urgently necessary. The people talking about net zero 2050 are the crazy ones.

It feels like we’re heading for extinction

Cryptocurrencies, NFTs, the Metaverse, right wing authoritarian governments, unending talk about GDP growth, and a global population seemingly getting stupider and more unhinged by the day. Even if we can reverse course from here to create a better future; you can’t deny that what we’re seeing right now looks like the demise of the human race.

It seems like everywhere you look, you’ll struggle to find anyone speaking much common sense about Covid-19, about ending pollution, about making a fair society. It’s a massive shock when you do hear someone speaking logically. I feel like I must follow them on Twitter. There aren’t that many of us now so we have to band together. That’s perhaps overstating it a bit, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s how it goes considering the trajectory we’re on.

The thing I don’t understand is that not only are we not making a dent into the environmental and societal crises we have chosen to get ourselves into, but we’re actively going backwards in almost every respect. Things like NFTs are so bonkers that it’s hard to even comprehend. People pay huge amounts of money to “own” a picture or video of a real item, when those things are both widely available online for everyone. There’s no value whatsoever in these things, and it uses giant quantities of electricity to complete transactions. It makes absolutely no sense.

And then there’s the Metaverse. It’s basically a VR world where people can meet and have avatars, virtual homes and possessions etc. It’s like Cybertown meets Second Life, PlayStation Home and presumably countless other similar ideas, except with VR headsets and higher resolution virtual homes and furniture.

It feels like Mark Zuckerberg is reaching his ultimate form. People have always talked about how nefarious he might be or at the very least mocked his awkward nature. But now it really feels like he’s embracing it by going with the Meta brand and Metaverse concept; even if it’ll most likely be about as successful as 3D TV.

When I think about it, I just imagine the scene in the film Wall-E where the obese people on the space ship are sitting there in VR. Why would anyone want something like that? I can see some good uses for VR, but the particular desire to have a whole separate existence just seems unnecessary and dystopian. We need to stop this madness and just focus on what VR is actually good at. Allowing us to do and experience things that we can’t in real life, not trying to replace real life.

We have to focus as much as possible on our real world in order to want to save it. Video Games are one thing, which in moderation are great. The Metaverse is something totally different, that I have a hard time believing has anything beneficial to offer society. It’s the type of thing you create when you’re out of ideas for things that really help society. When Facebook started, you could make a pretty good case that it made a positive impact on society. Who can say that now? How many of us still use FB as it was originally intended? To keep up with friends and make communities around common interests? I do, but it mostly seems to be just a breeding ground for far-right views and misinformation. Even though I do use it for a couple of good reasons, I wouldn’t miss it if it was gone, and I doubt many others would either. And that just shows how badly it’s been developed over the years.

But it’s not just these particular dystopian trends. It’s everything in society that needs to change. We need to immediately stop all of this nonsense and reverse course before we set off all of the cascading feedback loops in the climate system.

I really don’t know how, but all these products and concepts have to end, and soon. We have to start thinking about what really matters to us. Is it the ridiculous gadgets and gimmicky services? The endless pursuit of economic growth when we all feel miserable? Or is it the wonder of nature, the simple pleasure of a bike ride, relaxing and enjoying the slow life? If we’re going to avoid extinction, it’s crucial that we stop this trend of doing the worst possible things at the worst possible time. We need to wake up fast and reassess everything we’re doing, because the vast majority of it is the opposite of what we should be doing.

Covid Restrictions haven’t worked. Only System Change can

Last year I wrote that Covid won’t end unless we act on the climate and end capitalism. That prediction has proven to be pretty accurate unfortunately. The problem we’ve seen more and more is that people get tired of the restrictions and measures. Maybe most people will take the vaccines, but many wont. You could get around that if people were all willing to keep wearing FFP2 masks, distancing, working remotely and so on. But in almost every society, we see that people eventually get frustrated and give up fighting the virus. And governments inevitably decide that economic growth is more important than lives and long covid misery. And this whole process is expedited when the restrictions are half-hearted and ineffective, which you see more in countries with the furthest right wing leaders.

Take Australia or Japan for example. They did such a good job for so long in keeping cases and deaths low, but eventually many of the good people who always followed the rules to look after everyone else as well as themselves got fed up and gave up. And the cases skyrocketed. Of course it’s going to happen when normality as we’ve known it is the target, and you slip back after making slow progress for months. Why would you keep going when the illusion of normality is within touching distance? Unless you obsessively follow the latest terrifying science as a tiny minority of people like me do, you wouldn’t.

When the virus of stupidity has taken control of the world, the majority of people are incapable of thinking “let’s go for one last push with tough restrictions so we can come out the other side of this pandemic”. Instead they think “fuck these restrictions, I want to live!”; even though a rational person would realise that’s a counterproductive strategy after thinking about it for any significant length of time.

So with that said, clearly we have to stop making the end goal to return to how things were in 2019. We’re effectively trying to make a fad diet work rather than making a permanent lifestyle change that we can maintain. It’s not just about ending capitalism and economic growth, but that’s certainly a great starting point. If we change the way society works to a degrowth style model, we can eliminate covid without any restrictions as we know them. We wouldn’t be trying to return to a previous time. We’d be moving forward with a better system for humans and all other life on Earth.

That just leaves the problem of trying to convince people that a degrowth economy is in their best interests, and that’s where selfishness and individualism come into play. The rich will presumably not want to give up their luxuries; but really, that’s our only choice now. We’re not going to return to how things were pre-pandemic by vaccines and restrictions. It’s going to either be continued chaos, new variants, endless boosters, and prioritising growth over lives or long covid misery for millions; or a new system that benefits all of us and gives us some chance of a future on this planet as an added bonus.

Degrowth may not be enough to stop human extinction. Certainly Prof. Guy McPherson doesn’t think so (barring the rapid deployment of the MEER mirror system for reflecting heat away from the planet). But it’s the only economic system which at least gives us some chance. Continuing with our current insanity as usual model is not an option. But regardless of what happens with the climate, I’d like to experience a covid-free, fair, friendly and logical society before the apocalypse comes, if it comes.

What are you NOT doing to fight the Climate Crisis?

Just do less

What are you doing to fight the climate crisis? That question drives me nuts. Are you driving an EV? Are you buying sustainably manufactured products? Are you powering your five bedroom detached house with renewable energy? These are the questions you hear all the time.

What you never hear is “what are you doing less of?” Are you switching from working full time to just a couple of days a week? Are you buying less clothes, less shoes, less tech, less stuff? The focus almost always seems to be on “sustainable consumption”, which is basically an oxymoron. Yes, we need to consume certain things to survive, but that’s not what people mean when they say that. It’s about continuing to over-consume things we don’t need, but in a slightly less bad way than before. That’s not going to do anything to stop our climate predicament getting out of control.

We’ve been hearing recently about 4 day work weeks and UBIs. I’m certainly in favour of both of these policies, but while they promise positive things for quality of life, mental health and reducing poverty; they don’t really do anything about our rampant over-consumption. A 4 day work week with the same pay as now would reduce emissions from commuting, but presumably it would lead to an increase in leisure consumption and long weekend travel.

As far as a UBI, I think that concept is something that would have been great if it was implemented decades ago. Now, it feels like far too little, too late. It’s not about providing people with a great, simple, high quality of life. It is intended to allow people to actually get by when they’re unemployed. It’s basically a decent level of unemployment benefit similar to what you can get in numerous countries now.

I think what we need now is more like a full universal income that can provide people with everything they need to live a healthy and sustainable life, rather than an unemployment safety net. And I think that should be the way everyone lives. The only people who will work in this scenario would be people who make a real positive difference to society, and they wouldn’t be doing it for money. We would all live in a broadly similar way, with different hobbies, interests, opinions and so on to differentiate us. We could get rid of currency entirely. I’ve talked about that before.

The general point I’m trying to make is that it’s the big things that we don’t talk about reducing or eliminating. To be fair, we do hear people talking about eating less meat and dairy or flying less, or even eliminating those things entirely (very rare when it comes to flying). But when do you ever hear people talk about how we need to have less kids to reduce the population, or live in the smallest homes we can? I don’t hear it. Sometimes you see people talk about the insane emissions of the richest 1%, and how we need to tax them 99%; and that’s true. But people never talk about how not only do they need to live like the rest of us; but that we all need to live much smaller and simpler lives than almost any of us do currently.

Many people get frustrated when activists like Greta, scientists like Paul Beckwith, or nobodies like me tell them how bad our situation is. They want to know what they can do. Well, here you go: just do less. While it’s true that certain elements of sustainability require you to do something differently, like ride a bike or use reusable containers, fundamentally it always comes back to living simpler, smaller, and more local lives. All of the things we need to do differently come naturally once you’ve made that decision to just do less.

It’s really that simple. The media, politicians and neoliberal economists want to make it sound so complicated, but the truth is that it couldn’t be simpler. Just do less.