A Bit of a Rant, Some Free Money-Making World-Changing Ideas, and How I Think Our Economy Needs to Fundamentally Change
We fought the Nazis, and Communists and the cold war. Lately, we fight the war on terror and the war on drugs. We, as a people, like to fight against things, it seems. I wonder if ever since we didn’t have to work all day just to find or grow food to eat, and life got a lot easier, we felt a little guilty for having it so good. So, we started looking for ways to make life harder, for things to fight against.
As a people, we have such huge potential. We are not happy to sit on our laurels — not for more than a well-deserved vacation or two a year. So we keep ourselves busy, and for many middle-class, first world people, this is by attempting to maintain a larger-than-life lifestyle — huge houses, several vehicles, jobs jobs jobs to make money money money to pay for bills bills bills. Oh, and toys. And entertainment. But we spin our tires a lot and don’t really accomplish much or get very many useful things done.
And by “useful,” I mean we don’t grow food. We don’t purify water. We don’t create clean electricity. We just eat food, drink water and use energy of all sorts, so we can work work work, money money money, bills bills bills.
But this should not be surprising, because like the adage says, “money makes the world go round.” (This isn’t true, by the way. The world goes around because the whole solar system was spinning when it was formed… but I digress.) We live in a capitalist society, so it’s up to companies to hire people to do things — make things, move things — and make a profit doing it, so that the economy is strong and people are able to do what they want and have happy, prosperous lives.
Sure, you bet. It works, sorta. In the background is the struggle against various things, because we like a challenge and we definitely don’t think everything can be easy or good all the time. Quite a few of those companies make products and support the various “wars” and make quite a bit of money from them, which is great because it keeps the economy going strong. Always, we have to keep that economy moving, because if we stop working on it for a moment, it could collapse again, immediately.
Except that there are more and more people all the time, and they need food to eat, water to drink, and clothes to wear, so it makes me think that actually, the economy is not in danger of collapse, as some would say, but it might have to do a bit of a metamorphosis.
Metamorphosis, for those who can’t quite recall high school biology, is the process whereby a caterpillar spins itself a cocoon and emerges later to become a butterfly. It’s got to be terribly awkward and tricky for the caterpillar, but once it’s in, a natural process kicks in and converts chubby worminess into a slender body with wings. I think that’s what our economy needs — to go into a cocoon for a while and emerge with a new purpose, a new form, and wings — an altogether new mode of operation.
And I don’t think I’m crazy. I wonder what would happen if we could convert our paradigm from one of consuming resources, to one of protecting them. We may never get over our human nature and the desire to have a struggle, and we may also never decide or find a way to leave capitalism behind. But we have such incredible potential — such capacity to accomplish things! Have you seen any of the “Biggest” series on Discovery Channel? Biggest equipment, biggest ships, biggest mining equipment, biggest buildings, bridges and towers. We make islands, launch satellites into orbit, and have built a space station that people live on 24/7/365… We do some truly epic stuff!
– So why couldn’t a monster petroleum company partner up with a monster ship builder to create a boat — almost a floating island — that scoops up all that waste plastic in the ocean and, on the spot, converts it into useful products: vinyl siding for houses, plastic roof panels, durable reusable storage bins, etc. (That idea is free, by the way, so please run with it.)
– Why couldn’t a biotech company come up with a way of removing the microplastic from the ocean.
– We could use some epic engineering to create massive air filters to remove aerosols and dusts that are making air quality worse.
– We could have compost facilities alongside every dump in the country. They would reduce landfill size, methane production, and create wonderful, healthy soil. Even biosolids (from waste processing facilities) can be composted.
– Some of the really big power companies are welcome to run with my idea of a run-of-the-river hydroelectricity generator that uses turbines mounted on the river bottom. The current turns them, and they would be undamaged by ice or debris year round. This would work especially well on large rivers (Peace River, Mackenzie River). No need to build dams that cause so much damage to the landscape.
– Would it be completely crazy to say that the health industry might benefit from studying more intensely what makes people healthy, rather than all the many ways people can be sick?
– Why not make health care available to all people who need it, and let the ones who are terminally ill go? It’s in our nature to hang on to life so tightly! But I think we can all agree that extending life when it is full of pain is not what anybody wants.
The interesting thing about this metamorphosis is that we don’t have to give up money, or plastic, or progress. We just need to realize that money doesn’t make the world go round, because in our current mode of operation, it’s making the world go bad. Life makes the world go round, and we have been using and abusing life a little too much. We could harness our intelligence, our technical savvy, our problem-solving abilities and even our capitalism, to clean up the planet, to grow real, healthy food, to make our world a healthy place to live.
It used to be perfectly acceptable to throw trash out your station wagon windows; now, we know better and don’t do it. People used to dump raw sewage into rivers; now, we would never dream of doing that. It used to be acceptable to buy things individually wrapped in three layers of plastic; now, we know better and we look for more earth-friendly packaging. We used to buy potatoes grown half-way across the continent; now, we know that we can grow oodles of potatoes locally and do it with no pesticides.
– We are lucky in the north, because it’s too cold for potato bugs. So why aren’t we growing more of the world’s potatoes? (Another free idea, so go for it!)
I hope someday we can say: People working for big companies used to do unscrupulous, harmful things just to pay out more to the shareholders; now, the shareholders would never put up with any practice that harmed people or the planet! How ridiculous!
No more profit for the sake of profit. No more making money while abusing the environment. Why not make money saving it, and spend the profit on improving things even more?
We, as a human race, are capable of so much. Let’s deliberately step off the treadmill of consumerism and get on with simply living, creating more green spaces and — importantly — enjoying them with an optimistic heart and a hopeful frame of mind. Let’s start being smarter about how we use our resources and put all of our energy into making sure everyone has food and water and fixing the mistakes we’ve made on the planet. It’s not that hard. We can do it.