What do governmental energy strategies, saving seabirds from death as bycatch, and educating children about ocean plastics have in common?
Educating Children (and Asking Them to Act)
Last night I saw a rather light documentary by Exxpedition, about a group of mainly scientists sailing the oceans sampling for plastics, sharing knowledge, having fun, and talking with kids about reducing plastic waste. It struck me that the waste is caused by adults, the plastic soup problem is caused by adults, and the solutions could easily be instated and paid for by adults, yet the best way to change things is to ask the kids to talk to their shopkeeper/parents. I understand the choice: adults are difficult to reach, and more difficult to spur into action. But these playful kids have now become co-responsible for something not of their doing.
Saving Seabirds (From Fishing Nets)
This morning I read a folder from the RSPB, the bird people, about nearly a million seabirds drowning in fishing gear each year. Around half (including 100,000 albatrosses) in longlines and trawls, and another 400,000 in gillnets. The clever and simple solutions tested by the RSPB in the last decade (warning streamers, weights, and night-time set), achieved over 80% reduction in bird bycatch while sustaining fish catch. The RSPB is asking for my (financial) help to continue this work.
Energy Strategy (for a Future, or the Present?)
I noted iniquitous motives behind energy strategy through years of involvement with Climate Change, and an inside understanding of the oil industry. Late last year I explained to a group of school kids how the UK Hinckley nuclear power station will be built from their future tax payments, give them energy bills much higher than the norm, with substantial risk to their environment thrown in for free, due to the current government’s choice of buddies. They were only marginally less upset when I mentioned the large support for carbon industry compared with small and diminishing support for renewables, which will leave them with costly, lethal and disruptive changed climate, dead oceans, and lost forests. I guess the second issue was bigger than they could grasp, just like it is for most politicians and other adults.
I did not even mention the sold-off public transport, the trillions spent on carbon-caused illnesses borne by them in future medical expenses and a bankrupt national health service, their contaminated water through fracking. I did not mention the hundreds of thousands of birds killed annually by oil spills, nor the decommissioning of the petroleum infrastructure, a hugely expensive issue excluded from energy strategy, with the cost typically shouldered by the taxpayer at the time of decommissioning, not those who profited. The cost is the order of billions of pounds/euros per platform, and free residual risk forever. For them.
Separating What Is Connected – A Common Thread
It now appears acceptable to keep all profits, while passing liabilities and other negative consequences on to others, preferably other generations (kids) or other countries (it's a global "market"). The better you are at this game the greater the rewards: in return for reducing the "bottom line", increasing the deficit, or supporting your nuclear, oil, fracking or automobile buddies, you can get votes, increase your income, or reduce your taxes. If negative consequences cannot be separated, they are often ignored; populist simplifications can overrule both conscience and science. This is clearly immoral, but morality is not a consideration.
Looking at issues in an integrated manner is difficult to do, hard to explain, and impossible to put on a powerpoint slide. By contrast tables and flow charts can simplify to the point of irrelevance yet still appear complete. Yet integrated thinking is essential if we want a decent future.
Diagnosis of a Disorder: Externalisation
In the field of psychology, disorders related to alcohol- and substance abuse, and antisocial personality disorder are called externalising disorders. Externalising psychopathology is associated with antisocial behaviour such as aggression, delinquency, and hyperactivity.
In economics what you don't take into account is called an externality. Companies (including fishing, fracking and oil & gas) spend great effort lobbying governments to de-regulate negative externalities so they become someone else's problem. Governments in much the same way maximise their own externalities, moving them into the future for another government, or maybe another generation, to deal with (over-fishing, fracking, carbon energy, budget deficits, public transport, waste "management", Brexit, war and conflict, climate change).
The parallels are no coincidence. Governments and corporations often act as abusive delinquent addicts. Other psychotic traits are also substantiated.
Enforced Therapy: Voting At Polls, Shops and Collections
There’s already a framework for change: stricter regulation can be corporate rehab, elections can help change governments. If only the aggressive intimidation, personified by (corporate- and government- influenced) press weren't there, we could get out of this abusive relationship.
And indeed we still can:
We can stop supporting corporations which externalise: that includes industrial fishing, oil companies, plastics behemoths like coca cola, chemical-intensive agriculture (including GMO's), commercial medical providers, and many others - an abundance of choice. If this means changing your routine, consider that a good thing! In turn we can support companies making a positive impact.
We can stop voting for governments which externalise their responsibilities (blaming but not acting), and choose those which consider the impact on future generations. Though choice is still limited there is a choice, and more options will surface over time. We can live in an abundant world, if we’re prepared to share.
We can keep supporting organisations which inform, act or assist change for a future that is better than today. They play the critical role of friends and confidants, when dealing with an abusive “relationship”.
A troublesome diagnosis can cause despair, or start life-changing healing.
Is it not time to take a step back, look at the bigger picture, stop the destruction and embrace new opportunities?