Although our collective individual commitments to improving our communities and environment are important in offsetting the negatives of over-consumption and pollution, scientists warn us that by themselves, personal efforts like recycling, heating with renewables, and reducing consumption are not enough to move the dial on planetary survival.
Beyond our individual efforts, we must also agree on, advocate for, and put into action national and international policies that impose change and reverse the mounting damage.
In the New Year, we need global resolutions to accompany our personal ones. The cliché New Year’s resolution usually addresses the personal vanity of weight-loss and failure is generally the rule – an apt metaphor for the planet and our human footprint on it. But the imperatives we now face are larger and much more deeply interwoven with social and economic impacts.
We must level the economic opportunity playing field for all. Redistributing wealth is not a long term solution, but equal opportunity to attain it is. Tax code revision and coordinated international tax enforcement, gender and racial equity laws, and affordable access to lifelong learning are all tools that will take us there.
We must frontload investment in childcare, affordable housing, nutrition, health care, education, and addiction prevention to prevent further social and economic decline. Down-the-road costs in property crime, corrections, emergency care, refugee migration, and homelessness will bankrupt us.
The sad descent of politics from public service to self-service jeopardizes these cost-effective measures and foists the heavy remediation costs on our grandchildren. If the only goal is reelection, fealty to large donors, and self-enrichment, we have no chance of achieving our goals for healthy communities.
And since continued growth is not an option in a finite universe, we must develop economic alternatives to promoting consumption. Product pricing must include packaging and recycling costs. We must continue to invest in and incentivise energy efficiency, and rebalance the interests of the wealthy and business classes with the needs and aspirations of our communities. This means regulating industries that produce addictive substances, toxins, air pollutants and other dangers to our flora, fauna, and persons. We must reverse our culture of infinite consumption, which only starves the soul.
If we don’t look our future squarely in the face we’d better quadruple our investments in space exploration, although the prospect of resettling on a sere planet, light years away has little appeal to this old man.