In my last post I introduce the issue of technological advancements, and the idea that capitalist culture has served to develop products which serve to make life easier, which is great for people who suffer from whatever that thing promises to eliminate the suffering of. However, that is to ignore the mass effects of technological advancement and our health. It also ignores the fact that the things we suffer(ed) from that the technology promises to regulate has also helped with the success of the human species in their survival, by allowing us to live safely and not die. This doesn’t help the human population regulate it’s numbers, that is no bad thing for the human population, but for every human on the planet, there are necessary natural resources for that human to survive. The more humans there are, the more natural resources are consumed
This posts isn’t necessarily related to fitness, but having tried to establish the link between improving human health (in population terms only) and its negative impact on the natural resources (the environment) I wanted to share a letter I wrote to Caroline Lucas, the head of the Green Party of Britain, and my thoughts on technology, health and the environment.
I would love to hear any of your thoughts or feedback below.
Here is the letter:
Dear Ms Lucas,
Having recently read and thoroughly enjoyed the book ‘Utopia for realists and how we can get there’ by Rutger Bregman, in which the author presents visions for a utopian future, it has got me thinking long and hard about the subject. It drove me to consider the work of your Party, as the party who identifies itself as having the greatest consideration for the wellbeing of the environment as well as humanity. I took a look at the green party website and saw the first two bullet points under the green economic policy as (i) Take steps towards the introduction of a universal basic income, including a government sponsored pilot scheme, as a means to increase security and avoid the poverty trap, (ii) Phase in a 4 day working week (a maximum of 35 hours) and abolish exploitive zero hours contract. Perhaps you are familiar with the work of Rutget Bregman, if not, he has done a number of (Ted and other) talks and written books on the subject of the universal basic income and the 4 day (or 15 hours) working week. I absolutely agree that such policies present a brighter future for the world, a pathway to utopia perhaps?
This had me looking with great interest through your other policies, and it is very apparent that the green party values the rights of people and the environment over corporations. The problem I see with the term ‘corporations’ is that they come with negative connotations of resource consuming, money making machines of capitalist Britain (and the rest of the western world). Having no emotional value can make corporations easily targeted by people who possess greater emotional value, whom suffer within the current system. In my opinion however, to dismiss corporations as being those resource consumers, greedy capitalist monsters, would be to ignore the security, growth, welfare etc. that (some) corporations provide to a society.
It would be wrong to tarnish all corporation with the same brush. There are corporation who promote positive change in the world, social, technological and environmental advancement and those who capitalize on fear and suffering within society. I would love to see a party make a firm distinction between the two. Ultimately corporations have the economies of scale to make changes in the world which individuals, communities, charities, maybe even governments do not. That’s not to say that individuals, communities, charities and governments cannot make positive changes to the world, but there are some changes which are best served by corporations.
Take healthcare, I have always thought that politicians have a habit of focusing on the supply side of public healthcare, looking to provide more nurses, more beds, longer opening hours, with much less attention on what actually affects the demand for healthcare, particularly “lifestyle”. Lifestyle is something closely associated with the value your party assigns to the environment. Looking after the environment can be of value for humans insofar as the environment can be seen as something to be enjoyed by humans, now and for generations to come, or perhaps because we consider that not only human lives matter, black lives matter, but plant, animal and ocean life also matters. A healthy lifestyle is intrinsically linked to a healthy natural environment. The human species evolved within its natural environment, to rely on it, for water, food, warmth and shelter (I guess that’s all we need). Now the reliance on the environment is less applicable and instead the volume of humans on the planet has led to a reliance on corporations, governments, big communities, as the natural environment does not provide sufficient resources for societies as they currently are, which is exactly why manufacturing industries came to be, it’s an efficient scale of production which allows society to grow and provide the means to support it.
Having evolved in close connection with our natural environment, and slowly being isolated from it, in my opinion is what is destroying the welfare of our society, and has led us into a lifestyle which presents serious health risks. If the government provide free medical care, why doesn’t the government provide free lifestyle care – free exercise classes, free yoga classes, free sporting activities in the abundance of open spaces under the government’s control. No doubt it will decrease the demand for medical healthcare, and improve the health of society, which is the only purpose of the free medical service anyway.
So what can we do to go back to a world where humans are at one with their natural environment? One option would be a mass cull of the human population so the natural environment can once again support the human population, an idea I hope to never mention again, or alternatively, promote resource efficient/welfare promoting corporations, rather than natural resource consuming welfare destroying corporations.
It seems most people these days have too many ‘things’ they don’t necessarily need. What we really need is emotional and physical health. These ‘things’ we seem to have a surplus of I view as being material goods produced by taking natural resources and processing them into something we don’t (necessarily) need, with the exception of those things which facilitate our survival and wellbeing of course. Emotional and physical health is provided by a lifestyle rich in healthy foods, frequent and varied movement and good relationships. Government have the power to reward Industries that promote, and facilitate lifestyle improving activities, and regulate, tax and penalise the industries which take valuable resources away from their natural environment and turn them into things we don’t need.
Technological advancement should really serve one purpose, that is to make processes more efficient, reducing the resource input to achieve maximal output. Corporations are best placed to fulfil this purpose – incentivized by improving efficiency, whilst reducing the consumption of natural resources, or any other costly resource, doing this, is in essence, reducing the impact humans have on the natural environment.
My letter to you, is really to document my thoughts on environmental issues, with some sort of context, that context being a suggestion that the green party should not be an anti-corporation party, but a pro-efficiency party, achievable through advancements in technology which serve to reduce the demand for natural resources, reduce the human impact on the natural environment, and reduce the need for human input into a process allowing for less time working and more time to enjoy the natural environment. An environment that should remain as untouched as possible, allowing a healthy lifestyle and strong relationships to flourish.
To give some examples of how technology and corporations allow resource efficiency, take self-driving cars. A taxi driver can sell his taxi, buy a self-driving car, and allow a computer programme (like Uber) to undertake the intellectual challenge of operating a vehicle, moving people from one place to another (preferably over a distance that is unsuitable to walk or cycle). Meanwhile the taxi driver, who no longer drives the taxi, is able to enjoy the free time that self-driving car provides him, whilst providing the same service, for the same income.
Automation is possible in so many industries. Work done by artificial intelligence, or algorithms provides the foundation to minimize the resource input by both humans and products of nature, energy, materials. Automation through technological advancement has a huge appeal to young people, it facilitates efficient communication, efficient exchange of information, and the capacity to achieve the goal of reduced working hours, with no adverse economic effect – we wouldn’t be producing any less, or providing any service less useful, we will just need less resource to produce it.
Our current political system considers production, and employment as two key measures of economic performance, I believe it’s time we moved away from this. There are so many important factors it ignores, the most important of which I believe are the wellbeing of people, and the preservation of the environment we (once) live(d) in. Technology has the power to replace and improve human and other resource input into the production of good and services, freeing up valuable time and sparing scarce resources. That, for me, paves the way to utopia.