I kept saying I’ll write a post about what should be done to tackle the far more important environmental and social crises, now that we know drastic measures can be taken and the economy can be negatively affected and even individual rights and freedoms can be restricted when we recognize that a crisis exists and want to solve it, but kept putting it off. The topic’s too important and, far from getting better and easier in time, I find it much harder to write about serious non-personal topics and the end result if I try is clearly worse than what I managed over a decade ago… And now it can even be said that the moment is lost, because the measures are being relaxed even if the crisis that is currently recognized is far from over, there are more and more protests even against those that remain and great efforts and sums of money are directed towards the economy, in large part to allow it to continue as before instead of using the incredible opportunity for the absolutely necessary overhaul of the entire system. So I guess some things could be done, for a little while, but sooner rather than later people again proved that they’re, well, human, and if given the choice the tremendous majority, be they those in power or the masses of regular people, will just keep making the wrong one time and time again, regardless of the amount of correct information available.
Still, it’s this part about information that seems to still work, and it’s probably the one that worked the best from the beginning. Even if campaigns urging and pressuring people to act in a certain way are far more likely to have the desired effect than merely providing the information and expecting people to make the correct choice, it may not be too useful, the impact of individual actions being a mere fraction of what’s necessary when it comes to what’s needed to solve the major environmental and social problems, but it would at least be something and we now know it can be implemented quickly and on a large scale and maintained even when other measures start to fail. Of course, a complete overhaul of society and the systems it’s based on is required, and this is something that needs to be implemented from the top, by enacting uncompromising laws and regulations and strictly enforcing them, but if something so simple would have a chance of changing individual behaviors on a relatively large scale, it may buy a little more time. It won’t be much, one electoral cycle most probably being the most that could be hoped for when missing the opportunity provided by the crisis that is currently recognized will quite certainly ensure that all of those major problems will only get worse for decades to come and, at least when it comes to the environment, everything is lost, but even that is more than nothing, and we have a duty to try and fight all the way to the bitter end.
I’m actually just focusing on the environment now and thinking of a very specific situation, an NGO from here having asked the Ministry of Environment, before the state of emergency was declared, to start a campaign promoting recycling, which the media would be required to broadcast as public service announcements. The request was approved, but they were told that the campaign will only start in summer, because time is needed to create and film the videos and get them on air. However, that was definitely no longer the case when it came to the campaigns telling people to stay home and take measures to limit spreading this new virus, those announcements showing up everywhere very quickly, many media institutions starting their own campaigns right away as well, signs appearing in stores, on streets and at building entrances… And that’s still happening, these campaigns likely improving as time passed, so it’s clear that this can be done on very short notice and can keep being done over a long period.
Of course, even when done properly, recycling largely serves to perpetuate this cycle of continued production and consumption and permanent growth that created and maintains the problem, either way its impact is low when compared to what’s necessary, and what impact it does have may well be driven towards irrelevance by the massively increased amount of waste generated by the measures, some of them misguided to say the least, taken for the crisis that is currently recognized. But all of these may actually be reasons why such a campaign would work, and would be easily accepted by all involved, so it should be just about as widespread, and taken on with similar urgency. Just because of this increased amount of waste, the two campaigns could and should even be connected.
Still, while anything is better than nothing, if we are to start such campaigns, they should primarily focus on the individual actions with the greatest impact, not having children being the first by far, followed at a huge distance by living a car-free life, avoiding airplane travel and switching to a plant-based diet, the latter ending up at a similar level as the other two when you add the other factors it influences into account. In fact, avoiding airplane travel could and should easily be connected to the current situation, and that may even also be said about switching to a plant-based diet, considering the number of cases among those working in the meat industry, the difficulties faced by farmers during this period, and in fact how this virus started spreading to humans in the first place.
Of course, any efforts aimed at making people no longer have children will always be my top priority, and for good reason, any and all other measures merely delaying the inevitable at an ever higher cost until and unless we drastically reduce the population, and it should go without saying that such a reduction should most preferably be achieved not by increasing the number of deaths but by stopping births for a while and severely restricting them once we’ll again be able to allow a small number, after coming up with and implementing fair and objective systems for this purpose. And the uncertainty and likelihood of said potential children growing up in a world that’s worse than the current one should only make such campaigns easier, if people would only actually be rational beings. But very few are, and such a concept would also go against the perpetual growth model, and many others that this rotten society of ours is based on, so I’m just listing this here as the first thing that should be done when it comes to such campaigns, but I’m all too aware that it won’t be.
A campaign urging people to live a car-free life may also face resistance at the moment, because of the false sense people have that they are isolated and protected inside their cars, and also because some businesses and events are now favoring and even bringing back the drive-in model as a way to continue under the current circumstances. But it could and should nevertheless be attempted, and those campaigns discouraging airplane travel, even if and when it will otherwise be readily permitted again, and promoting a plant-based diet, most preferably also one favoring products grown and processed locally, should be easy. And if the authorities, media institutions and businesses won’t start them on their own, those of us who care need to demand them, loudly and clearly. Speaking of individual actions, we should probably even start them on our own, at whatever small level we can.