This article is a sequel to a previous article, linked here.
In these times, we must state, explicitly, our values. People with political agendas are inundating us with information overload, and calling into question basic facts in an attempt to impose anti-democratic control over disoriented populations. Author Naomi Klein calls this strategy the “Shock Doctrine.” The foundations of the post-World War II Western democratic order are at risk. But it is not too late to save it from the nationalist, xenophobic, totalitarian threats to our civilization. Stating our values will help define the path forward and hopefully lead society to turn away from promise of easy (false) solutions (like a border wall, or Brexit) and instead embrace actual solutions such as Cap Global Carbon and basic income.
Science – For several hundred years, humanity has been able to make progress due to the scientific advances enabled by the secular, rationalist Enlightenment. The scientific method is also not foolproof, but it is based on evidence and peer review. It is a tool for illuminating important questions that have ethical implications. Science must not be politicized, and it must continue to be funded, especially around issues such as tracking the level of greenhouse gas emissions, the melting of the ice caps, and sea level rise. Fossil fuel companies that question the science of climate change must be held financially accountable for the resulting catastrophes due to their political interference in humanity’s efforts to save ourselves and the biosphere.
Humanity’s Place on Earth – Science has helped us understand the ancient history of the Universe and the Earth leading up to today. This is important because literal Biblical interpretations of humanity’s role on Earth can result in inaccurate and dangerous ideas about humanity’s ability and obligation to take action to stop climate change and save the planet. We know that we are the only advanced species on the planet and that our actions are paramount. Religiously-minded people may hope for an All Powerful Being to intervene, or to excuse their inaction by assuming Divine approval of the widespread use of fossil fuels. But there is no rational reason to expect some One to save us from our problems. The self-serving and self-justifying ideologies of the fossil barons and the 1% must be confronted and transformed into an Earth-centric ethic where stewardship takes precedence over domination of other species. We must take care of ourselves and the other life on the planet. That is our role.
Democracy – Democracy can be a messy process. There are often as many setbacks as steps forward. But at least democracy offers the opportunity for self-governance by the people. Nothing else does that. Monarchies and dictatorships must be dismantled. Existing democracies can also be improved. The “first past the post” system (used in the United States and UK) is flawed, campaign finance is a corrupting influence, and gerrymandering and voter disenfranchisement must be defeated. Proportional Representation, Ranked Choice Voting, and Instant Runoff Voting must be adopted. Groups such as FairVote in the United States are working towards those ends and must be supported.
Diversity – White males have caused a lot of problems over the past 500 years. Some would say it goes back 2000 years, and some would say even longer. It is time for a reckoning of this history, and time to give support to indigenous peoples, disadvantaged communities, women, people of color, and diversity of religious belief, gender identity, sexual preference, and more. This support means standing up for their struggles, and dismantling the structures that are preventing their advancement. Those structures are often held in place by older white men who feel threatened by their advancement. Therefore it is incumbent on all of us to step forward and change that culture. A culture of diversity and inclusion can include policy prescriptions with the words “for all” in them, and we should strive to include a diversity of voices in our activism so they can participate in crafting solutions to those historic disparities and inequalities.
Capitalism, Social Democracy, and Socialism – In the United States, the slogan “Medicare for All” has provoked some ideologically-driven political debates. On one side, people are looking for inspiration from European social democracies that provide universal coverage to their citizens with government-run health care systems. From the other far side, those same people are being slandered as “socialists,” which used to be considered enough of a derogatory term to end the conversation. But Millennials who have suffered under a post-2008 economic stagnation are no longer so thrilled with untamed capitalism (i.e. bailouts and billion dollar bonuses) for the 1%. They are not intimidated by name calling, and they understand the major differences between social democracy (or democratic socialism), and Soviet-style communism.
Money – The banking cartel creates money and hoards wealth. Money creation can be democratized. To accomplish that, more people must learn how money is created, and what it’s “debt-backing” means for our growth-dependent economy. Groups such as Positive Money are promoting reforms to do this, and the book Ecology of Money by FEASTA founder Richard Douthwaite is an excellent resource for learning more about this important topic.
Survival of the Fittest – This concept came from a specific interpretation of Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theories, but it is not the full picture, even when applied to the field of evolutionary biology. Plants and animals help each other out all the time. Altruism and cooperation play just as big a role in natural phenomenon as competition does. And when a simplistic version of “survival of the fittest” is applied to economic life or society in general, you end up with people treating others like disposable trash, opposing health care for all, and achieving a level of selfishness reminiscent of Marie Antoinette before the French Revolution.
This is not a comprehensive list of our values (Please note: I understand that FEASTA has a diverse membership. When I say “our” I do not mean to speak for all of FEASTA, just for those individuals who choose to agree with me.) But it’s a start. We must practice stating our values and defending them and advancing them in the public square. We must use them to guide our future actions so that we are not distracted from the important political organizing work ahead of us, as we try to preserve our democracy and transform our economy for sustainability.
Featured image: https://www.freeimages.com/photo/hands-1432278
Mike Sandler is a FEASTA Trustee and climate change and sustainability professional with experience working for nonprofits and government. In 2001 Mike co-founded the Center for Climate Protection based in Sonoma County, California. Inspired by Peter Barnes and Richard Douthwaite, he has advocated for revenues from a price on carbon to be returned back to the public as a per capita dividend or share. He actively promotes CapGlobalCarbon and he has written on green monetary reform and basic income, some of which is archived on his author page on HuffPost.