Where does one begin when fighting for climate, jobs, and justice. In a search for commonalities, the most obvious is the economy.
Climate and the economy, such obvious archenemies, are a dichotomy leaving us a choice of one or the other. We can have one but must drop the other; it shouldn’t be a tough call.
The commercial apparatus tells us we value our lives more as consumers than as organic beings.
When I choose life, it requires a strong resistance from the draw of the latest widget, gadget or upgrade. Industry advertises ‘the carrot’, but hides ‘the stick’.
‘The stick’ could be the externalities, all the costs not shown on the corporate balance sheet.
Industries don’t want to account for the cost of human and terrestrial life in acquiring their resources. They don’t want to pay for disposing the runoff and chemicals left after the manufacturing process. They don’t want anything to do with the disposal of their product, though they’re anxious for you to buy another. That last part’s built into the process as planned obsolescence, essentially a self-destruct, best-before design.
As for jobs and the economy, you’d think they go hand-in-hand. Yet humans are imperfect and consumers demand consistency. Once planned obsolescence takes hold, the next repurchase better be the same as the newly broken. To ensure this, jobs have been given over to robotics and automation.
This may work for the company, but what does it do for our income tax base? What do we have to replace this lack of employment opportunities? If everything were automated, where are consumers to get their income? This could be viewed as a downward spiral of economics.
Then comes justice and the economy. The incarcerated will keep security and police employed. Crime doesn’t always pay unless you are a lawyer or judge, prison guard or prison builder.
‘Justice’ is but another word for fairness. It surely cannot be applied to economics. The capitalist economy demands that the winners rise to the top. The other end of the equation points out that this requires that others must occupy the bottom.
It is on this basis that our societies are formed. We require losers to define ourselves as ‘not them’. In other words, we are entrenched in inequality so that our economy can operate. We must find better alternatives. Some societies even practice other methods, but it required either rock-bottom choices or politicians with very rigid backbones.
Martin Luther King, Jr., while noted as a civil rights leader, knew that the battle for racial equality was just the beginning. The larger arena was in reaching economic equality. In his 1968 book Where Do We Go From Here, he wrote “The revolution of values must go beyond traditional capitalism and Communism. We must honestly admit that capitalism has often left a gulf between superfluous wealth and abject poverty, has created conditions permitting necessities to be take from the many to give luxuries to the few, and has encouraged small hearted men to become cold and conscienceless so that, like Dives before Lazarus, they are unmoved by suffering, poverty-stricken humanity. The profit motive, when it is the sole basis of an economic system, encourages a cutthroat competition and selfish ambition that inspire men to be more I-centered than thou-centered.”
If we intend on heading in a new direction, we must define that direction. Inequality and poverty are the basis for the crime and dissatisfaction many face. The answer like lies somewhere on the spectrum between Capitalism and socialism. There is a balance to everything, where currently the Capitalist strength is off the scales.
But adjusting that balance should assist those in need, giving them opportunity to step up and out of impoverishment. This requires jobs that will no longer destroy our ecosystem, and products that will no longer pollute our atmosphere, streams and land.
Can we envision a truly equal world? We can’t create something we can’t describe, and no single person has all the answers. The discussion must begin now, starting with questing the purpose of our economic apparatus. What’s working for us? What is the most sought-after result? and what steps do we need to do to get there?
This isn’t for politicians and economists to figure out. It is up to us, members of the community, to discuss and debate. We deny the power of the citizen when we pass these decisions to the government. They are already empowered under the current system, and least likely to change how this economy empowers them. That power comes out of our wallets and wages, and we have all the rights to force this power toward a world that we know will be better. Let’s start this conversation now, and get a better grasp of our future.
 King, Martin Luther, Jr. (1968) Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community Boston, PA: Beacon Press (197)