We can’t electric car and solar panel our way out of this.
That was the gist of the groundbreaking film by Jeff Gibbs that was executive produced and promoted by documentary legend Michael Moore.
This film also got a full front page of my hometown’s paper, the Times Colonist. The local icon news source is based in Victoria, British Columbia Canada so not even the film’s county of origin in the United States.
The movie sparked immediate discussion and even backlash as people took the film up on a few technical points such as the dates of certain clips, but on the whole the idea stands strong, raising other issues that just can’t be ignored.
The one that sticks out to me is the one that Gibbs has repeated on multiple occasions in interviews…
You cannot have infinite growth on a finite planet
The timing of film was accidentally in the middle of Covid 19 outbreak. From a rumor of this “thing going on in the Wuhan, China” it quickly grew exponentially in the next few months until countries and their people found themselves in lockdown. We’ve all been through it so what need be said, but now even the most powerful person on earth has been proven as unable to be protected from this change of events.
Despite conspiracy theories of secret labs in the province of Hubei there has been the talks about involvement of bats, specifically in a wet market where animals are traded and that somehow it was able to jump species.
Like climate change it seems one thing overrides most of our problems, which is the same infinite growth Gibbs speaks to.
As we push the earth harder and harder things start to give. Some of our largest glaciers are disappearing. Rainforests are being destroyed and the polar ice caps are all but gone.
Mother Nature is forgiving, but it seems only to a point.
Now the thing is, what drives this? We humans know this is terrible but we persist with the same direction. Are we just crazy or greedy or thoughtless or what?
If I may I’d like to divert away to say a little about one human, myself before age ten.
Ever since I was about 6 I’ve watched nature shows and documentaries. I remember my mom being enthusiastic about this because she was taking night classes in early childhood education in the 80s. The reason for this enthusiasm was that instructor told all her aspiring teachers to “watch more nature programs like Nova and Lorne Greene’s New Wilderness” and there was me blasting through them with a boozy gusto just for fun.
But in every one of them it was the same thing, everything was going along great and then invariably man steps into the picture. Our report card at that moment was never glowing. There might be some scientist by the end of the show who was trying to reverse the effects, but on the whole we always came off as the bad guys and for good reason. Our thing was always to take over, push nature aside and destroy.
This activity was just the kind of thing that could put what was meant to stay far from us into close proximity, such as a defensive virus.
“I’m sorry humans”, says Mother Nature like a preschool teacher, “but you need to have a time out.”
Which, of course, returns us to the quote by Jeff Gibbs again.
So the problem is infinite growth. But what is behind that? I like looking at things this way.
Total tangent, but I think it’s because of another show I watched as a kid religiously…Robotech.
It was a Japanese cartoon but the gist of the whole series was that we were invaded by the Zentradi who looked like us but were just much taller, who were pushed by the Robotech Masters, who were pushed but the Invid.
So essentially behind what you see, someone unseen is pushing.
So, who is our Invid right now? What is the unseen force that is pushing us?
What’s wierd is that, well, we are.
We have created a world of cheques and balances. We have created a world of capitalistic neoliberal meritocracy where you are either making money or you’re not, where you’re ahead or behind. We have made a religion of it and we are all affected.
Even for myself when a YouTube video on the future of capitalism said “There will not be any jobs in the near future” it felt like I had just been punched in the chest.
And I’m into ideas that defy the norm. That’s how deep seated our connection is to our work…and the idea of bigger and better.
Infinite growth. Our Invid.
So we have heard and seen how AI and automation is coming, and from what the film suggests we have to slam on the breaks. But how?
What we need is something that allows us to not worry about having to create larger growth. We need to know that no matter what we do this year, next year will be ok. Lions, tigers and bears feel like this. Dogs and cats and mice feel like this. Baby dolphins feel like this. The whole planet does, just not the humans.
It’s because we’re the only ones who feel we have to work to live here.
This brings me to the solution which you may have guessed…the idea of a basic income.
This is an idea that has been around since 1516 with Sir Thomas More, later picked up by United States founding father Thomas Paine when he addressed critics around the time of the French Revolution in his book “The Rights of Man”
Since then the idea has been championed by a number of famous and not famous names from across the political spectrum like Martin Luther king Jr, Milton Friedman, Richard Nixon, Hugh Segal, Brian Mulroney, Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg, Andrew Yang and Robert Reich.
There are many different versions of it as well as different ideas as to how to fund it, but with the oncoming reality of our increased to cut labor, it seems more and more of us are awakening to the idea that this is the way of the future. John Maynard Keynes said as much years ago when he predicted that there would be so little work that boredom would be the biggest problem.
But here’s where I join the dots.
If we don’t have the fear of scarcity beneath us, if we know we will be ok, if we know we don’t have to push our earth to the limit, we can dial back the clock. Nothing helps with keeping local and not wondering what kind of car to use like not needing to use the car at all. Nothing helps a company made of people not worry that they have to beat the other guy like knowing that they don’t have to push for bigger and that they will be ok.
A basic income raising the floor beneath us has the power to create an absolute seismic shift in how our world operates for the better.
A basic income harkens racial equality as a basic income literally declares that all persons deserve the same ability to live as a guaranteed human right. It is not a hand out, it’s not a hand up, it is your inheritance.
A basic income reduces stress, proved by the smaller isolated cases in pilots such as the recent Ontario pilot, Finland two year project and ongoing South Korean experiment.
Income dictates health. Health dictates where money is diverted and the ability for everyone to calmly choose the best for themselves creates towns we would want to call home.
It’s time for this Planet of the Humans to be like the tigers, bears, cats and lions…
Let’s get a basic income.
Let’s sleep tonight.
Thank you for reading.