Why can’t environmentalists just lighten the fuck up already?

“Where am I? What is this place?”

The Gigawut is answering the the biggest question facing the planet today: How do we stop making environmentalism so fucking depressing? Today’s most finite and precious natural resource is not oil, water or air – it’s human attention! People shut down when faced with depressing issues. “Oh this sucks, let’s watch a cat video instead.” If doom and gloom worked, we would have fixed everything decades ago. We’re here to change all that. Founded by professional comedy and satire writer, Aaron Hagey-MacKay, we want to keep the planet alive by keeping the conversation alive. We’ll give you news, analysis, opinion, memes, videos, along with cool lifestyle tips, tricks and recipes, and product reviews for the eco-conscious consumer. In the meantime, that means keeping the most upsetting and heartbreaking topics from bumming you out.

Topics like:

  • Climate Change (no, wait, Global Warming. No wait! It’s called the Climate Crisis now, right?)
  • Coral Reef destruction
  • Whether or not Greta Thunberg is actually an ancient God sent to save us
  • Plastic contamination
  • Air pollution
  • Water pollution
  • Ground pollution
  • The New Pollution by Beck
  • Deforestation
  • Soil Erosion
  • Over population
  • Eco-System Collapse
  • What do we do with all these obstructionist Baby Boomers?
  • Extinction
  • Animal Rights
  • Hurricanes, floods, and droughts
  • Fossil fuel use: Oil, coal and natural gas
  • The animal magnetism of Al Gore’s sexy body

We Promise…

  1. If you follow us, we’ll endeavour to deliver content and discussion that uses a clever mix of funny and fact to motivate change.
  2. We are unapologetically pro-science. No energy crystal nonsense here.
  3. There will always be some hope.
  4. No shaming – This isn’t a contest to see who is the most virtuous. We all want to do our best. We’ll never turn people off our cause by being a dick about it. Unless, like, they really deserve it.
  5. We’ll also have some fun lifestyle tips, tricks and recipes that actually make this a social and life-affirming place to be.

Okay, you should follow us on social media now! And sign up for our newsletter.

Is it okay to have kids during the climate crisis?

Here is the original script of the video for your reading pleasure.

 

So Miley Cyrus says she’s not having kids until we solve climate change. This puts me in the uncomfortable position of suddenly rooting for climate change.

Just kidding, Miley. I know you’re an ally. Feel free to burn me back. Go ahead, burn me harder than your private jet burns fossil fuels. 

But Miley Cyrus isn’t the only one not having kids because of the climate crisis. There are  a growing number of would-be parents, myself included, whose reproductive decisions consider what it means to bring a child into a destabilizing climate.

So the Big Question is: Is it now morally wrong to have children because of climate change?

Welcome to The Gigawut, where we try to answer the big environmental questions. 

But first a quick thanks to our sponsor: Babies. They’re soft, loud and will make you proud. Babies: the earth human’s favourite choice of procreation since 1997.

In this video, we’ll explore where the question of “is it okay to have kids?” came from, then we’ll take a look at some arguments for why it might be wrong to have kids, then we’ll reveal why, frankly, it’s not really the right question to ask. And I’ll give you my take on whether or not you should personally have kids. 

But let’s get something straight: Right now, I don’t want kids. But I’m not here to convince you one way or the other. What’s right for me isn’t necessarily right for you. Environmental concerns are just one part of the equation for me. Another part? I live in a big city, my rent is too high, I don’t make a lot of money, and my work situation is precarious. In other words, I’m your typical 30 something millennial! Plus, if I had kids, my dog would be supes jealous and my succulents would be hella sad.

This topic is controversial. I’m going to review some arguments, and I don’t necessarily believe all the things I’m saying. This video is meant to get you thinking. If you disagree, feel free to let me know in the comments. And for God’s sake, at least try to address my arguments when you threaten to kill me for being a satanist trying usher in a one world government.controlled by George Soros. 

So, let’s begin! First question: Why are people even asking the question, “is it wrong to have kids?” is the first place?

It’s a weird question: For most of human history, having children wasn’t even really a question. Sex happened and then oops babies.  

And If you didn’t have children, or couldn’t, society generally pushed you to the fringes with scorn and derision. “How dare you be different!” the townspeople would say.

The thing is, for most of human history, you had to have a bunch of kids to survive as a family. First of all, there were no social programs, so kids were your old age security, and secondly, when 3 of every 10 babies died within a year, and even more died from what are now easily preventable childhood diseases, you needed multiple children just to make sure at least one survived into adulthood. 

Modern medicine changed all that, especially with the invention of pharmaceutical birth control in the 1960s. Suddenly women could reliably choose when to get pregnant. Finally, rocking the bedposts didn’t necessarily mean rocking the cradle. 

My point? Even asking the questions “is it okay to have kids” suggests family planning, which is a huge luxury of our time and place. 

Our technological progress allowed us to live in a world with an exploding population and a growing appetite for consuming the plentiful fruits of extractive capitalism and fossil fuel energy. It allowed us to live objectively easier lives and create more freedom to do whatever we wanted. All of it purchased at the expense of the environment.

And it’s not just climate change. To borrow from David Wallace Wells, climate change is the backdrop in which human environmental devastation plays out. We also have plastic pollution, deforestation and habitat loss, mass extinction, chemical spills, ocean acidification, fresh water scarcity, invasive species, and a list of other severe problems so long I could literally make an entire video just listing them.

But it was all worth it because we got Beyonce and the iPhone, right? 

The question of the morality of having children really came to the fore in 2017 when a study published in Environmental Research Letters tallied the personal choices individuals can make to combat climate change. Their conclusion? Having one fewer child was far and away the most impactful decision a person could make. Almost twenty times more impactful than recycling, going car free, and eating a plant based diet combined. 

So, to any smug vegan mommy bloggers on Instagram, check ya selves.

This study kick started the “is it okay to have kids” conversation as we know it today. 

How did they reach this conclusion?

The math is simple, really. Think of the average carbon footprint in your country. Then assign each parent half of their offspring’s life-time climate footprint, and then a quarter of for their grandchildren, and so on. So, if your two kids have two kids, you’re personally responsible for an extra person and a half’s worth of carbon consumption. That keeps going for as long as they live. Even after you die! At least, that’s how the logic of this study goes, assuming you don’t all die from climate change at the same time first. Ha ha! 

Obviously this isn’t meant as an accounting system. It’s more to illustrate the point that the best way to reduce your carbon footprint is to stop making more feet. 

Weird question: does getting excited about small carbon footprints make me a foot fetishist? Let me know in the comments! 

But just because something increases a carbon footprint, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong. So let’s take a look at some moral arguments for the claim that it’s wrong to have kids.

There are two main lines of argumentation. The first one is related to what we’ve already talked about – over consumption – so let’s start there.

You could say the following: 

  1. The Earth’s human population is collectively over-consuming natural resources and disrupting the climate 
  2. Adding more people will add to the overconsumption
  3. It is wrong to choose to unnecessarily add to the over-consumption of Earth’s resources.
  4. It’s not necessary to have a child, because you can choose to have a child.
  5. Therefore: Having a child is wrong given the staggering environmental crises we face. 

Right away I’d like to point out that the second premise is not necessarily true. You can add people, but we can also collectively consume less. Those are both possible at the same time. 

People think overpopulation is the problem, when it’s really overconsumption and waste. Remember Miley Cyrus’s private jet? Fun fact: a three-hour trip on one of those things burns through the annual carbon footprint of 30 Haitians. 

But, yes, in general, under our current economic arrangement, adding people adds to collective consumption. 

Aside from that, the argument rests heavily on the assertion that it’s wrong to add to overconsumption unnecessarily. 

Some obvious counter examples, like what if you bring a child into the world and raise them to respect the earth and they inspire millions to do the same, like Greta Thunberg’s parents? Was it wrong for them to bring her into the world? Was she unnecessary? Oh can’t wait to read your hot takes on that one! 

Or you might say, having a child really doesn’t add that much in the grand scheme of things, and it’s possible that having a child could really bring a lot of joy and fulfillment to the lives of others. You can’t know that ahead of time, so shouldn’t that possibility count for something?

On the other hand, they could also end up to be a dictator: the next Khan Noonian Singh 

A more extreme question to ask would be: Okay, just how wrong is over-consumption? If it’s wrong enough to justify stopping people from bringing a child into the world, could it also justify murdering egregious overconsumers? Is there a point where waste actually trumps a single human life? 

To which I say, “No! Please don’t murder Miley Cyrus. I was only joking around. Murder wrong!” 

The next argument has to do with the welfare of the life you’re bringing into the world. That argument might go like this: 

  1. If you choose to have a baby, you are responsible for their life.
  2. It is wrong to be wilfully negligent toward a child you are responsible for.
  3. It is negligent to knowingly put someone you are responsible for into a dangerous situation. 
  4. A destabilized future under climate catastrophe is clearly a dangerous situation. 
  5. Therefore it is wrong to choose to bring a child into a world of climate disruption. 

This one’s a little tougher. 

Honestly, the best counter to this I can think to the previous argument of is to point out that life has always been full of suffering. A medieval peasant child would have a much worse life than your child living now in a technologically advanced, ecologically collapsing global civilization. Does that mean your medieval ancestors were wrong for bringing children into their world? It’s hard to say yes, because that would imply your existence is also somehow wrong.

Really believing this argument comes down to whether or not you believe the predictions of climate scientists.

As an aside for any “skeptics” watching, before dismissing scientific predictions out of hand, as I know some of you are want to do out of tribal habit, consider the fact that climate change isn’t just sea level rise, droughts, fires, visibly melting ice caps, floods and extreme temperatures. There’s also the far more terrifying human element. 

The Pentagon calls climate change a threat multiplier, blaming it in part for the Syrian civil war, after a long drought gripped the nation. The refugees from that conflict pushed Europe to the brink and now the UK is leaving the EU! This is just the beginning. Unrest is growing. The number of refugees from natural disasters and climate fueled conflicts is only expected to rise. There is no new normal waiting for us if we don’t act immediately to stop it on a global scale. 

Is that the world you want to bet your children’s life on? 

Alright! Put that baby on 21 black! 

If you’re wrong, and the scientists are even just partly right, then your children will rightly blame you, especially if you got in the way. 

All of these arguments circle around a philosophical position known as anti-natalism, the belief that it is wrong to bring children into the world. Period! Full stop. No mention of climate change. There’s perhaps no stronger advocate of this position than David Benetar. 

I’m not going to spend much time on him, because he’s a huge bummer, and it’s only tangentially related to the environment. 

In my darker moments, I’ve had my own bouts with his position, and he makes well constructed, if profoundly pessimistic, arguments. You should read him only if you want to feel deeply, deeply depressed. 

In the end, for me, it comes down to an emotional decision, and I choose a morality that is life affirming. My life, your life, and the life threatened on this planet; It has a right to be here, and we have a duty to ensure that life on earth flourishes.

And that’s especially true for the cute animals!

But this question of whether or not it’s okay to have kids during the climate crisis is a bit moot. People are going to have kids regardless of whether or not you decide it’s wrong or not. The moral imperative is to create a better world for them to live in. 

According to project drawdown, in the places that are expected to have the greatest number of children in the coming decades, there are two things we need to do. 

Educate women and girls and provide access to family planning services. 

Right now there are 62 million girls around the world being denied their right to education. That’s like seven Switzerlands! 

As Project Drawdown puts it: 

“Women with more years of education have fewer and healthier children, and actively manage their reproductive health. Educated girls realize higher wages and greater upward mobility, contributing to economic growth. Their rates of maternal mortality drop, as do mortality rates of their babies. They are less likely to marry as children or against their will.”

Cuz, yeah, that still happens on Earth. 

The second part is family planning. As they put it: “225 million women in lower-income countries say they want the ability to choose whether and when to become pregnant but lack the necessary access to contraception. The need persists in some high-income countries as well, including the United States where 45 percent of pregnancies are unintended.”

All told, education of women and girls and providing family planning services, just to the women who say they want it, saves the equivalent in over 100 gigatons of CO2 by 2050. 

Beside being good for the planet, it’s the morally right choice that respects human rights. This is how we make a better world. Not population control, not armies, not thanos snapping his fingers. It’s teachers, doctors and human dignity. And that includes a woman’s right over her own body. 

Okay, cue death threats from the “right to life” mob.

But if you clicked on this video wondering what my take was on if you, personally, should have a kid, here’s my handy guide in two steps.

Step One: Ask yourself, “Do I want kids?” If the answer is anything other than, “yes, absolutely,” then don’t have kids.

Step two: Ask yourself “Would I be a good parent and be able to provide a reasonably decent life for my children?” If your answer is anything other than, “yes, absolutely,” then try getting your shit together first and repeat step one.

In the meantime, don’t let your parents, or your family or your peers make you think that you’re less of a person just because you don’t have kids. Especially the ladies watching this. Your value doesn’t come from making more people come out your vajayjay. To the men and women, and everyone in between watching this, you have value intrinsic to your life and you have something valuable to contribute that doesn’t necessarily involve changing diapers and 3am feedings. 

In short: It’s not necessarily wrong to have kids. But it is necessarily wrong not to do everything in your power to fight for a future for them that doesn’t look like…

[Cue disaster movie]

Thanks for watching. If you liked this video, then LIKE the video. If you want to see more, subscribe and click the bell to get notified when I post. 

See you next time! 

 

How to survive the Plastic Apocalypse

 

Here is the script of the video for your reading pleasure. 

 

Plastic! You know the stuff stuff is made out of. We make almost everything with plastic: From packaging, to vehicles, even celebrities. The list of items is longer than Kim Kardashian’s real nose. 

Before the 20th century, there was pretty much no plastic anywhere. Now there’s pretty much no place without it. We’ve been inundated with plastic and it’s only getting worse. It’s filling our oceans, it’s in our food, it’s harming our wildlife, it’s even in our rain.

In this video, we’ll discuss the scope of the plastic problem, how we got here and how we can maybe, juuust maybe survive the plastic apocalypse. 

Welcome to The Gigawut, where we answer the big environmental questions without all the sad. 

First, what is plastic? 

Plastics are synthetic organic polymers. Synthetic: Meaning they’re created in laboratory conditions. Organic: meaning they contain carbon. And polymers: meaning they’re long chains of molecules. 99% of all plastics are created by fossil fuels, the leftover molecules of long dead life, which is kind of mind blowing when you think about it. A toy dinosaur may have once been an actual dinosaur.

The first synthetic plastic was Bakelite or as you may know it polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride.  

Belgian-American chemist Leo Baekeland named the new substance after himself in 1907, marketing it as the material of a thousand uses. That turned out to be a huge underestimate.

Flash forward to the 1950 and 60s and America’s post-war economic boom rode a wave of plastic innovation created by the petrochemical industry, which led to lots of pollution. That was the beginning of the end.

But it’s not like we can just ban plastics. They’re actually one of the most useful things we’ve ever created, which is why it’s in everything. 

Medicine would be set back decades without plastic, everything from syringes, to IVs, to MRIs. 

Planes and cars would need to burn way more fuel without the added lightness of plastics. Most cars are now about 50% plastic by volume. 

Plastic revolutionized food storage, saving billions of pounds of food from spoiling every year. This in a world where we already waste a third of our food, while 9 million people die a year from malnutrition and related illnesses. But that’s another video! 

Even the much maligned plastic bag is so energy efficient compared to reusable cotton bags, you’d have to use your cotton bag over 7000 times to equal one plastic bag. That number rises to 20,000 if it’s organic cotton. Why? Well, cotton may biodegrade but it takes a lot of water and greenhouse gasses to process.

Plastic is lightweight, water proof, infinitely malleable, durable and extremely cheap. 

It’s often much cheaper, faster and higher quality to create “virgin” plastic than to recycle it.

And that’s why it’s piling up faster than balled up tissues under a 13-year-old boy’s mattress.

It’s estimated that we’ve produced more than 8.3 billion metric tons of virgin plastic. 6.3 billion tons of that plastic ended up in landfills or in the natural environment.

That’s over 120,000 Titanics worth

Now, I plan to do a future video on recycling… but sneak peak, if you’re a child of the 90s like me, let me just say, Recycle Rex was wrong. 

Only 9% of plastic gets recycled globally, and of that 9%, only 10% of it ends up being recycled more than once. You can’t close the loop. The loop is a lie! That’s the whole problem!

Plastic use is only increasing as the world’s economy grows. About 407 million metric tons of virgin plastic was created in 2015 alone. To put that into perspective, the total biomass of every human on Earth is estimated at about 60 million tonnes. On a human scale, that means for every 100 pounds of human being in the world, 678 pounds of plastic was created. Again, that’s just in 2015! Think of every year going forward.

If things continue as they are, it’s expected that over 12 billion tons of plastic will be sitting in landfills or clogging up our waterways by 2050. That’s the plastic apocalyptic future we have to look forward to, to say nothing of catastrophic climate change, which is actually like a thousand times scarier. 

I don’t know about you, but that’s super depressing and I need something to pick me back up. 

Okay, let’s keep going! 

In some places it feels like the plastic apocalypse is already here. Ocean plastic in particular has become a hot topic in the last couple of years, with images of suffering animals being shared online. Personally, I can’t watch those anymore, and I’m sure you don’t want to see them either. So in case you missed it, I’ll reenact them for you.

*mimes removing straw from turtle’s nose* 

You’ve probably heard of the great pacific garbage patch, often falsely reported as an island of floating garbage twice the size of Texas. In reality, it’s far worse. First of all, it’s not an island. If it were, animals could swim around it. Instead it’s more like an expanse of open water filled with concentrations of refuse. Floating debris will break down when exposed to sunlight to create microplastics,  which marine life and humans can’t avoid consuming. 

But again, that’s another video! 

Some animals ensnared in larger plastic things, like old fishing nets, but more commonly it’s just eaten, directly or indirectly by eating smaller animals who eat the plastic. 

Honestly, if the new Little Mermaid movie isn’t about Ariel losing her voice because of ocean plastics…

So why does this happen? 

Marine gyres circulate water in these vast ocean cycles, due to the spinning of the Earth and the wind. You put enough plastic in one of these gyres, most of it just collects. 

What’s worse is that the so-called great pacific garbage is actually just a shorthand for two of the plastic filled gyres in the north pacific. There are four others plastic filled gyres for a total of six globally: One more in the south pacific, two in the Atlantic and one in the indian ocean. 

There’s plastic everywhere! 

It’s estimated that between 4 to 12 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the oceans every year. This is commonly reported as a split-the-difference 8 million tons per years. So why the huge discrepancy? A lot of plastic sinks and it’s hard to measure in such huge bodies of water. One study found that concentrations of plastic off the coast of Monterey Bay are up to 5 times higher 200 meters down, than at the surface. Unless we change, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050 or possibly sooner.

But good news! We can stop this from happening! 

The top priority is to shut off the flow of plastics. 

So step one: Better waste management systems in developing countries. 

It turns out 90% of ocean plastic it comes from just 10 rivers.

You’ll notice these are all in Asia or Africa. Plastic stuff, especially packaging is relatively new in these regions. We’ve exported our Western consumer society to developing nations without exporting the tools to deal with the waste. 

Western governments and waste management consultants can partner with local government to make it stop. This is simply a matter of money and expertise, which we can be sharing today. 

Once we cut off the millions of tons flowing into the ocean every year, The Ocean Cleanup can actually start making progress. 

Step two is Producer responsibility. 

You ever see old movies and a milkman makes an appearance? Yeah, that was a job. It was simple. A guy goes from house to house delivering milk and taking back the empty bottles, and sometimes he’d sleep with a lonely housewife. 

Those glass milk bottles would be reused. They’d get washed, refilled with milk and sent out to happy families, and some very happy housewives.

So why don’t we see milk men today? One of the reasons is plastic. It’s far cheaper to put milk in a plastic container and have the consumer throw it out than to hire a guy to collect the bottles. 

But who bears the cost of disposing of the plastic? Taxpayers. You pay twice. Once when you buy and once when you throw away. The producer has downloaded their responsibility the public. And we just let it happen.

Companies should make reusable packaging that they’re responsible for collecting, cleaning and reusing. Or at the very least they need to be paying the cost of disposal. I guarantee, you’ll see far less overpackaging then. 

There are thoughtful companies already doing this sort of thing. 

Lush is a good example. They use black plastic pots that are already made from recycled plastic for their cosmetics products. You send them back to the company, they wash it, slap a new label on it and voila! If you return five of them, you get a free face mask. 

Lush doesn’t sponsor this video, but maybe they should?

Scaling that kind of model to every consumer good would require new regulations, new infrastructure, and a tax on virgin plastic items.

There are lots of ways to do this but one way is paying a deposit on items and redeeming them at distributing hubs to get your money back. We do it for beer bottles, why not also for shampoo bottles and everything else? 

Lastly we need better plastics. Plastic is simply too useful in a modern society to just ban outright. 

This is where innovation needs to play a part, and the possibilities are quite promising. 

We need plastic 2.0. And there are two ways this should happen. One is to create plastics that can be easily, safely, cheaply and indefinitely recycled or upcycled, while still performing like or better than the plastic we use today. 

Upcycling is making new and better products the second time around. Currently all recycled plastic is made worse by the recycling process.

The other type of new plastics would be biodegradable and still perform as good or better than current plastics. 

In the near future, it’s also possible that bioengineering could play a role, with promising innovations like CRISPR making plastic eating bacteria a possible solution for polymer reclamation.

In any case, 40% of the plastic we create is packaging, and it’s lifespan is usually less than a year. It’s the bulk of the problem. If we could create new and better plastics, shift the responsibility off of consumers and back on to producers, while investing in waste management infrastructure in the developing world to stop the flow of ocean plastic, then we’ll go a long way towards stopping the plastic apocalypse. 

But you might be asking yourself? What about all those neat plastic-free tips I see on YouTube and Instagram? 

Yeah, the solutions presented here are not something you can do. These are political and economic solutions that will actually work, but leave individuals practically out of the equation. So what about going plastic free at home? Does that do anything? 

First, let me say that we live in an individual focused society, so it’s natural for the first reaction to a problem to be based on individual actions. But I’m arguing here that the sheer scale and international nature of the plastics problems means there’s a real limit to how far individuals they can affect change. It’s up to citizens to lobby our governments and challenge corporations to change to better serve us. That is ultimately the only permanent solution to any large scale problem. 

That said, going plastic free at home is great. It lessens the demand for plastic. Reusing the plastic you have is also great. Steps like these shows others that you can have a modern life without relying so much on plastic.

But shaming people for using plastic? In this day and age? That can be counter productive. 

Pressuring companies to not use so much of it however is actually really effective. And there’s already change happening. With all of capitalisms flaws, it will sell you whatever you want. You want plastic-free stuff, you’ll get plastic-free stuff. Just be willing to pay more. 

If the plastic free movement can take credit for anything, it’s really brought awareness to the issue on a daily basis. Like all environmental issues, just talking about it and keeping it in mind stops people from accepting the problem in their lives and falling into complacency. If you want to help stop the plastic apocalypse, share this video to spread the word. 

Thanks for watching. If you liked this video, you know what to do, like, subscribe, click the bell to get notified, write me love poems in the comments, all that shit. And let me know what topics you’d like to hear about in the future. This video took a lot of research, and right now I do this all on my own, so any support to grow this channel’s reach is really appreciated.

Oh, and if you like environmental memes, check out The Gigawut on Instagram. 

See you later Wut heads. 

 

 

Junk Mail F*cking Sucks

Junk mail is not the greatest cause of climate change, it does not fill sea creatures’ stomachs with plastic, but it is a micro-case of every environmental issue. If we can get rid of junk mail, we can stop the climate crisis, stop eco-system collapse, and maybe – juuuuust maybe – we can prevent the sixth mass extinction from claiming even more victims. Credit to http://www.Bensounds.com for the music. This video was NOT sponsored by Flipp.com, but honestly, maybe they should have…

Happiness may be a choice – except that it’s constrained by vested economic interests

Happiness may be a choice – except that it’s constrained by vested economic interests

 

Shutterstock

Christopher Boyce, University of Stirling

Our knowledge about what it is that people need to feel happy and satisfied with in their lives keeps growing, yet the extent to which people actually feel happy and satisfied with their lives has largely stagnated. There might be small shifts each year that may enable one country to claim it is “happier” than another, but these shifts rest on narrow definitions of happiness and are rarely the result of government policies that would warrant any real celebration.

Decades of research into happiness and well-being have shown us that the key determinants of well-being are the quality of our relationships, mental and physical health, our capacity to meet basic needs, social and emotional skills, having a purpose in life, and stability. More money, beyond the point of meeting basic needs, rarely brings that much extra happiness.

Yet it is economic growth that nearly always takes policy precedence. And this concern for the economy often fails to account for economic injustices and the ever mounting climate crisis that will undermine the well-being of future generations.

Climate change will massively affect our future happiness.
Rupert Rivett/Shutterstock.com

Some might believe that happiness and well-being are purely a matter of personal choice. Yes, a person might be able to “choose” a different lifestyle, or to look at their unchangeable life circumstances differently, to enable them to experience more happiness and greater well-being. But our societies rarely facilitate making these choices. Nor do they instil us with many life skills that may help us perceive our life circumstances in a different way.

Our choices are instead constrained by the needs of the economy. We are constantly encouraged to buy things that will not fulfil our deepest human needs, we may face the stark choice of working very long, sometimes irregular, hours, or having no job at all, and we are compelled to learn things for the sake of productivity and not our passions.

Over to Bhutan

There is never an easy path to happiness. Even for those with less acute economic pressures there is struggle. Yet could we create societies that are more supportive in helping us all live lives that bring greater well-being? I spent more than ten years carrying out research into happiness and well-being, and I believe so.

Most of my research has focused on the relationship between the economy and well-being. I argued, backed up with evidence, that by aspiring to ever higher incomes – at both an individual and societal level – in the hope of obtaining greater happiness, we may end up sacrificing the very things that would bring us greater happiness.

In my last job I faced my own struggle to improve my personal well-being. I recognised that even for me, the happiness and well-being researcher, it wasn’t easy to make those choices I knew would give me a more fulfilling life. My work environment didn’t actively support my ability to do so.




Read more:
Why I quit my day job researching happiness and started cycling to Bhutan


Instead, there was constant pressure to perform, and even though I was successful at what I did in a narrow measurable way that kept my employer “happy” – publishing regularly and obtaining research funds – I knew I would need to look elsewhere if I wanted to be happier. That’s why in October 2017 I decided to quit my job and begin cycling to Bhutan.

Bhutan: where happiness is valued more than GDP growth.
Shutterstock

I wanted to do something more meaningful to me than writing another academic paper. I wanted understand more deeply how other countries value happiness and well-being. I wanted to learn about Bhutan, a country that has eschewed international economic agendas to develop its own notion of sustainable development based around happiness and well-being of all its citizens.

But I also wanted to travel to Bhutan in a way that supported the well-being of others and myself, so I cycled most of the way to limit my carbon footprint. And I visited places en route where people are not completely dominated by economic demands. For example Costa Rica, where there is a national pride in being able to live happily and healthily with less. Canada, which has one of the most progressive indicators of national well-being. And Vietnam, which might actually be the least underdeveloped country in the world if we were to consider modern notions of development.

Choice at every level of society

These countries are this way not by accident, but because of choice. In 1948 in Costa Rica, then president, José Figueres Ferrer abolished the military and used the saved resources to invest more fully in health and education. In 1972 in Bhutan, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck declared that “Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product”. In a citizen-driven initiative, which began in 1999-2000, Canadians were given the chance to identify what constituted quality of life to them.

These were progressive choices; choices made by people in influential positions. It sits in stark contrast to the choices that have been made, and continue to be made, by influential others elsewhere to largely suit vested economic interests. Choices that ultimately put the economy, rather than people’s happiness, first.

There is, however, hope. I arrived back in Scotland in April 2019 after 18-months and more than 10,000 miles on a bicycle. The Well-being Economy Alliance, a group of countries committed to creating economies focused on sustainable well-being, of which Scotland plays an important part, is generating traction.

Care for the climate will require changes that simultaneously improve our well-being now and in the future and, thanks to activism, the climate crisis is firmly on the agenda. There is a growing awareness that many people care more about economic and social justice than economic growth. We are beginning to see through old misleading beliefs about consumption. If we want to live happier and more fulfilling lives it is time for everyone, at every level of society, to make different choices.The Conversation

Christopher Boyce, Honorary Research Associate at the Behavioural Science Centre, University of Stirling

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

17 Memes That Perfectly Capture The Climate Crisis

Humanity has evolved past mere words and now discusses matters of importance in a more evolved format: Memes. The environmental collapse is the most important issue we’ve ever faced, so here are 17 memes that perfectly capture the stupidity of inaction and the urgency of changing literally everything.

1) The Two Most Important Numbers In One Date

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2) That’s Just Logic

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3) Loving Science Only To A Certain Point

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4) It’s All A Big Hoax!

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5) Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Warm

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6) Are We Next?

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7) New Take On Drake

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8) Middle Ground Is A Hoax

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9) When People Don’t Want To Believe

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10) Seems About Right

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11) But The Mayans Tho

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12) Imagine Only Using One Item Your Whole Life

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13) Thank God For Nuclear Winter

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14) Misplaced Priorities

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15) Hmmm…

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16) It’s On Fucking Fire!!

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17) From Distress To De-Stress

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Images via me.me