It has come to my attention that many people feel that civilisation as we know it is under existential threat and that they are powerless to prevent it. I do not have much time to write this out at length at the moment, but can I suggest humbly that this is precisely and exactly the problem. What we (and I will restrict my attention to Australia here, the area I feel competent to comment upon) can do is mobilise each other to accept nothing but firm and decisive action. Hollywood solutions where one person rises up with a magic sword and laser goggles to save the day have never been an option and even if we had the sword an goggle were unlikely to ever be the right too anyway. What has always worked, and what works still, is the simple act of organising, working together to build a person-to-person, exponentially spreading movement to make things better.
I will expand upon this point when I have a moment. Here is a youtube playlist wherein I dump thoughts in this vein.
For now, a porridge of notes.
Build your networks
People find it cognitively challenging to work out what persuades others. How about this simple introduction to how other people work for a first step? Climate action for absolute beginners.
Contribute to organisations who make it better
Do you suffer from social anxiety? Do not want to persuade your fellow citizens to work with you to make the world better? Send money out in your stead.
A lot of my friends seem to think this means something about buying organic jam. I am all for supporting wise agricultural practice, don’t get me wrong, but if you are looking at spending $10 on jam, I suspect you can get better return on investment elsewhere.
One obvious way would be subscribe to independent journalism, or if you are fancy, experimental journalism.
🏗 here is a brief screed on donating to politics that I wrote for my colleagues at UNSW, posted here for reference and eventual recycling into something more generally applicable.
At the meeting today I was espousing this essay about US politics: Too much Dark Money in Almonds.
The main point of this essay is that even in their system, which has much more dark money than ours, it is very cheap to buy an election, and industry decisions worth billions are decided by a million bucks here and there. Indeed, as we saw in Australia, Clive Palmer exercised massive influence in the last election by spending $60 million, or about $4 per voter. What a bargain! Or, to turn that around, we can exert as much influence as Clive Palmer comparatively cheaply. If we could persuade 5% of Australian voters that they should donate $1000 towards their favourite NGO or political party each year, we could absolutely be setting the agenda. Whilst giving money to causes does not bring the same satisfaction as turning up in person to a protest, it is possibly the most urgent thing we can do. $1000 is not much money for those among us on proper wages, or indeed anyone used to Sydney rental prices. If you hold off on replacing that laptop for an extra 6 months it has paid for itself. And other amounts are OK too 😉.
I would go further and say that donating to political movements is likely to be lot more important than certain ethical consumption choices typically are, at least expensive ones. For ethical consumption choices where we pay more for a less polluting product it is typically (I assume) because we hope there will be a force multiplier to that choice by demonstrating a demand for the more planet-compatible product, not because we hope a biodegradable toothbrush will save the earth; I suspect that typically a bigger force multiplier would be funding determined lobbyists to lobby hard for a consistent and strong industry policy to make the non-polluting option affordable and profitable for everyone rather than making it a private choice for people with the time and spare income to make these choices.
I currently volunteer for Getup, so I tend to think of them when donating. However there are many options: the Australian Conservation Foundation, Solar Citizens, Seed (an Indigenous climate action group), or your favourite political party would also be very reasonable recipient. (If you donate to a party make sure to tell them you are donating because of climate, and maybe even join properly so you can put the pressure on in branch meetings!)
For most of these organisations you can sign on to volunteer as well, which is also great. Do both. Volunteer and donate. No amount of volunteering will make $60 million of Facebook ads appear. For that, we need cold hard cash.
Fix the media
How do we hold power to account? One step is the press. The media landscape in Australia is not diverse or good at holding power to account, and is owned by a small number of oligarchs. Nothing wrong with that per se as long as there is diversity and competition. I would recommend subscribing with cash money to support the following non-oligarchic sources: The Guardian, Crikey, New Matilda.
I would welcome also ideas on more foundational fixes to the journalism. (Pro tip: don’t tell me that social media will solve this without being prepared to expand at length on precisely how.)