You don’t have to make a choice between making money or making a difference. Just follow the model of these rock stars of the new economy.
Education was historically considered a great equalizer in American society, capable of lifting less advantaged children and improving their chances for success as adults. But a body of recently published scholarship suggests that the achievement gap between rich and poor children is widening, a development that threatens to dilute education’s leveling effects.
It is a well-known fact that children from affluent families tend to do better in school. Yet the income divide has received far less attention from policy makers and government officials than gaps in student accomplishment by race.
Now, in analyses of long-term data published in recent months, researchers are finding that while the achievement gap between white and black students has narrowed significantly over the past few decades, the gap between rich and poor students has grown substantially during the same period.
To solve the energy challenge, we will have to find a way to produce, every day, not just what we are producing right now, but at least twice that much. We will need to increase our energy output by a minimum factor of two, the generally agreed upon number, certainly by the middle of the century, but preferably well before that—despite the fact that oil and gas will have long since peaked. Considering that many people on the planet are not using much energy at all and that new energy sources have yet to be developed, billions of people would still be living without modern energy.
To give all 10 billion people on the planet the level of energy prosperity we in the developed world are used to, a couple of kilowatt-hours per person, we would need to generate 60 terawatts around the planet—the equivalent of 900 million barrels of oil per day."
In 2004, the late Nobel laureate, Richard Smalley, one of the pioneers of nanotechnology, shared this incisive report on the future of the world’s energy needs. With world population passing 7 billion, this assessment is even more salient seven years later.
“The Metamovement isn’t just a faint, transient echo, but the increasingly resonant reverberation of people challenging this brutal state of malfunction, this Great Splintering of institutions and social contracts. Their truth, I suspect, might be this: there’s no one left to turn to — and so the Metamovement has turned to each other. Not for yesterday’s notions of “solidarity”, or the corporatist ideal of “inspiration,” but as nodes in a pulsing network whose coherence defines it: to demand institutions which can literally deliver the goods of enlightened social contracts. That enshrine in the people, first and foremost, the inalienable right to be authors of their own destinies — instead of condemning them to be mute puppets. It is, of course, this sense of autonomy that is the cornerstone of eudaimonia, the belief that a good life is a life lived meaningfully, and that it ought to be possible to both live meaningfully and make a living. And in that foundational sense, I’d say the Metamovement is the first glimmering of a larger revolution that will burn over the globe like Bouazizi’s fire. No, not every revolt ends in revolution — but every revolution begins with revolt. And make no mistake, this is revolt — an insurrection against a monstrous status quo that’s failed too many, too deserving, for too long, while serving too few, too undeserving, far too well. It is not in the nature of man or beast to stay yoked to the gleaming machines of their own economic, social, and moral annihilation. Better — as perhaps Bouazizi thought — to commit the ultimate act; to choose. To choose to let loose a brutally human cry, one whose echoes might come to define a defining decade.”
- Umair Haque, The Protests and the Metamovement
There is no doubt that the civil unrest sweeping the world shares common roots: the stark economics of an increasingly inequitable economic system, where the world is plundered by the few, while the many find scant opportunity beyond mere survival.
Perhaps it is a metamovement, if you’d consider animals fleeing a forest fire a metamovement. [We can’t forget the backdrop of a radically degraded climate: the hottest year on record, drought, and enormous flooding, all contributing to rising food prices and unemployment.]
Umair suggests that people everywhere share a common vision: the right to live an engaged, meaningful life, which generally includes meaningful work. But we are living in a time where large-scale organizations are being dissolved by the corrosive effects of oligarchy: where it seems the powerful — including our leaders — feel little commonality with the weak. The world, though, is a commons, our shared birthright, not a prize to be ransacked by triumphalist billionaires.
The revolt that Umair is talking about has begun, and cannot be stopped. The rioters in London believed ‘they had no future to risk’, as Owen Jones said.
It will come down to the citizens of the West demanding that the banks and the rentiers write down the enormous global debt that they would like us to pay off through taxes and austerity. They have built a Ponzi scheme, and made trillions, and now that the bottom is dropping out, they have contrived a consensus that all that debt should be made public: absorbed by the governments, and paid off by the people.
So, enough is enough. We won’t pay.
And then, perhaps, we can start to build new institutions, new ways of living on the earth together, but first, the revolt.