The most important issue facing humanity today is the environment. Sure, we have tons of problems large and small, but all of those other problems are things that we can eventually conquer if we survive long enough. They’re not things that are likely to get worse and worse until civilization collapses and billions of people die and humanity starts over again from the beginning (and to say nothing of the deaths and extinctions of myriad other plants and animals that share a planet with us). We’re living utterly unsustainably and it’s only getting worse, and that means we’re metaphorically driving with increasing speed directly toward a brick wall.
In just the last quarter century alone, humans have destroyed a tenth of the world’s wilderness, and that’s just land wilderness—almost nine-tenths of the oceans can no longer be classified as wilderness because of human influence. Somewhere between 200 and 2,000 species go extinct each year due to human activity, and this rate of extinction is greater than in any other mass-extinction event in Earth’s history. Sea life is dying with stomachs full of plastic, the entire ecology is being poisoned with PCBs, greenhouse gases are warming up the planet to a critical degree and disrupting everything and raising the sea level, bees that we require to pollinate our crops are dying off due to a number of human influences, over four-fifths of all wild mammals have been killed off as well as half of all plant life, and so on and so on.
Obviously, all of life on Earth composes one large ecosystem, and we’re not separate from it. We require it to be extant and functional in order to thrive as a species. But I’m just appealing to the fears that most people relate to now; to tell the truth, it’s not like the fate of humanity overshadows the fate of all other life on Earth in terms of importance. Either way, a group of 15,000 scientists from around the world has just recently published a “dire warning” giving us only about a decade to totally change our course before there is both catastrophic biodiversity loss and untold amounts of human misery.
So, how do we change our course?
The only feasible answer is to place severe restrictions/regulations on the companies that directly and indirectly produce all of this waste, poison and greenhouse gases. This will, of course, be a great inconvenience not only to these companies’ profiteers but also to consumers at large, but it is a necessary inconvenience. If we are to avert total disaster we cannot continue on with the lifestyle we have currently set up.
So, how do we place severe regulations on companies that are at the fulcrum of all of this?
The problem here is that private interests are in bed with the government. As long as this is the case, it will be impossible to enact laws that are against the interests of the private interests. We (the US) come nearer and nearer to being a plutocracy as time goes on. Basically, the more avenues private interests create to controlling legislation, the more power they have to create further avenues by which to control legislation. It’s an out-of-control spiral that won’t end well.
But as long as the faculties of democracy are still mostly in place, perhaps there is hope. We, the people, need to use what remaining power we have to get private interests out of bed with the government.
So, how do we get private interests out of bed with the government?
I propose a 3-part solution..
1) Effect major campaign reform. Make it illegal for any private funds to be spend on the campaign for a candidate for any public office, including the money owned by the candidate himself. Money put into a campaign obviously affects numbers of votes, and political campaigns shouldn’t be a contest of who has the most money or who’s backed by the people or organizations who have the most money.
The government should supply each candidate with a set amount of funds for doing all the things they need to do to get their voice heard across the nation; or perhaps not even that, but rather pay for the services they need to use directly, such as, for example, plane flights, air time for conveying their views to the public, etc.—and that’s it, that’s all the funds they should be allowed to use.
Even if we don’t go that far, the very least we could do is revert the legislation that enabled super PACs.
2) Make paid lobbying illegal. The only point of lobbying should be as an avenue by which The People make their wishes known to the legislators. Paying people to influence legislators by voicing opinions that they don’t even necessarily hold themselves is a form of subterfuge and undermines the whole process of democracy. Even if the paid lobbyists do hold the views they proffer, it gives private interests undue power because of all the opinions out there, the ones for which there is money being offered for people to go out of their way to be heard will get disproportionate representation.
Even if we don’t make paid lobbying illegal, we should at least eliminate the revolving door that allows former members of congress to become paid lobbyists themselves.
3) Prevent members of congress (and other government agencies, such as the FDA) from being bribed by companies with better-paying jobs. The idea is that a company secretly offers a legislature a position with them that pays significantly more than what they’re currently making as long as they vote X on Proposition Y.. this is clear bribery and should be considered a form of conflict of interest, despite the fact that the guilty person isn’t holding both positions at the same time.
So, once we have all that out of the way, maybe we can actually elect people with the integrity to do what needs to be done.
There is one problem with this I haven’t touched on, and that’s that even if we effect all of these measures within the US, there are still other countries generating waste, poison and pollution, and how are we going to convince all of them to effect such strict regulations on their industries, lifestyles and economies?
My answer is that we should do what we can, and that will be a lot since the US is the second-highest polluter behind China, and if somehow just the US and China could change their ways, that would make a huge difference as the US and China together produce almost half of all the pollution in the world..
So, the only question now is, in a country mostly controlled by the right, how do we even get bills on the floor to effect these changes, and let alone have them get enough votes to pass?
My hope is that, as a reaction to Trump’s disastrous presidency, many people will switch to the democrats’ side and tip the balance in the house and senate. Hopefully this will even happen in the upcoming midterm elections! Though there would have to be enough people switching sides to counter all of the wicked tactics and other, more incidental advantages that the republicans have that undermine the will of the people, such as the Electoral College, senate malapportionment, house gerrymandering, felony disenfranchisement laws, the Supreme Court enabling voter suppression, and plutocratic campaign financing.
Supposing we can get that far, the next step would be to contact our representatives and tell them what extreme steps we want them to take to completely divorce government from private interests, or at least to divorce them as much as possible.. so spread the word! We want to make paid lobbying illegal, allow no private funds in political campaigns, and make bribery of government agents through better-paying positions a form of conflict of interest and illegal.
Not that I necessarily know what I’m talking about. I don’t really know much about government. Well, I think my ideas for campaign finance reform and making paid lobbying illegal are good, I’m just not sure if the form of bribery I describe happens in congress, or if other forms are more prevalent. I just know I heard of it happening in the FDA.
That reminds me, we should also make all of the finances of any public official completely transparent to the public. It’s unacceptable to have people in government who care more about their own finances than the public good; that’s just bad governance. At least if we know where their money is coming from and what they’re invested in we can better identify potential conflicts of interest. Having no financial privacy may seem harsh, but it should just be considered a sacrifice one must make for the privilege of holding public office.
We also need to crack down more on known and obvious conflicts of interest. For example, how could Donald Trump be allowed to appoint someone as head of the EPA who previously worked for a coal magnate and was a lobbyist against environmental regulations? This is absurd!
Also, it’s a known fact that some bills written for and passed by congress are actually written by corporations (http://www.cpr.org/news/story/its-common-lobbyists-write-bills-congress-heres-why). It’s bad enough that paid lobbyists get their way. It’s absurd that the bills themselves are written by corporations. This has to be made illegal!
Ok, I’m done now.