Decision-making is an inevitable aspect of life whether done consciously or subconsciously. Even the big decisions where we think we are being logical, the research shows that most of our decisions big or small are made unconsciously and may involve emotions, lack of in depth knowledge, peer crowd pressure, previous cognitive or group biases.
If we look into the history of human civilization, the highest growth and development is recorded in the last couple of centuries, with average human life expectancy doubling from 30 yrs (in 19th century) to 73 yrs (in 2020) along with almost unlimited resources for “rich” people at an affordable cost.
But does that mean that whatever decisions we made in history turned out to be right?
Let’s look at some of our decisions and how they have led us into irreversible problematic world and how we may be able to resolve them:
1. What if we never consumed meat at scale, in the name of “protein needs”?
Animal farming is the number one cause of climate change.
You might have heard buzz over the years that following a vegetarian diet is better for your health, and would have probably read a few magazine articles featuring a celeb or two who swore off meat and animal products and “magically” lost weight.
People become vegetarians for a variety of reasons. Some do it to alleviate animal suffering, others because they want to pursue a healthier lifestyle. No matter how much your carnivorous friends might deny it, vegetarians have a point: cutting out meat delivers multiple benefits. And the more who make the switch, the more those perks would manifest on a global scale.
Globally?? Yes, you read it right. 2019 Netflix documentary “ TheGame Changers” proves how vegan athletes are the strongest, best performing, and recover faster from injuries, compared with meat eater athletes.
Most people don’t think of the consequences of food on climate change. It is scientifically proven that if the entire world goes vegan we would be able to reduce greenhouse emissions by 70%. Food, especially livestock, also takes up a lot of room, a source of both greenhouse gas emissions due to land conversion and of biodiversity loss. Out of the world’s approximately five billion hectares of agricultural land, 68% is used for livestock.
Not only climate, but it also has a direct impact on human health as well, being vegan reduces mortality rate 6-10%. Thanks to a lessening of coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke and some cancers. Global vegetarianism would stave off about 7 million deaths per year. Fewer people suffering from food-related chronic illnesses would also mean a reduction in medical bills, saving about 2-3% of global gross domestic product.
So meat / animal farming is bad for animals, humans and the environment, and we still keep consuming it? What if we did not.
2. What if our economy doesn’t grow every year?
Economic growth is a fantasy and an obsession that we all seem to believe in, which definitely hurts sustainability and ecological balance of the world.
To quantify this, global GDP had grown to $85 trillion, which is good and big, but our addiction to economic growth has led to global debt / borrowing of over $260 trillion as well.
Almost over $10,000 per person per year. This amount is more than what most people make around the world, in fact more than what most people need. Despite all this, there are more than 43 million Americans living in poverty.
The problem we face is better allocation of this global GDP. But we just keep on creating more stuff that we don’t actually need, in the name of progress, economic growth and evolution. We are consuming more than we need and ultimately are not only hurting ourselves, but also destroying our only planet.
3. What if Plastic was never invented?
Once a revolutionary invention, is now filling up our oceans and killing thousands of whales, birds, turtles and even humans.
Since the 1950s we’ve created 6.3 billion tons of plastic. We have more than 5 billion tons of plastic waste with us till date. Plastic accounts for about 10 percent of the total waste we generate. If we could gather it all in one place, this plastic mountain would be bigger than Mount Everest.
Plastic accounts for approximately 90 percent of all trash which exists on the ocean’s surface, with about 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile.
Plastic will only start degrading after 700 years and will only fully degrade in the next 1000 years, which means that all plastic produced by humans has yet to start degrading.
Plastic bags are produced using petroleum, natural gas and other chemicals. Not only its usage but its production is also toxic to the environment.
But where we stand today, it’s almost impossible to imagine life without plastic packaging, not only plastic packaging, but it is also used in clothes, cooking utensils, eyeglasses, prosthetics, mobile phones etc.Compostable materials can be an answer to the problem created by everlasting plastics. Compostable and biodegradable packaging breaks down typically within a year, additionally break down to a substance which benefits the soil.
4. What if we never got involved in virtuous capitalist consumerism?
Consumption is essential to the efficient workings of capitalism. On the surface level, consumption in the form of accumulation ensures that the capitalist machine keeps working.
Capitalism and consumption, however, have a far more visceral and sinister relationship as well. This relationship is evident in how capitalism shapes the psyche of its subjects and alters the way individuals desire things.
Clothes, for instance, become symbols of status and of belonging. A house, instead of serving as a place of shelter, depicts one’s wealth and prestige. Consumption under capitalism therefore seeks to satisfy desires that exist beyond what a commodity has to offer.
It thus becomes absolutely essential that we scrutinize capitalism not simply as an economic system, but as a paradigm that governs every decision of our lives. Capitalism is a pernicious force which exploits our basic desires and hence moulds us according to its needs. We must avidly pursue an alternative that guarantees individual health and the health of our environment.
5. What if we don’t accept democracy blindly, but with education and opposition?
Over the period of time, people have accepted democracy as a better way of governance over the other methods of the autocratic government or monarchy government. Democratic way of governance might be better than the other way of governance, but still needs few improvements.
In today’s world we are blindly following democracy, once the government is elected and the ministry is alloted, people forget the role of opposition, which is very important for the smooth functioning of government.
The Opposition’s main role is to question the government of the day and hold them accountable to the public. This also helps to fix the mistakes of the Ruling Party.
The role of the opposition in the legislature is basically to check the excesses of the ruling or dominant party, and not to be totally antagonistic, which is the truth of selfish democratic parties.
Education plays an important role in successful running of a democratic country. Education helps in growth of the country’s economy which is not restricted to one’s self motives. Education helps in understanding better over the good and decide what and who can help the country grow.
6. What if our electric cars were actually green?
The green credentials of your electric car depend on how power is generated where you live. If you have solar panels, then your driving will be free of emissions. BUT, if your electricity comes from a local plant that’s powered by fossil fuels, then you’re STILL shifting your greenhouse gas emissions from your exhaust to its chimneys.
Another argument that is routinely put forward to contrast the clean image of electric cars is the pollution behind the manufacturing process of their batteries. There is indeed a range of rare earth metals that make up the composition of the battery, and their extraction and manipulation do contribute to carbon emissions too.
There is a need to overcome the major drawbacks which prevents Electric Vehicles from being greener, if we really see our future in these EVs.
7. What if we did not allow social networks to hack our brains?
The social networking sites were designed to help people share information about themselves with their friends, or to connect with our long lost friend. Which in due course of time evolved to finding like-minded people and making money by getting employment or generating business.
But the dark side of these platforms were so ugly, that no one would have ever imagined; unethical distribution of user data to influence something as big as the US presidential elections among many other data breach incidents has been slapped on the faces of over 2.13 billion users of Facebook worldwide.
We think that access to the world via the internet is giving us the liberty to see what we wish too, on the contrary we are seeing what the platforms wish to show us.
There was no compulsion to have a life before these social media platforms hacked our brains, it was easy to chat and enjoy a cup of coffee with friends without the compulsive need of clicking photos and pretending to enjoy the moment.
The sadder part is we are lying about our choices and interests in the peer pressure which these platforms create upon us. It’s time for us to re-think if we really need these platforms, or shall we leave it and live a healthier real life.
8. What if we never used refrigerants?
When the going gets hot, the heat tries to cool down. However, due to the use of refrigerants, cooling is a privilege that can have a negative impact on the environment. Refrigerants cause damage to the ozone layer and contribute to global warming. CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) were the first refrigerants to gain popularity, and they were present in everything from vehicles to air conditioners and refrigerators. However, CFCs contain chlorine, which directly causes ozone depletion.
To reduce the damage done by CFCs, industries turned to HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons) instead. While initial studies concluded that HFCs only destroy a negligible amount of ozone, recent discoveries show that this is not the case.
There is always room for improvement to replace the harmful CFCs and HFCs, everyone has a role to play in it by maintaining your appliances, replacing them when they’re outdated, and properly recycling them. Turn off your AC when you’re not home so you aren’t wasting energy, too.
In Paris, inspite of 44 degrees temperature, people are not allowed to have a/cs at home to avoid further warming due to these harmful gases.
The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the next best time is now. What if we all act now?