The Story of Solutions presented by Annie Leonard takes us through the story of more. Firstly, the ability of humans to solve the problems of productivity. This started with the Industrial Revolution when Sir Richard Arkwright borrowed design ideas from others to create weaving machines. But that was later.
In the early 1700s, Thomas Newcomen designed an “atmospheric steam engine,” his invention pumped water out of mine shafts. A good thing, unless you think about the impact coal has had on the planet, in which case, not such a good thing. But hindsight and all that.
Let’s fast forward to the 1980s. Cast your mind back to when technology took over our lives — can you remember when we pushed pieces of paper around the office and between departments? Walking down to the bowels of the building to retrieve a physical piece of paper when a customer called in about their phone line. What an escape from the office!
Can you then remember learning to use a computer program like Wordstar or SuperCalc? You get the gist.
Today technology enslaves us. Most of the humans on the planet have mobile phones. Our devices solve so many of our time problems. We can do everything faster, cheaper, and newer, but what about safer, healthier, and fairer?
We learned the rules of the game decades ago. Those rules include more of everything, and the goal, you guessed it, is winning more. Did you notice the incredible annual growth reports from top corporations from the last forty years?
What about the explosion of gas-guzzling vehicles on the road and planes in the sky? Apple’s iPod, iPhone, iMac, MacBook Air, and so on. More hospitals, roads, malls. More money spent. Manufacturers make stuff, and retailers sell it. We know the rules and buying stuff makes us happy. Amazing wins for us all! But …
What about all the bad stuff? Missiles, cheap labor, deforestation, obesity, the price of vital medicines and operations. These are included in GDP (gross domestic product) too.
The standard measure of the value added created through the production of goods and services in a country during a certain period. As such, it also measures the income earned from that production, or the total amount spent on final goods and services (less imports).
A big GDP demonstrates how much a country is winning the game. According to The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United States of America is in sixth place in the race for the biggest GDP based on 2016 to 2020 data.
So what's the problem?
The problem is that GDP doesn’t distinguish between more green energy or more fossil-fuelled energy, more youths in school or more youths in jail, more electric public transport vehicles, or more gas lost in traffic jams. The goal of more includes the waste of food, resources, and unethical business transactions. Annie Leonard reckons we should change the goal.
What if we built the game around the goal of better?
Better health, better education, and renewable energy! A better chance to survive on this planet.
It took us decades to reach this goal of more. It’s likely to take decades more to find solutions to all the bad habits we’ve developed. Plus, we have many big players who want to keep playing the game of buying more stuff. The ethical ones change their ways. The unethical ones will greenwash (flat out lie and do nothing) or not disclose company information.
We don’t want more of the old games, though. What would be better for us and the planet would be game-changing solutions. Annie takes the example of plastics; of course, we all know about the ocean garbage patches.
In this example of dealing with the plastic problem, two different groups of people form to change how plastic is used. One offers gift vouchers in exchange for recycling used plastic containers. The other campaigns for the reuse, recycling, and banning of plastics. The former promotes and rewards buying more for being a good consumer. The latter encourages a better solution than just earning and spending more.
The campaigners for change join up with forward-thinking businesses offering alternatives to single-use plastic. Together these parties fight against The American Chemistry Council (ACC), America’s oldest trade association of its kind. The campaigners speak with their neighbors and inspire them to tell their friends about the old game and share the new game rules.
Created in 2013, The Story of Solutions video simplified the complexity of a game we’d all been playing. The winners (corporations) controlled democracy rather than the government on behalf of the people.
The government and the people are reclaiming democracy. We know now how far many campaigners and forward-thinking businesses have come by the success of global nonprofit environmental organizations.
People-power has forced investment companies to invest in ethical solutions.
Today, the ACC website shares articles like Circularity.
Progress toward a circular economy should include not only responsible use of natural resources, but also enable the reuse, repurposing, recycling and recovery of the value locked in materials traditionally viewed as waste.
Florida Tech Online reported: Companies that demonstrate a commitment to sustainability have seen a 4% rise in profit compared to under -1% for brands that did not show the same commitment, according to the 2015 Nielsen Global Corporate Sustainability Report. A majority of 66% of global consumers said they would pay more for sustainable goods and 73% of Millennials said they would.
Sustainability-sensitive consumers reward companies for their ethics.
Another major battle was that between the corporations who forced the government to support their business goals. Consider Biden versus Fossil Fuels. As of November 4, 2021:
House Democrats press ahead with Build Back Better Act, including $550 billion in climate-related funding.
With the US government joining the wave of organizations fighting climate change, we have a greater chance of turning the tide on more and achieving the goal of better.
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