Politics and policy are not the same. They are at war and this is a major problem.

Ever get frustrated that nothing seems to get done nowadays, even if it has a simple solution? As a society, we have realised the failings of a multitude of issues for decades that has resulted in a sexist, racist, unequal world that is under unprecedented threat. Yet still we bulldoze on, destroying everything in our path and perpetuating these issues on a bigger and bigger scale. So why, if we know these problems exist, and we know the answers, don’t we simply do something about it?

This is not a politically charged article, but one that identifies a fundamental issue with the current political system, regardless of right or left wing views. That issue is the difference between policy and politics.

There are two basic differences, both of which seriously undermines finding solutions.

Firstly, policy, in theory, aims to use science and reason alone to solve problems. Politics, on the other hand, aims to wins votes. This difference is important because it turns out basing policy on science and reason is not effective in winning votes. For example, reducing greenhouse gas emissions makes social, economic and environmental sense, but it doesn’t win votes and so governments won’t make it policy.

Second, policy works on whatever timescale is needed. Fitting a village with electricity maybe a policy on a monthly scale, but other issues, such as providing housing to everybody, works on a long-term, decadal scale. Politics, however, only works on a short timescale. Politicians make policy only for the next few years, and nothing beyond. This is because long term plans will benefit future governments, not their own and they can be brought down with ease, as soon as another government gets into power.

What is the point then for a politician to think to the future when it firstly won’t get them votes, and will probably be rejected as soon as a different government get into power?

Advertisements

Is the concern from overpopulation a racist concept?

Headlines asking, ‘Can we live in a world of ten billion?’ both in the media and in scientific articles are widespread. They portray a kind of dystopia world where houses are stacked on top of each other whilst the population manically consume the entire world’s resources. The reality, in fact, is just as bad, but population isn’t the main issue.

Here I show two things. Firstly, that our lifestyles have much more of an impact on the world than population size. Second, that the focus on overpopulation in the media is inherently racist, as it tries to place blame on developing nations, avoiding the elephant in the room that actually, countries with the least population growth are consuming the most.

One example is the often stated problem of how we are going to feed 3 billion more people by 2050. Actually, those 3 billion more people only account for a third of the extra food we need to produce. The other two thirds come from people eating a more meat heavy and exotic diet.

Another, is the fact that Indonesia is the fourth most populated country in the world, yet only contributes to 1% of greenhouse emissions. Moreover, India has more than three times the population of America, but only consumes half as much.

So clearly, having more people on the planet doesn’t matter as much as what they do, so why does western media kick up such a fuss?

Well, if population rise is seen as the worst of the world’s problems, then so is Africa and Asia. To this extent, blaming population over and over is just a way of saying, ‘look at Africa and Asia, their population is growing so fast we won’t be able to cope!’. And if we can blame the Africans, the west can continue to fly on holidays, own huge homes and cars, and unfairly monopolise the planets resources.

So next time somebody stresses about the population increase in Africa and Asia, question why they think they can consume so much, but the rest of world should stay the same.

The car: a self-necessitating parasite.

There are nearly a billion cars roaming the Earth. These alone will cause more than 2 degrees of global warming.

You drive to work in the morning, groggy from a lack of sleep, coffee in one hand and it seems a relief you can sit in a car, press a couple of pedals, turn a wheel and your there. On the way you are exempt from normal social interactions between others inhabiting the streets, with nothing but the occasional monotonous sound of a horn. You don’t need to look, talk or acknowledge anyone. You are the king.

As Adorno writes in 1942: ‘And which driver is not tempted, merely by the power of the engine, to wipe out the vermin of the street, pedestrians, children and cyclists?’

Whilst Adorno may be exaggerating, it shows how the car has become a symbol of individuality, power and personal sovereignty. Similar to the mobile phone, the car becomes an extension of the self, a description of your personality.

It is little wonder then, that any policy aiming to disarm the car, promote shared mobility and curb fossil fuel emissions becomes an attack on you, an attempt to take your personaility and do away with your sovereignty and independence.

Therefore, governments are ‘locked in’ to car use, essentially forced to promote cars, despite the knowledge that energy use by cars alone in developed countries would be enough to smash the 2oC global warming threshold. This dependency is also determined by the physical space around us. Houses, towns, cities and entire nations are designed around the use of the car. In fact, a whopping 25% of London is a ‘car only’ space.

It may seem hopeless, but as a consumer, it is imperative you stop driving cars, and stop now. Show the politicians that you want improved public transport rather than improved cars because if they think they’ll win votes, they will do it.

As John Urry from the University of Lancaster says, in the future we will look back and, ‘No-one will comprehend how such a large, wasteful and planet-destroying creature could have ruled the Earth.’ Whether our children think that with relief or contempt is down to us.