Occasionally, connections can make so much sense. Over 20 years ago, I embarked on a distant learning course on Human Ecology. Just for the fun of it, I was that kind of kid. The other day, I watched Sir David Attenborough (sorry, forgot the title of his feature) ponder on population growth, the education of girls, food and oil shortage. The surprising thing was that all it did was reiterate what I learned over 20 years ago.
So here are the issues:
1. There are 7 billion people on this planet (when I took the course it was 4 billion) and we are struggling to feed them. If everyone on the world had the life style of the average Indian, we could feed 9 billion. If everyone had the lifestyle of the US, we could feed barely over 1 billion.
2. Carbon based energy will be used up in the not so distant future. Our agriculture (i.e. feeding those 7 billion) and consumer culture depend on oil.
3. World population continues to grow very fast. We will go beyond 9 billion. It's only started expanding like this in the past 150 years due to mortality rates going down. We don't want people to die of diseases, so we have to find another avenue to get back to population levels that the world can sustain.
Solutions must include as outcomes: food production to feed the growing population, severe reduction of dependency on oil, and levelling of world population.
To me, that seems to be the simplest summary of our task ahead. Now I'm looking for local solutions for this task. The documentary argued that the education of girls and young women was the biggest factor in a soft approach to population control. The higher educated girls are, the smaller their families. Education brings choice, empowerment, control over their own fertililty. Heaps better than the Chinese model.
Then look at what's happening in education to young people in the UK: disengagement, keeping head down in school, detention, exclusion. Young people for whom textbook education just doesn't cut it. Why? I don't have the answers, but I can see alternatives to education that are meaningful for young people.
A barrier to all of this is of course the way our society distributes wealth through wages. And here's where my main connection of today comes in: A Bit Rich is a report by New Economics Foundation which unveils the real value of professions for societies and compares it with the renumeration. You may argue with the nitty gritty of how they come to the "real value" but there's no doubt that the bottom line is that: We've created a society where the private and financial sector get high salaries but don't actually contribute an awful lot towards society, whereas those professions that do are paid a pittance. Often, women are to be found those in the more valuable professions (think cleaners and childcare workers) and it's also no news that maternal income is crucial in getting rid of child poverty. The cycle thus closes.
So then, we need to connect meaningful educational options with reducing reliance on fossil fuels and and increase in food production. As a step towards encouraging such sollutions, we need wages and salaries to reflect the actual contribution towards the things that matter. This is our challenge. This is not about climate change, whatever your position on this one may be. It's more about, as much as I hate to say it, survival.
It's a high task, but fear not, local changes is what we need and what we can do. Solutions can be found and I've just heard of a really exciting one so if you some clever people get their thinking hats on (there are after all 7 billion brains going about), surely there must be some great ideas floating about.
Ideas to save the world in comment box below please (I'm serious by the way!)