Business must focus on more than bucks

With a new year looming, and NASA’s report of an asteroid near miss in December, I have to ask if there is a life-ending asteroid hurtling towards Earth.

That seems like one of the only plausible explanations for our current behaviour. Otherwise, is it actually possible that people truly don’t understand that we only have one planet and that there is only one human race? Do I sound like Chicken Little warning that the sky is falling?

NASA said that the next 100 years have no significant chance of near-Earth asteroids. Perhaps then it isn’t an asteroid that will end life as we know it? Could it be that world governments know that we’ve passed the point of no return for climate change or population growth and that we now have a finite existence, and they want to avoid widespread panic?

I teach a course in sustainability and social responsibility, and it keeps crossing my mind that the current economic and political systems in place just don’t make sense unless we won’t be around in ‘x’ years.

Clearly, you’d want to keep people from panicking if Chicken Little was correct. Maybe you’d even encourage citizens to spend more time high (legalizing marijuana) or drunk (buck a beer and LCBO as an essential service) so that they don’t figure out what’s going on. You wouldn’t worry about the obesity epidemic. You’d be supportive of citizens focusing their time on binge-watching television shows and movies, and not becoming geopolitically, socially, or environmentally aware. It sure feels like “panem et circenses” from Roman times; where the masses were appeased from revolt with simple pleasures like food, drink, and entertainment.

For decades we have been told by our governments that the best thing that we can do after a crisis is to spend money to stimulate the economy. It really began after the Second World War, when our importance as thinking citizens disappeared and we were converted into simple consumers. As buying machines, we needed two bread earners as corporate cogs to afford our promised happiness through consumption. This also had the side benefit of creating yet another business; to take care of our children while we worked. The importance of family and community declined. 

The message to buy is in sharp contrast to that taught by the Great Depression. There are survivors and many of their relatives who still believe in thrift and repairing instead of replacing. I’m one of those relatives who wants quality over quantity, and I know that owning more stuff won’t make me happier.

Does anyone else feel like love thy neighbour has morphed into love thy immediate neighbour, not those suffering around the world? Doesn’t it seem like environmental atrocities by multinationals are ignored as long as they aren’t in our back yard, or they are creating local economic prosperity? Anyone else worry that corporate contributions are filling politicians’ pockets and the resulting government decisions are not for citizen’s long-term best interests, but instead for corporate short-term interests?

What has to change? Corporations’ mandated profit imperative has to be modified. Profit maximization needs to move to a triple bottom-line model where profits are created sustainably and humanely, factoring in the planet and people. The impossible goal of exponential economic growth year-over-year has to end. Overfishing has to stop. The rainforest cannot be turned into farm land for cattle for an already obese population eating too much meat; it will only accelerate climate change. Slave and child labour has to stop and we need to address living wages and precarious work because it is not an acceptable way to get developed nations more goods, cheaper. We need to learn from our Indigenous peoples who lived in harmony with the planet and its creatures.

Corporations currently run the world, so we need to ensure they have a moral and legal responsibility to factor social and environmental responsibility into their profit imperative. That means we need strong governments, which translates into stopping all corporate contributions to politicians and political parties. Church and state were separated for a reason, and now the same applies to corporations. We need to redirect our governments to work for us as active citizens, and not treat us as couch potatoes with no social nor environmental conscience. We also need to be deprogrammed from the idea that buying more will make us happier; as it’s been proven that happiness indices peaked just after we were groomed as consumers. We personally also need to reconnect with people and the planet to be happy. 

That said, anyone care to join me in making resolutions this year to affect real change, unless, of course, the sky is, in fact, falling?

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