Positive steps

What can citizens do to help safeguard the habitability of our planet?

The page provides more detailed substantiation in support of [The Case: Positive steps]. Consideration is given to the potential role of individuals in helping towards reducing the major human-caused global problems, and global warming in particular.

Ideas for an Essential Consumption Only (ECO) type of economy are presented.

It is concluded that privileged consumers need to lead the way in reducing personal consumption to essentials by 2030, and that young people, especially those from affluent (and/or overconsumptive) backgrounds need to be having serious conversations with their families and friends, to raise questions about possible lifestyle changes that could be made.

Can the world be eased "back from the brink"? TC

The urgency of the situation post-COP26 TC

Rising to the Challenge TC

Towards a fit-for-purpose governance system TC

What might an 'essential consumption only' type of economy look like? TC

Towards a consensus on essentialness TC

Potential contributions from individual citizens - revisited TC

The bold titles in the above top menu correspond to the main section titles in [The Case: Positive steps]. The white link-boxes above labelled TC facilitate cross referencing of these titles back to the narrative overview in [The Case].

On the dimensions of politics

When seeking to better understand what is happening geopolitically it can be helpful to map out the broad characteristics of political systems at a collective nation-state level, ranging from the polarities of the political spectrum: left to right, and from democracy (free) to totalitarianism/ dictatorship (unfree).

The political spectrum

The mapping can be conveniently visualised as a compass (or clockface) with totalitarianism at North (12 o'clock); democracy at South (6 o'clock); left-wing at West (9 o'clock); and right-wing at East (3 o'clock).

A third dimension (coming out from the compass/ clockface) is necessary in order to accommodate fascism, which can be dictatorial or operate within democratic frameworks; and can also be left or right-wing (Rickards, 2016, p.257).

(Rickards, 2016, pp.238-240) describes some of the ideas of the Austrian economist Joseph A.Schumpeter. Paraphrasing (by me): Schumpeter's view of democracy was that it was not about fullfilling the will of the people, but rather it "was a process by which elites competed for leadership roles". After an election the "voters are ignored and winning élites carry out preconceived plans". The key for all economies is central planning. He predicted that capitalism would decline and would be replaced by socialism. Schumpeter regarded China's mixture of official communism and state-capitalism as socialist; which can work perfectly well with or without democracy. But the danger is that as planning becomes entrenched the socialism would become blended with fascism.

Facets of dark governance (reference citation only) [Power structure: Notes]

Free/ unfree polarity  Nicholas Hagger discusses free/ unfree polarity in his book World State. On China, in contrast with Schumpeter, Hagger's view is that "China is still totalitarian, but the harshness of the regime has eased (Hagger, 2018b, p.74). Appendix D of Hagger's book lists the free/ unfree polarity of 209 nation-states and related and disputed territories; taken from the 2017 Freedom House annual survey. The freedom ratings are from 1 which represents the most free, to 7 which represents the least free.

In 2017 India is listed as being an electoral democracy with a freedom rating of 2.5. But the reality underlying these ratings needs to be unpicked. For example chapter 2 of (Patel, 2022) provides a chilling list of State promises in India, followed by an authoritarian reality in terms of delivery.

Political rhetoric and media-framing  In the context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, (Chomsky, 2022b, approx 31' into video) cites two basic ideas about the Russian military which have been discussed in the western mainstream media: (i) that it is incompetent in comparison to the Ukrainan civilian defence force; just a paper tiger, and (ii) that it is so overwhelmingly powerful that the west has to arm itself to the teeth. Chomsky says that George Orwell called this "double think" - to hold two completely contradictory ideas in mind at the same time, and to believe both of them - which can happen within super totalitarianism. Chomsky remarked that "we are living with it ourselves right now".

We are all affected by political rhetoric and media-framing.

System justification, media framing, and propaganda [Issues].

Individuals and political left/ right  The political spectrum can also be considered from the perspective/ perception of individuals. In his book Up from Eden Ken Wilber addresses a central socio-political problem: why are men and women unfree? He then broadly contrasts some generalised differences between 'Republicans' and 'Democrats'. Paraphrasing (by me): Following the philosophical ideas of Hobbes/ Burke/ Freud and the ethnologists, political conservatives and Republicans would tend to believe that men and women are unfree because of something inherent in their natures. Whereas, following the ideas of Rousseau/ Marx and humanistic psychology and philosophy in general, those with liberal political views would tend to believe that men and women are born essentially free, but become unfree because the outer world is oppressive and exploitative (Wilber, 1996b, pp.352-354).

The reader can judge how well these contrasting political stances account for some of the observable general differences in political attitudes between conservatives and liberals.

According to this categorisation, conservatives basically believe that man needs to be controlled in order to maintain order in society; in effect, that goodness is repressed evil. Liberals basically believe that oppression would be lifted by wealth redistribution, and repression would be lifted by actively promoting mental well-being (education not through punishment, but through teaching love and kindness); in effect that evil is repressed goodness (Ibid.).

As part of his work towards an integral political theory, Wilber discusses some of his collaborations with other theorists. For example he is in agreement with Drexel Sprecher and Lawrence Chickering on the need to make a "distinction between 'order' and 'free' wings within both conservatism and liberalism, referring to whether emphasis is placed on collective or individual ends" (Wilber, 2001d, pp.88-89).

What kind of leadership would be required?

It is acknowledged that the reference sources on political matters used on this website have taken a largely western 'democracy', and often a US, perspective. This is certainly the case for the section below. But it will become increasingly important to be aware of the implications of other ideological perspectives on the balance of power if the élite mix moves away from the 'Western democracy' model.

In her book The Global Citizen written three decades ago, the late Donella Meadows, principal author of Limits to Growth, posed the question "What makes a great leader?" at a college seminar (Meadows, 1991, pp.251-253). By the end of the seminar, six dimensions of leadership had been assigned, in order to usefully profile 'leadership'. The first three categories refer to the potential for things to happen:

The other categories refer to where the leader is going:

Having assigned the six dimensions of a leadership profile, the seminar participants were in a position to compare various famous leadership figures by allocating a simple dimension-rating of strong, adequate, or deficient. Nine famous people were listed, including five US Presidents, Hitler, Martin Luther King, and Gandhi. Eleanor Roosevelt was included and it was evident from the profiles how well she and Franklin Roosevelt complemented each other. No doubt this could also be observed for some other President/ First Lady partnerships. Overall President Lincoln's profile was the strongest, President Jefferson's second, and President Carter's the weakest.

I was disappointed when US President Carter was not elected for a second term, thinking that he was a good person who was trying to take the US in a better direction. This image was reinforced in a recent documentary (Anon., 2020j). It illustrated how his choice to prioritise securing the safe return of the US hostages from Iran, and to allow the (later to be deposed) Shah of Iran to receive US medical treatmentxyz  did indeed contribute towards a landslide vote for President Reagan.

xyz   Rather than taking advice to show a more typically robust US military response, which would have boosted his re-election prospects.

The Jimmy Carter example highlights the difference in thinking that will be necessary for leadership in a democratic global governance context, in comparison with that for office in a federal or nation-state context.

Political judgements prioritising love do not seem to be vote-winners for a disturbingly large proportion of US voters who seem to favour an 'America first' mindset. Much better to wield power to get things done and keep the economy strong, whatever the adverse social and environmental costs.

It would be an instructive exercise to review the Meadow's study, after updating it from Reagan onwards. It is possible that in a post-Trump era in which extreme semantic inversion and extreme political views incorporating hate speech and fake news are the norm, the six parameters would not be enough, or even applicable. The expectations of some voters might now be so numbed that their frames of reference for voting criteria have been seriously corrupted, with associated implications for democracy.

Some examples of the genre are described in (Anon., 2020e), (Theroux, 2022), and (Gatehouse, 2021).

Donella Meadows concluded her description of the leadership seminar with the remark "Citizens of a democracy should be as expert about about leadership as Eskimos are about snow, however many words it takes." This is surely even more the case when referring to leadership at a democratic global governance level.

The right direction

In World State (Hagger, 2018b), Nicholas Hagger initially considers seven models for a Supranational Authority. The sixth of these models is the secretive élite agenda described by Rickards. Hagger refers to the élites as The Syndicate, and he describes how they operate in his book with the same title (Hagger, 2004). He outlines the backgound to the élite plan in modern times (Hagger, 2018b, pp.138-144), and why he believes it is flawed. He thinks their secrecy of operation and self-interest in exploiting world resources primarily for their own benefit does not serve the interests of humankind. There is a feeling that such methods are leading towards a dictatorial rather than a democratic world. Hagger concludes (Ibid., p.152) that none of the seven models could give the kind of supranational authority that meet his defined goals; the first of which is to bring peace between nation-states, and disarmament (Ibid., p.105)

In an eighth model for a Supranational Authority, Hagger presents his vision for a democratised UN with accountable global governance (Ibid., p.154). Hagger's vision is vastly preferable to the élite agenda, and the explanations by Rickards and Hagger about the New World Order address many of the questions I have wrestled with for years about the causes of the core business as usual problem. But the following practical question remains:

By what possible mechanism could it come about that the prevailing governance system is reconfigured - to require mandatory legal action to ensure the responsible safeguarding of the habitability of the planet, and the flourishing of the common good?

A fit-for-purpose global governance framework is necessary to stand any chance of providing lasting solutions to the major global human-caused problems. But the prevailing governance system is the élite agenda referred to by Rickards. Since it is the systematic implementation of this agenda over a long period of time which has caused these problems, along with a progressive weakening of democracy, the question might be better split as:

Given the longstanding track record of élite governance, what could prevent their agenda from being fully realised?

If their agenda is realised, what will prevent further escalation of the major global problems?

"Possession of the facts"

Hagger believes that "the American people will not allow the American state to be shut down once they are in possession of the facts. Knowledge of the situation will give the American people strength, and be their salvation" (Hagger, 2004, p.313). This was also Donella Meadows' hope.

Hagger addresses potential sceptics on how his concept of a democratic World State might be realised (Hagger, 2018b, pp.209-214). To those who cannot see that any nation-state government would vote for a reduction in its own sovereignty, Hagger points out that in his scheme, funds "previously spent on defence" could then be released to "bring prosperity to their peoples" (Ibid., p.210). He makes a direct appeal to the Members of the UN General Assembly to do their duty (Ibid., p.214).

Spotlight on democracy

Since the existing governance framework has evolved over centuries of persistent effort by élites, it would be naive to think that this system is just going to be voluntarily relinquished. As already discussed, any process which is intended to be compatible with a more enlightened global governance structureegg  faces intractable problems of implementation through the 'democratic' process, which has been systematically eroded by élites. Although we may be dissatisfied with the state of democracy in the West, of course many states are much less free, and some totalitarian.

egg   A fit-for-purpose governance system [The Case: Positive steps] which could begin to really tackle the major human-caused global problems which have evolved as a consequence of the ever more deeply entrenched form of dark governance.

New ideas which suit the status quo are likely to gain a foothold through the Shock Doctrine mechanism when there is a crisis, and/or their time has clearly come (Klein, 2007). But it is to be expected that radical ideas which challenge the status quo will take much longer to germinate.

As the economist Schumpeter said about democracy; that it "was a process by which élites competed for leadership roles. Once an election is over, voters are ignored and winning élites carry out preconceived plans..." (Rickards, 2016, p.238).

In an interview David Barsamian asked Noam Chomsky about a talk he gave entitled The Common Good (Chomsky, 2012, pp.208-209). Chomsky said that he started with Aristotle's Politics on the inherent contradiction of wealth inequality and democracy. Aristotle felt that "any true democracy has to be what we would call today a welfare state" to reduce poverty, but one in a form well in advance of our concept. This would ensure that neither poverty or excessive wealth could persist.

Chomsky then referred to James Madison who was concerned that with too much democracy "the poor majority would use its power to bring about what we would call land reform". His proposed solution was to reduce democracy and put "power in the hands of the 'more capable set of men', those who hold 'the wealth of the nation'.

"...a kind of social contract"

Chomsky pointed out that Madison was pre-capitalist, and could not have imagined the current state of affairs with "investors and corporate executives trying to maximise their own wealth regardless of the effect that has on other people". He then commented that when Franklin D.Roosevelt had to respond to public disquiet, "he left power in the hands of the rich, but bound them to a kind of social contract"; that this was nothing new, and would happen again (Ibid., p.210).

But Madison's concern about the people taking liberties if there was too much democracy reflects an élite perspective, whereas it is the people who need to be concerned if there is not enough democracy.

As already discussed, in the US, corporations have been given too much leeway, and 'democracy' has become corrupted by big money.

Democracy in a " 'free' market" is compromised by many factors [Power structure: Notes]

In Russia the state-controlled media withholds the truth from its people about the war it is currently waging on its neighbour Ukraine. But the western media also presents a highly selective view [The Case]. China is a surveillance-state, which decides what kind of freedoms [Power structure] its people can have, and so on.

Adam Smith and the 'invisible hand'

Referring to the primacy of self-interest in market societies, and referring to Margaret Thatcher's claim that 'there is no such thing as society' as "implying that the market society is best understood as an agglomeration of individuals", (Cleaver, 1997, p.12) quotes from Adam Smith's classic work The Wealth of Nations (1776), which defines the basis of the 'invisible hand'. Commenting that this passage is "perhaps the most famous in all economics", Cleaver points out that "Smith wrote this over 200 years ago as the professor of moral philosophy at Glasgow University, and was well aware of the ethical and institutional foundations upon which this assertion is based." Cleaver later writes: "..the price mechanism is the key organising agency of the modern market economy - the invisible hand that directs the pattern if all consumption, production and distribution. It determines what is produced, which industries will succed or fail, and which resources will, or will not, be employed" (Ibid., p.46).

But 'amoral' dark governance often uses a deceitful conceptual inversion by referring to Adam Smith's 'invisible hand' of self-interest, without mentioning that his ideas were set in a context of pre-capitalism; which in comparison with the dark global capitalism of today, might be regarded as relatively moral capitalism. "Adam Smith was the author not only of the Wealth of Nations, but of the Theory of the Moral Sentiments, where he asserts time after time that self-interest has to be pursued by people of conscience, informed by their capacity for moral awareness. Without that, the 'invisible hand' of self-interest will not work for the common good" (Porritt, 2005, p.34).

In the final sentence of the last paragraph of his book, (Cleaver, 1997, p.256) writes: "In a fast-changing, chronically uncertain world where our economic and technological power to create or destroy embraces vastly disparate peoples and indeed the entire planet then it must be concluded that some rather more visible hands would be very welcome to guide the wealth of nations into the twenty-first century."

Global citizens pay for everything

We, the ordinary citizens, always end up paying one way or another for the rogue operator behaviour of élites, and the profiteering and indiscretions of the banking system. At one extreme this can include becoming innocent victims of war, with all the suffering from the associated devastating consequences and aftermath; many having to become refugees. Many innocent people are suffering directly from problems resulting from climate change; many of these also having to become refugees. At the other extreme we pay financially via taxes and inflation. In general, 'we' being low to middle income taxpayers in rich countries - the 'privileged consumers' who are the primary target sector of those with vested interests (TwVI), as being the most use for making their profits. We are still paying for the fallout from the 2007/8 financial crisis, after which the banks were bailed out, through various forms of austerity, cuts to public services, etc.. Those who cannot afford to pay financially may suffer more from any adverse consequences arising from cost externalisations (societal and/or environmental losses), because of where they reside.

In marked contrast, TwVI (those with vested interests) now even expect to be compensated for any loss to their expected profits. They have established corporate courts for this purpose, which are now used increasingly against rich countries.

Corporate courts [Power structure]

Those with vested interests have secured a legal mandate to view such losses as externalised costs; to be borne by society at large.

Subsection: Cost externalisation [Power structure]

The expectation of TwVI that they should be paid compensation reveals a mindset of entitlement and ownership, like the arrogance of Francis Bacon in relation to nature [Power structure] and an Arrogance towards people [Power structure]. In (Olusoga, 2016) historian David Olusoga outlines how British slave owners fought for compensation as the British government moved towards abolishing slavery in 1832. He explains how abolitionists were forced to reluctantly accept that slaves were the legal property of their owners in order to get the legislation through Parliament. In the prevailing governance/ monetary system, the ultimate controllers (TwVI; the big bankers) must be paid. They are quite shameless; to them it is just business.

Whereas the notion of paying compensation to others who have suffered losses does not feature on their radar. To get any semblance of compensation from TwVI is like getting blood out of a stone. Great perseverance is needed to mount a legal challenge against a large corporation, as illustrated by the films Erin Brockovitch  and Dark Waters. Again, such rogue operator behaviour has to be understood from the 'amoral' BAU mindset.

Another example of outrageous injustice is the ongoing foot-dragging over any compensation payments to the island-nations, for the consequences of climate change which are now directly affecting them. However, at COP27: "Against all odds, a historic fund was adopted at COP27 for loss and damage – the fund is based on the principle that those most responsible for the climate crisis should compensate those who are most impacted by it. It’s an important first step towards climate justice, but it remains to be seen how money will get in and out, and how people on the frontlines of the climate crisis will be heard." (Anon., 2022x). The first meeting of the Board of the fund took place at COP28.

Notwithstanding the bad precedent of paying compensation to TwVI, as in the case of slave owner compensation, this showed what can be achieved, even within the prevailing dark governance system, once the societal view changes.

From the monetary perspective of TwVI if someone is prepared to pay, then a deal can be made.

Conceptually, if society was sufficiently bothered about halting climate change, then why can't TwVI in fossil fuels be paid compensation to keep their assets in the ground?

While this seems to offer a glimmer of hope at least, as a possible route for halting further global warming, the situation is not straightforward. Despite steadily worsening environmental warning signs, many people are still unaware [The Problem] of just how potentially catastrophic global warming is. Unless people within a given political persuasion really understand this, their particular political party is not going to want to propose a tax levy to pay compensation to TwVI - see Notes. Furthermore, how could this possibly happen while China, Russia and India are not even committing to 'net zero by 2050'? Even in the US there are many who still think global warming is a hoax.

The urgency of the situation post-COP26 [The Case]

Could such a compensation scheme actually be implemented globally, following negotiations at global governance level (IMF, G20, World Bank, WTO, UN/ COP process)?

A speculative compensation and investment outline; for the purpose of discussion

If society at large wanted the remaining fossil fuels to be left in the ground, then a plausible compensation scenario might be that:

From the agreed start date, compensation to TwVI to be ramped up to full by 2030, to offset loss of their income as fossil fuel usage was ramped down to zero by 2030.

In order to fully realise their expected long term profits, TwVI might argue that compensation payments should continue until 2050 at least, by which time the most lucrative supplies would have been largely extracted.

If society at large required that these compensation payments (or a significant proportion thereof) be invested immediately from the first payment date, then investment projects might include:

(1) Very large scale implementation of renewable energy generation capability,

(2) Research into new renewable energy generation technology, and

(3) Very large scale implementation of natural carbon sequestration methods.

This societal requirement might be acceptable to TwVI, out of a desire to keep their customer base, and to assist with their future investment portfolio.

But - even if by some hitherto unprecedented level of international co-operation, the fossil fuel industry worldwide was indeed shut down through the administration of negotiated compensation payments, if this TwVI compensation precedent is not challenged there could be no end to such demands in future. Climate change is not the only major externalised consequence of past and present rogue operator behaviours which will have to be paid for by society, one way or another. Other remedial actions queueing up for attention include the consequences of serious depletion of natural resources, deforestation and loss of habitat, the loss of biodiversity, the degradation of soils, and the serious accumulation of pollutants in the oceans and on land, especially of plastics, and including the long lasting legacy of radioactive substances, to name but a few. The TwVI appear to have their future income streams well covered.

Except that their ruthless selfishness and greed, and reckless disregard for the common good, are literally threatening the habitability of the planet. Are TwVI ignorant of the potential consequences of their reckless risk-taking, or do they just not care? But if the rest of us do not wake up urgently, and make it clear that enough is enough, we will also be complicit in a path to oblivion.

The light needs to dawn.

The financial élites need to concede that the stakes are sufficiently high that they could apply the same quantitative-easing rules that are routinely used to prop up the commercial banks, pure money creation from nothing.

Why not go further and recognise that the existing 'amoral' corporate law is flawed, and that money is just a human-made system. Both can be changed. They are not fundamental - like life itself. Start again with a new system.

Write-off all financial debt and wipe the slate clean - to coincide with halting further global warming before it is too late for all of us - and with sufficient 'funds' to begin to repair the damage caused by decades of cost externalision by business; without any levy or tax implication for anyone.

The subject of looming tensions between political and financial élites is discussed further at the end of [The Case: Power structure]:

The balance of power between élites [The Case: Power structure]

Monetary reform

A number of bold initiatives for modern monetary reform have been articulated. Three thought-provoking examples are: The Next System Project (Alperovitz et al, 2016); Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth (Raworth, 2018); and Modern Monetary Theory by Stephanie Kelton (Kelton, 2019), (Website. A Paradigm Shift in Macroeconomic Finance) .

The working paper (Alperovitz et al, 2016, pp.5-7) outlines how the central banks used massive injections of quantitative-easing (QE) following the 2007-2008 financial crisis, and address the extremely important question Can QE avert climate disaster? (Ibid., pp.19-21). Various ideas for getting the money into the economy have been suggested, including that of governments buying up fossil fuel plants and closing them down. US cost estimates for buying out the US fossil fuel industry show that when spread out as annual payments, the costs are comparable with the average annual cost of the Iraq war (Ibid., p.21). But see my reservations  (above).

The seventh of Kate Raworth's "seven ways to think like a 21st-century economist" is that we need to "become agnostic about growth". We need economies that make us thrive, whether or not they grow, instead of the opposite which prevails today (Raworth, 2018, p.30). The first of her stated ways to do this is to change the goal of GDP growth to "meeting the human rights of every person within the means of our life-giving planet" (Ibid., p.25).

Raworth's doughnut concept follows from the embedded economy [Power structure], which is the complete inversion of the the mainstream global economy - the 'three overlapping economies' concept. Therefore, while her above statement takes-as-read the primary importance of not jeopardising the habitability of the planet, I would want to explicitly recognise that the (life-giving) biosphere is a complex interdependent system which also includes non-human beings and other lifeforms.

The Simultaneous Policy

The potentially devastating effect of market competiveness on governance and on meaningful human activity in the present system has already been discussed

The basis of market confidence [Power structure].

Élite money and power versus a habitable planet [Power structure].

The present destructive financial system appears to be beyond even governments to control. "Furthermore, the global institutions of the WTO, IMF and World Bank"...[believe]... "that market competition is always a beneficial phenomenon"... [they are]..."relatively powerless to influence its out-of-control competitive forces" (Bunzl, 2004).

"the lunatic herd mentality of global markets has ... taken over the asylum"  (Ibid.,2004)

There is however a way out of this "prisoner's dilemma".

In 2003 James Robertson and John Bunzl co-authored a short book entitled Monetary Reform Making it Happen, which linked two proposals they had published in separate journal articles during the preceding three years. The book outlined a general strategic approach whereby Robertson's desirable monetary reforms could be introduced using Bunzl's Simultaneous Policy, which could "overcome the objection that a single country implementing them would risk capital flight and damage to its international competitiveness".

Today this paralysing fear of loss of competiveness has certainly not weakened (Simpol. ISPO YouTube video), but the need for remedial intervention has never been greater. The time has come whereby the sheer untenability of this situation needs to be more widely understood, and that voters everywhere do what they can before it is too late.

For more information about what the Simultaneous Policy is; how it works; how to 'adopt' it, and how to get more involved, the following references provide useful links: (Website. Simultaneous Policy (SimPol) ); and (Website. International Simultaneous Policy Organisation - P2P Foundation Wiki).

External links to the above website references and short YouTube video are provided in the [Bibliography].

Ideas for an essential consumption only (ECO) type of economy

In this section some of the characteristics of a proposed essential consumption only type of economic process are discussed.

My chosen starting point is the simple premise of regarding a right route as one which contributes towards reducing the core business as usual (BAU) problem, and a wrong route as one which contributes towards making it worse.

An initial working definition of business as usual (BAU) [Power structure]

At first sight this might not seem to be saying much, but it signifies a major conceptual, and directional, change. In effect it inverts the present economic growth paradigm, leading to a smaller overall economy.

The material below is an exploratory outline of some basic principles for an Essential Consumption Only (ECO) type of economy.

Whether or not the concept is potentially viable would need independent evaluation and verification by those with more appropriate expertise (the present author not being an economist, or an accountant).

It may well be that its essence could be more practically implemented, in principle, within the existing economic and accounting framework; albeit with some adjustments.


An underlying principle which follows from the ECO definition is that it prioritises the process for converting natural and human resources into products and services that we all need over unnecessary products and services. In a truly democratic world, categorising the essentialness of a product or service would be independent of the ability to pay for it. An economy which focused on the delivery of essential products and services would tend to have less inequality in any case. But to the extent that wealth inequality was a barrier to paying for essentials, disclosed subsidies based upon essentialnessev  could be applied.

ev   Essentialness value would reflect the inherent effectiveness of a resource/ product/ service at meeting essential customer needs after internalising externalised costs.

Full cost internalisation

In principle, notwithstanding the practical difficulties, if costs were fully internalised in accordance with the ECO concept of full cost internalisation (FCI), then market pricing would properly reflect the human impacts of non-essential products or services on people and the planet.

Accounting for sustainability, or un-sustainability? [Power structure]

The first ECO type of FCI stage would be to evaluate the real cost of ensuring that the product or service had no significant adverse environmental or sociological impacts.

This would be a realistic measure of the extent of cost externalisation currently built into the product or service. This cost could be conventionally accounted for.

The prevailing financialise everything which can be commodified convention is the means by which the price of commodities can interface meaningfully with the world economy (as it is currently configured).

Financialisation [Power structure]

(Developed or underdeveloped? [Issues])

The ECO type of FCI real cost pricing procedure would aim to eliminate the untenable aspects of the financialisation process. It is likely that for many products and services, externalised costs are currently ignored, or fudged.

A reality check (I) [Power structure]

As yet, evolving methodologies in the field of sustainability accounting [Power structure] do not come close to the level of rigour, comprehensiveness, or transparency necessary to verify the cost of prevention of adverse environmental and/or social impacts, whether these preventative actions have been implemented, and whether they are effective.

However it is inferred that the real problem may be that businesses are getting away with selling products/ services without knowing how to prevent adverse environmental and social impacts. Perhaps particularly polluting processes are 'legally' carried out where compliance with environmental limits is easy.

Under such circumstances mandatory FCI, albeit with imperfections, could be used to provide an important indication of whether products are being sold which perhaps should not be.

If the proposed rigorous FCI analysis for any products or services turned out to be intractable, for example due to insufficient understanding of the biosphere (and/or of manufacturing technologies) which prohibits a viable design of effective environmental protection equipment, then this would be sufficient grounds for abandoning the product, unless it was deemed essential.

Depending upon the outcome of the rigorous FCI process for a given product, and of the essentialness assessment, a manufacturer might decide not to continue marketing it in view of the expected market price revision. If marketing is to continue, it would be expected that the necessary protection equipment would have to be designed, fitted, and verified to be effective, to an agreed timetable. Depending upon the level of protection equipment necessary, the product might have to be withdrawn until the equipment was fitted.

It would be expected that products with low environmental and sociological impacts could continue to be competitively priced in the market.

Where a resource/ product/ service had high externalised costs (such as those arising from the extraction and combustion of fossil fuel, and associated product waste disposal), but was deemed to be essential, it would require a large cost internalisation valuation, offset by a large subsidy in proportion to its deemed essentialness valuation. Another example of an environmentally disastrous but incredibly useful product is of course plastic.

A significant funding allocation, besides the subsidy, would therefore be directed towards greening the product, or researching alternative ways of meeting the essential need. This would be regularly reviewed as necessary to remain focused on minimising damage to the environment. The market price of non-essential products would directly reflect the cost of incorporating any necessary protection equipment, as noted above.

Most existing products and services have inherent externalised costs just via the necessary use of transport which uses fossil fuel (externalised costs arise from the extraction and combustion of fossil fuel, and associated product/ waste disposal).

State-funded research and development aimed at product greening or finding an alternative has not happened sufficiently in the mainstream economy. Instead large subsidies continue to go to fossil fuel companies. Consequently, despite the potentially catastrophic consequences of global warming, we do not have enough non-fossil fuel energy to meet demand. Meanwhile TwVI in fossil fuels continue to make huge profits at our expense, and are so powerful that they hold us to ransom, as demonstrated at COP26 and subsequently to date.

A good example of the need for more product greening research is in tackling the growing problem of unrecyclable wind turbine blades (Covington, 2023).

Similarly in the case of plastic, despite the disastrous pollution of the air, land, and sea caused by plastics, again, in the mainstream economy, viable alternative solutions are not being sought with the urgency required, meanwhile large profits continue to be made by the purveyors of plastic.

The intention would be for essential goods subsidies, and product greening allocations, to be sourced directly from general taxation, with a significant component from the higher pricing of non-essential goods. In particular from those which require large internalisation of externalised costs. In effect this would reflect a shift towards 'taxing the bads'; by paying a truer price for a product in order to render it pollution free.

In principle, where necessary a for the common good form of quantitative-easingqe  could be authorised.

The process, including full cost internalisation, would need to be legally binding, unlike voluntary schemes like Corporate Social Responsibility which have been tried and unsurprisingly have failed.

Voluntary self-regulation [Power structure]

qe   At present, the bottom line of business is measured as a currency unit (eg. $), and the business objective is profit maximisation in this currency unit. The unit is just a number in a computer, generated by an authorised central bank - out of nothing. It does not of itself have any intrinsic 'value', and these days it is not even pegged to gold.

Quantitative-easing is routinely authorised by financial élites for the express purpose of maintaining the existing financial system. See Monetary reform (above).

This proposal is set in the context of an enlightened global governance system in which natural and human resources are not squandered; are used responsibly, sustainably and fairly; and are not commandeered largely for the benefit of powerful élites. In that context, I am not aware of any reason, in principle, why quantitative-easing could not also be used, as necessary, directly for the common good.

The cardinal sin of subsidies?

Criticisms of the concept can be expected from mainstream economists, on the grounds that subsidies interfere with the true market price (Wheeler, 1997, p.14). Such practices are formally frowned upon; they disguise externalities, such as subsidies for fossil fuels, and are therefore an abuse of the market (Wikipedia, Environmental full-cost accounting), low prices also encourage wasteful usage.

I agree with these points, but would argue that the problem is not subsidies per se, but the blatant hypocrisy of business as usual (BAU). For example: the extent to which fossil fuels have been (and still are being) subsidised without full disclosure of the extent of subsidy or of the associated environmental consequences. This effectively rigs the market for profligate energy consumption, affecting virtually all business activities and transport costs.

This results in high traffic volumes and encourages overconsumption (and large profits) of low priced products, with ensuing environmental consequences which are largely externalised. Similarly, processed food/ ultra-processed-food (UPF)/ 'junk' foods are regarded as 'cheap'. Externalities include consumer ill-health, high levels of product waste (food, packaging, production processes..), and a consequential large environmental footprint (industrialisation of agricultural land use and production processes, waste, associated transportation...).

It is time to change the rules, and to make full internalisation of all externalised costs mandatory, with fully transparent disclosure of any subsidies.

Fossil fuel pricing

In an essential consumption only type of economy

We all need to use energy, and so it can be regarded as an essential product. The pricing should therefore include:

subsidies to offset the fully internalised cost of essential products in general (above),

full transparency about subsidies, especially where the product environmental footprint is very large, as in the case of subsidised fossil fuel energy (above) and

subsidies for big footprint essential products (below).

In the mainstream economy

In principle, it would be sensible to increase fossil fuel prices to deter wasteful usage and to reduce consumption. This should have been done decades ago, on a properly planned basis, with more investment in renewables in parallel. Instead of which, the whole societal infrastructure has been established on the premise of artificially cheap fossil fuel availability, with global warming being a serious consequence of the externalised costs. Despite the fact that the industry has known about the future consequences for potentially catastrophic climate change for decades, they deliberately seeded public misinformation about it (Anon., 2015e), meanwhile continuing to profit enormously by encouraging/ maintaining growth in subsidised demand.

Non-fossil fuel energy prices should similarly reflect the fully internalised costs (environmental, sociological) of production. For genuinely renewable sources the climate impact costs would be expected to be much lower than for fossil fuels, whereas nuclear generation is expensive, with very long term ongoing waste management costs, and ongoing security risks. The inherent distortions of the present system for energy pricing are becoming very apparent when gas prices are very high sgp . Those who have invested in renewable energy, which is now much cheaper than gas, and does not cause global warming, are still having to pay a price which is skewed by the very high gas price. This is fuelling inflation, and is causing societal mayhem.

In mainstream economic parlance, this would appear to be a market failure.

But would it be?  (see below)

sgp   For example - resulting from post-Covid-19 factors and the Russian war in Ukraine. Coinciding with an increase in inflation the UK government were under pressure to help citizens cope with sky-rocketing energy bills. Concerns about the impact on the cost of living took precedence over any considerations such as reducing consumption of fossil fuels to reduce further global warming. (Stiglitz, 2022) pointed out that these high energy prices were undeserved windfall profits for the energy companies, which should be taxed.

If we voluntarily choose to reduce our energy demand, we reduce our costs. But if a price increase of energy/ fuel is imposed on us, then we will end up paying more for less energy.

'The authorities' could massively increase the cost of fossil fuel, at the taxpayers' expense, while claiming that this was legitimate and necessary in order to incentivise meeting the global warming temperature limit. They could assume emergency powers and argue that the additional funds were to be used to offset rising costs from climate change-related processes, for example. But without full transparency of the economic process and money flows, it would not be possible to verify fair play by those in control, and we would have to take their word for it that the increased prices were not being used as a back-door route to 'compensating' TwVI. Unless corporate law is changed to make corporations liable for future consequences of cost externalisations, this sort of grey area is inevitable.

The élite plan to deliberately increase global inflation will inevitably have the consequence of reducing economic activity, and therefore reduce the rate of consumption of fossil fuels. But if the increased energy pricing feeds through to TwVI in fossil fuels, this would just be seen this as good business - a win:win.

Whether or not there is any connection between the élite plan to increase global inflation, and the various military provocations involving NATO, and the resulting application of economic sanctions [Power structure], is a matter for speculation only.

The agenda of global élites [Power structure]

If we are to halt further global warming it is clear that until there is sufficient non-fossil fuel energy generation to meet our demand, we need to reduce our personal combustion of fossil fuels by directly reducing our energy consumption. This can be also be achieved indirectly, by reducing our consumption of products and services in general. These all use energy, which still mostly comes from fossil fuels.

From the perspective of the core message on this website, it is with some irony that many UK citizens are now having to reduce their consumption to essentials only anyway, because high prices are being forced on us.

Process Authority

The issue of corporate legislation granting rights without societal or environmental responsibilities has been referred to (Evolution of corporate legislation [Power structure]). Relieved of the primary corporate goal of maximising profits largely for the benefit of powerful élites, my proposed ECO Process Authority would take on the mantle of exercising genuine corporate social and environmental responsibility.

Subject to public trust lpt  in the full cost internalisation process, potential customers would be better informed, without the need for labelling, and be able to decide whether the price was genuinely value for money. As already noted, the issue of wealth inequality as a barrier could, in principle, be resolved by disclosed subsidies based on an assessment of the essentialness of a product or service.

lpt   Past excessive reliance on green-wash marketing claims and deceitful public relations communications by 'free-rider' businesses to mask externalities are likely to make it much more difficult for the public to believe in genuine change for the better.

Demonstrably responsible governance, with more honesty and better transparency over a sustained period, would probably be necessary to begin to heal public cynicism from years of media misinformation and marketing hype; from reduced expectations, and from a generally numbed capacity for consumer discernment.

In a speculative study such as the present one, the issue of how this process might be formally organised can only be considered in terms of general functional requirements. Tasks would include competent ECO type FCI of all cases, essential and non-essential, and their independent verification; and essentialness value assessment/ pricing with fully transparent disclosure of subsidies and product greening allocations.

Difficult judgements would need to be made concerning factors such as:

How can the severity of pollution from product/service A (say fossil fuelled vehicles) be compared to that from product/ service B (say electrically powered vehicles)? This is discussed further below.

Using a societally sanctioned assessment of essentialness to inform decisions about subsidies. If an essential product/ service has a very large adverse footprint, the priority should be to explore/ invest in other ways to meet that essential need rather than to subsidise it. This should have happened much sooner in the mainstream economy in the case of energy generation from fossil fuels, and with the indiscriminate widespread use of plastic. This is discussed further below.

If there is insufficient understanding about the environmental or sociological implications of a using a product/ service, then might it be better to confine such usage to a small scale pilot exercise until an adequate understanding has been obtained? It might even be judged that no usage could be justified.

The criteria for making such judgements would be science-based, and in relation to the common good, rather than compromised by corporate profit-maximisation for élites. Government policy formalisation of the process and primary functional interfaces would be necessary. A primary interface might be expected to be with the Treasury, on account of the common good form of quantitative-easing, and others with: legal; banking; taxation; and accountancy disciplines.


At this point it might be helpful to clarify my usage of the term value(s). This is not intended to be a comprehensive discussion, but merely a round up of the different ways it is referred to on this website:

Amoral 'values' - in the sense of the de facto collective global societal 'values' framework that we are all obliged to live by.

This obligation is a direct consequence of the nation-state/ corporate legislature which underpins the prevailing dark governance system; in particular of the 'legal fiction' of the Corporate Person. These 'values' are gradually taking precedence over the personal values of individual citizens, which is dehumanising and disempowering.

What is wrong with dark governance? [The Case: Positive steps]

The Corporate Person [Power structure]

Value - in the sense of normally financialised/ monetised market price.

Financialisation [Power structure] is an accounting process, however, and is yet another way in which business as usual (BAU) becomes entrenched. It can be observed that the trend is for anything which can be commodified to be commodified; including human experiences (Rifkin, 2000). To try to put a monetary 'value' on a human life seems preposterous and wrong, neverthess this is routinely done for 'risk assessment' calculations. The feeling that one is just a number is not so far from the truth - at least as perceived by the banker who "knows the price of everything but the value of nothing" (Oscar Wilde).

Human values - in the sense of ethics and morals.

Discussion of this sense is regarded as controversial because of the differences of view about the existence of free will.

Life choices, free will, and values [Moral compass]

Abraham Maslow's pioneering work on human values [Moral compass]

Some examples of the need to walk-the-talk are addressed below in offsetting injustices. Notwithstanding various controversies, the concept of a set of global consensus core human values is intended in this sense.

Essentialness value - in the ECO scheme sense.

In marked contrast to the de facto 'amoral' values of business as usual, my concept of meeting essential needs and internalising previously externalised costs is to be rooted in a set of global-consensus values. This values-set would be used to derive an essentialness ranking for significant categories of products and services. Essentialness value would be assessed after internalising externalised costs to determine the necessary size of disclosed subsidy. The resource/ product/ service would then be re-financialised (priced) as for any other market commodity, except that there would be full disclosure of the extent of the subsidy, how it was being paid for, and what it was to be used for.

Most importantly, if the rigorous FCI assessment was too uncertain, for whatever reason, then use of the resource/ product/ service could be banned.

The task of obtaining a democratically-derived, global-consensus values-set is discussed later.

Concept summary

Re-financialising in support of essentialness value would be in stark contrast to the current BAU ethos which maximises money profit through reliance on ignoring externalised costs, and uses sophisticated PR to artificially stimulate markets to create more wants, rather than just meet basic needs.

Subsection: Cost externalisation [Power structure]

Instead, externalised costs would be internalised, and pricing adjusted to reflect essentialness value, using fully disclosed subsidies as necessary.

There is an inherent tendency towards wastefuless where a resource/ product/ service is priced artificially low through subsidy. A culture change would need to be encouraged whereby profligacy was infra dig.

The approach would aim to redefine money to support essentialness value in such a way that "the love of money" (Russell, 1992, p.80) would no longer be the 'root of all evil'.

Process application

As things currently stand, it is likely that sometimes the technical information to carry out the necessary internalised cost analyses would not yet exist. But rather than press on regardless (making money while ignoring such complications, as in BAU), the process could prompt consideration of a range of options.

For example, a particular policy might initially be deemed to be 'essential'; such as the rollout of a massive infrastructure programme of electric car mobilisation, as part of the 'net zero by 2050' 1.5°C commitment.

1.5°C - interpreting global average data at a local level

Then, after further assessment as required by the process, it might turn out to be problematic due to huge associated environmental impacts, natural resource depletion, and societal disruption as infrastructure is updated. A decision might have to be made to scale back such a programme, perhaps largely restricting it to public transport and commercial vehicles (lorries, vans, taxis..), until a less environmentally-damaging technology could be developed.

If the fully internalised costs of an essential item happened to be very high, for example in the manufacture of an electric car, then a decision would need to be made as to the extent of subsidy which could be justified. It might be better to look at alternative ways to provide, substitute, or reduce demand for that item.

This example demonstrates the need for a rigorous type of footprinting, in which the impact of a product or service needs to be considered at many levels. An obvious benefit of using electric cars over fossil fuelled cars is the absence of atmospheric emissions (greenhouse/other gases and particulates), provided that the electricity used is generated without using fossil fuels. But even if all the electricity used is generated by renewables, there are still large resource implications.

Mass implementation of battery storage brings with it many as yet unsolved problems which will adversely affect their environmental footprint. For example rising demand for critical materials [Power structure] and the associated environmental impacts.

To be practical, it is likely that most users would require fast-charging of batteries. For most people in every street to have access to high power battery charging, the logistical implications for roads and properties resulting from electrical re-cabling, and the operational effects on local electricity grids would need to be realistically anticipated.

Is so much travel by individuals really essential, regardless of whether it only uses electricity generated by renewables? People may have got used to spending many hours per week travelling, but is this time well spent?

Another important factor is the global trend towards urbanisation, which points towards investment in better public transport infrastructure. If passengers can rely on frequent and reliable pickups and dropoffs, there is less need for private cars. As the trend towards internet shopping continues, the problem of carrying heavy and/or bulky goods reduces, further reducing the need for private cars. Taxis and car-share vehicles could be electrically powered..

The categorisation and characteristics of a product would affect the outcome of subsidy decision-making. An example would be plastic packaging. Because of the high global volume and diversity of forms of this product, the internalised cost per item might not be large, but taken overall the adverse environmental impacts - and therefore the overall internalised cost - would be massive.

If the fully internalised costs of a non-essential item happened to be low,fce  for example certain cosmetics and perfumesccp , it would be perverse to unnecessarily interfere with the pricing, and so the product could happily be priced low as an affordable luxury.

fce   Fashion clothing is an example of a non-essential item, with a high environmental footprint, which could be reduced by subsidised essential product-greening research (applied to essential clothing).

ccp   But many cosmetics contain microplastics, thereby massively increasing their environmental footprint. This is discussed later.

If some business activities received subsidies as part of the commodity revaluation process, for example in order to 'green the product' or to research alternatives, then this would be because they were judged to have legitimacy in terms of meeting essential needs. The prices of certain commodities would rise; this would still favour the better off, who could afford to pay more for treats and scarce desirables. This necessary and just 'tax on the rich' would be used directly subsidise the above process.

Large cruise ships use a lot of fossil fuel

The very wealthy would not like such a societal redistribution from what they have become used to. Cries of 'foul' and pleas for level-playing-fields would be inevitable until all companies internalised their previously externalised costs, and the adverse consequences from past externalised costs remedied or written off.

Following the global lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic, a measure of acceptance of the need for a 'new normal' evolved. The occurrence of practical and widespread compliance with the concept of unnecessary travel demonstrated that it is no longer possible to declare the impossibility of a different, smaller, type of economy. The coronavirus resulted in a period of underconsumption, exposing an inherent weakness of capitalism which results from interdependencies within the system (Beardshaw, 1992, p.735).

Revealed difficulties with 'essential' goods

The sociological and environmental footprints of technology are growing very rapidly. If technology is increasingly used to constrain or control us, against our will, then how can it be viewed as essential or beneficial?

In affluent societies the internet and telecommunications system [Power structure], together with the associated hardware (including satellites and their launch infrastructure, masts, computers, phones etc.), software, firmware, and ancilliary services such as the proliferation of 'data-centres' and their energy-hungry air-conditioning plants (Jones, 2018), etc. would no doubt all be considered 'essential'. They certainly count towards growth of the highly flawed metric of Gross Domestic ProductGDP .

GDP   Gross Domestic Product  Many people are not aware of the anomalies present in the make-up of this indicator. 'GDP is a poor indicator of sustainable economic welfare. Growth in GDP does not ensure a corresponding growth in welfare' (Jackson, 1997). Other related indicators include: the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW), Human Development Index (HDI), GPI (Wikipedia, Genuine progress indicator), and the Social Progress Indicator (SPI).

Notwithstanding the adverse environmental impacts of technologies such as those listed above, it is increasingly necessary to monitor global emissions and identify their sources. Satellite technology can be used to monitor greenhouse gas emissions such as methane and carbon dioxide (Edmond, 2023). Unsurprisingly the biggest emitters in the world are seen to be oil and gas fields. If such data can be used effectively to curb emissions by challenging the polluters then it will be providing a very valuable service.

As noted earlier, more product greening research is needed to tackle the growing problem of unrecyclable wind turbine blades (Covington, 2023).

There are countless examples of bad consequences from previously externalised costs. Occasionally we get to hear about some of them; for example in publications such as Private Eye. The 2000 film Erin Brockovich is a dramatisation of a true story describing a legal case in which Erin Brockovich "fought against the energy corporation Pacific Gas and Electric Company regarding its culpability for the Hinkley groundwater contamination incident" (Wikipedia, Erin Brockovich (film)).

The consequences of 'cheap' plastic waste will be with us for a very long time. Even now that the need for some level of plastic recycling is well recognised, it turns out that large amounts of our carefully sorted cspw  and 'recycled' plastic waste is being shipped overseas, with the associated additional transport footprint, and then literally tipped and/or burnt. Apart from the long term environmental damage, this causes more immediate problems for those unfortunate enough to live nearby. China stopped receiving shipments of plastic waste from the UK in 2017. Malaysia was one of the countries receiving large quantities of plastic waste from the UK, some of which was being tipped or burnt (Anon., 2019h), and Turkey was another (Crawford, 2021). Turkey imposed a ban on nearly all imports of plastic from July 2021. In 2021 the UK only recycled about 46% of its plastic waste, with a bigger proportion being incinerated with some energy recovery (Ibid.).

Mass burn incineration [Power structure].

cspw   One of the problems is that not all plastic waste exported from the UK for 'recycling' is properly sorted (Crawford, 2020). This is likely to be the material which ends up being tipped and/or burnt. Even resourcing an investigation of what is going wrong with the waste stream pre-sorting would be yet another externalised cost.

To the extent that plastic recycling does take place, the output is plastic pellets which can be reused. The real environmental and social impacts incurred throughout any waste recycling/ processing/ transporting stages include 'accidental' impacts; for example: spillages of plastic pellets have occurred at sea, causing devastation to the marine environment; recently for example, in Sri Lanka (Ellis-Petersen, 2021).

Revealed difficulties with non-essential goods

As things currently stand the fashion industry generates "high carbon emissions, wastewater production, and large amounts of landfill waste" and is known for "its poor working conditions" (Colucci et al., 2019). It has therefore been keen to be seen to make improvements; but what 'sustainable clothing' actually means is difficult to unpick (Laitala et al., 2018). If it refers to a product derived from a mixture of natural and synthetic fibre waste, then this might be 'sustainable' in the circular economy [Power structure] sense that it could be reused fief , but not in the sense of a naturally renewable resource - like cotton or wood.

fief    "A fully integrated viscose production system or a system that makes one of the newer cellulosic fibres (eg. lyocell) from the recovered cotton will improve the performance of the recycling system relative to its alternatives" (Peters et al., 2019).

Trying to ascertain what is considered essential, and what is non-essential, in domains such as 'personal care products' and cosmetics could be expected to be controversial. Old school consumers might ask what is wrong with soap, water, and flannels? Footprinting controversies over the use of old-style Terry towelling nappies versus modern convenience versions might be reduced if the latter contained more sustainable materials. The vast range of products now available demonstrates significant cultural changes, at the expense of a massively increased environmental footprint mief . "The truth is that the future of cosmetics relies on more sustainable approaches, and though a revolution will not happen overnight, each effort towards sustainability is a huge step for a better future" (Born et al., 2019).

mief   Microplastic particles widely used in cosmetics and personal care products have become a serious marine pollution problem. See for example (Napper et al., 2015) and (Hernandez et al., 2017). As in the case of air particulate pollution, the extent of environmental and health hazard depends not just on the mass of pollutant, but also on number and size of particulates. Very small particles pass through air filters and can enter airways and cause damage. Microplastics similarly pass through wastewater treatment plant filters and reach the oceans, with potentially serious consequences to marine life, and for the food chain.

The film Dark Waters is a dramatisation of a legal "case against the chemical manufacturing corporation Dupont after they contaminated a town with unregulated chemicals" (Wikipedia, Dark Waters (2019 film) ). The case concerned PFOA; a chemical used in the manufacture of Teflon, which is used in non-stick cookware. This serves as an example of a non-essential product which became a household name in the 1960s before enough was known about its toxicity. In the case dramatised in the film, thousands of tons of toxic sludge had been dumped in a landfill site. By the 1970s Dupont knew that the chemical could accumulate in the body and cause cancer and birth defects, but did not publicly disclose these findings. No doubt some people made a lot of money out of producing that chemical, but at what cost to others, and to the environment?

Offsetting injustices

An important principle of my proposed ECO concept is that it should incorporate a moral compass [The Case: Positive steps]:

"As a matter of long term survival, we ( the big group/ global society at large ) need to ... become a more 'pro-social', caring society; helping each other more; being more; and consuming less".

A foreseeable and ironic consequence of privileged consumers heeding the message en masse to curb their consumption would be to put innocent people out of work in places like China. With the present pro-economic growth agenda it is hardly likely that affected poor workers overseas would be furloughed by their employers, or by their nation-state. In order to walk-the-talk, a way must be found to offset such consequential injustice.

If privileged consumers were prepared to provide financial assistance, there is no reason in principle why organisations could not be established to directly help such workers. Money saved initially by privileged consumers exercising voluntary frugality could be redirected, not only to help those losing their jobs as a direct consequence of the reduced demand, but to fund work which corporations and rich governments should be doing, but aren't. Such as helping to organise the funding and distribution of Covid-19 vaccinations to the poorer parts of the world, and helping them deal with the effects of climate change.

Notes: Taking back control?

Towards a global citizens' collective

An essentialness-based economic process has been outlined (above) in which the aim is to shift the emphasis of economic activity towards the needs of people at large, rather than towards their wants; and to internalise externalised costs. The purpose of this is to reduce global warming, overconsumption, wealth inequalities, and to move towards environmental sustainability.

A key task within the proposed process is to determine an 'essentialness ranking' for broad categories of products and services, in order to be able evaluate the cost of subsidies so that these essential goods can be priced low enough to be readily affordable to all. It is recognised that globally, there will be a wide spectrum of views as to what might be considered essential. However, by focusing on a set of core human values, and on shared common ground, it should be possible to obtain a usable measure of consensus on essentialness, while not stifling the manifestation of cultural diversity lod .

lod   This mirrors a feature of Nicholas Hagger's World State which (on a much bigger scale) is a 'loose federal model' limited at the supranational level to seven goals, such that the loss of sovereignty and disturbance to existing nation-states and civilisations would be minimal outside the areas of the seven goals (Hagger, 2018b, p.210).

A global survey

A credible essentialness ranking for significant categories of products and services needs to be rooted in a realistic consensus set of human values, obtained from a diversity of lifestyles and cultures around the world. A global survey of a representative sample of ordinary citizens could, in principle, be obtained using the internet, but to be authoritative it would need to be co-ordinated by a steering group commanding a high level of public respect (see below).

The survey questions would need to be formulated to provide unambiguous answers on matters which would directly affect the assessment of essentialness to be used in the economic process. A practical start could be to review sources such as Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory [Life choices]; the Basic Knowledge 101 source (Website. Basic Knowledge 101); data from United Nations Development Report (UNDR) indices such as the Human Development Index (HDI) hdpi ; Human Poverty Index (HPI); and from other sources, for example the Social Progress Index (SPI) (Wikipedia, Social Progress Index).

hdpi   HDI as described in (UNDP, 1997) and, for example (Ghatak, 1995); HDI and HPI data from (UNDP, 1998), (UNDP, 1999), (UNDP, 2000).

Complicating factors include the numerous parameters which might be considered highly desirable/ essential, but which many people do not have access to; for example, a pollution and crime-free place to live. Lines would have to be drawn as to the extent of subsidies which could be considered. The practical application to tangible essential products and services will inevitably act as a boundary/ constraint. Difficult judgements would have to be made about the relative essentialness of physiological survival parameters, and quality of life parameters. Religious and cultural dimensions would also have to be considered.

Previous work [Notes] and surveys (Norris, 1999) could provide further useful insights, and in particular the various welfare approaches to the issue, such as the Universal Basic Income (UBI) (Wikipedia, Universal basic income). Mainstream economists are obliged to question how this could be paid for, on the assumption that most people do not understand the way the existing monetary system works, and how it is routinely baled out by quantitative easing. Also, given the (hypocritical) objections of mainstream economists to market interventions like subsidies, it may be more practical to deliver basic essential resources/ products/ services through something like UBI, and to make full cost internalisation mandatory.

Regarding the outcome from a survey, it might be argued that the results could not be regarded as sufficiently comprehensive without contributions from regimes where internet communication is blocked or monitored (Anon., 2021c) faoi , or where contributions from citizens living within repressive regimes are heavily censored. Some allowance would have to be made for such situations. But circumstances change, and so the exercise would need to be repeated periodically. It is to be hoped that future surveys might become more comprehensive. In the meantime it seems fair to assume that the survey results freely obtained without oppressive restrictions would be more representative than results obtained under duress.

faoi   From a televised interview by Amol Rajan: "The free and open internet is under attack around the world, Google boss Sundar Pichai has warned"

The scope of a consensus on core human values will involve cultural and religious beliefs, however inconvenient that might be for economic élites.

(Developed or underdeveloped? [Issues]).

To the extent that the status quo regarded such a survey as potentially 'unhelpful to business', some manipulative infiltration [Issues] is to be expected. It is not clear how any contamination of survey results arising from such influences could be reliably detected and removed.

Perhaps one possible format for the initial outcome of a survey could be an overall distillation of the results into a basic set of principles, rather in the manner of the Christian ten commandments, but modified in accordance with the feedback and comment from citizens from diverse cultures, religious faiths, and demographics. The results could be presented in a variety of forms to permit wider analyses to be carried out.

Noting that the human rights dimension would need to blend with elements of cultural and religious diversity, a promising forum for conducting a survey might be a global citizens' collective through the positive engagement of concerned global citizens?

Potential contributions from individual citizens - URGENT

1.5°C - interpreting global average data at a local level

Most of us are now familiar to the point of being numbed with the concept of '..keeping the global average rise in temperature below 1.5°C..', which sounds reassuringly reasonable and non-threatening, especially when linked to talk of 'net zero by 2050'. A total increase in global average temperature of 1.5°C doesn't sound that big a deal. But are we even sure what it actually means? For example: do we know what the presumed baseline date and datum level are; over what time period the average is calculated; and what is actually measured?

It would be just too much hassle to look it up.. 'An extreme event won't happen to me'..

People sometimes need to be reminded that a global average temperature tells you nothing about the amplitude or frequency of local perturbations - for example today, where you are, right now.

It is therefore necessary to be aware of this in order to prompt remedial action before it gets worse for all of us.

Environmental warning signs [Issues]

We all know that the amplitude and frequency of local weather related phenomena can range from 'inconvenient' to devastating. Such phenomena cannot simply be switched off. It has taken decades to reach the present levels of greenhouse gas concentrations, and it would take a very long time for them to fall - even if we stopped adding to them.

Key role for young people

Looking at the state of the world it is very understandable that many young people feel very let down by the system, and by their parents' generation. There is no doubt that we have overconsumed, but many of us have tried for decades to change the 'promote economic growth regardless of the environmental and sociological cost' ideology of our leaders, and it is not easy. Corporate law has been honed (stitched up), largely for the benefit of a relatively small number of obscenely rich and powerful élites, over the last several hundred years (as described in Evolution of corporate legislation [Power structure]). The website outlines a personal quest to understand what we are up against, and to suggest what we might do about it.

My hope is that the overwhelming sense of disempowerment felt by many ordinary citizens, especially young people, in the face of the business as usual mindset of the status quo can be overcome. While our influence via the mainstream democratic voting system has been systematically undermined by dark governance, it has been replaced by 'consumer democracy', albeit increasingly via the internet. Ordinary citizens who are fortunate enough to have sufficient disposable income do have some influence by being more discerning consumers.

It would take a very long time for atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases to fall - even if we stopped adding to them. But things will get far worse if we continue as at present. Therefore the sooner we stop adding yet more greenhouse gases the better. Because of the urgency of the situation we are now in, private discussions resulting in real personal lifestyle changes by 'privileged consumers' en masse will be far more effective than street protests.

We really need to curb our consumption.

Massive consumption needs massive container ships

Massive consumption needs massive container ships

Image of a real massive container ship: MSC Gülsün (Mediterranean Shipping Company) ( Anon., 2019r)

Ok - so what can I do?

Practical guides on more sustainable living, reduced resource use, and green consumerism have been around since the 1990s. Some examples: (Elkington & Hailes, 1988), (Weizsäcker, 1997), (Wackernagel & Rees, 1998), (Elkington & Hailes, 1998), (Korten, 1999, pp.243-281). What has changed now is that we have run out of time. But perhaps because overconsumption and easy travel have become so normalised in affluent sectors of modern societies, most people appear to have simply never thought about such matters. If they have, they are probably already doing more than the average citizen. Today if challenged, a 'travel-a-holic' might respond with a comment like "So do you expect us to just sit around all day at home then?"

(Monbiot, 2006) raised the important issue of "love miles" in the context of the ethical dilemma of flying in order to visit friends and partners and relatives on the other side of the planet, and the significant environmental consequences of doing so. Regarding personal mobility more generally, the love miles concept raises the difficult issue of our need to be physically with our loved ones, and yet increasingly our lifestyles appear to require ever more travel in order to do our work, our leisure, and to be with our families. Todays' communication technology is so sophisticated that, given our ongoing reliance on fossil fuels, what is the justification for individuals having to physically be here, there, and everywhere? Many privileged consumers at least have some choice over their work locations and lifestyles, and therefore the amount of consequentially essential travel (Beuret, 2019), (Murphy, 2020).

Large cruise ships use a lot of fossil fuel

As expressed in the following extract from my 'poem' The End of the Dividend [Purposeful art]:

Extract from: The End of the Dividend
But you can choose what to buy, or even whether to buy,
if you are fortunate.
And you can live the global ethic, the golden rule.
How much consumption is necessary, for quality of life?
To be or to have - is that the real question?
The human mind being potentially creative
is a relatively unlimited natural resource,
not yet reduced to financial capital.

Choosing to purchase good quality products which are built to last, with an eye to repair rather than replacement, in preference to buying cheaper currently fashionable items may seem like winding the clock back. Decluttering and lifestyle simplification requires time and effort, and is less glamorous than globe-trotting. But many who choose to spend their own time doing life-enhancing low ecological footprint (Wackernagel & Rees, 1998), social, cultural, and caring activities at home or locally, such as art, music, drama, volunteering/ helping and caring in the community, etc. have found such pursuits to be rewarding in a different way. Other beneficial lifestyle shifts might include activities which foster an increased appreciation of the natural world, such as rambling, and meditation.

Young people, whose future we are initially talking about, need to be having serious conversations with their families and friends to raise questions about possible lifestyle changes that could be made.TTvc  This is particularly relevant where the young people are from affluent backgrounds.

TTvc  Perhaps short dramatised videoclips of such discussions could be be produced, to seed the core message Essential Consumption Only by 2030 via social media?

Follow the links:

"Can't stop looking at this picture of a new Royal Caribbean cruise ship. My son just described it as 'human lasagne'. Absolutely my idea of hell." (Stephens, 2022) [Bibliography]

Consumer democracy [Life choices]

In principle:

Subject to personal circumstances, citizens can become more discerning consumers.

Becoming a more discerning consumer is meant in the principled lifestyle choice sense, rather than in the sense of being able to afford the best (which might be how some very wealthy citizens interpret it). Depending upon their disposable income, and level of discernment, very wealthy citizens could make significant reductions in their footprints.

Following the immensely disappointing COP26 revelations that China, Russia, and India did not intend to commit even to net zero by 2050, the onus is now on privileged consumers everywhere to commit to reducing personal consumption to essentials only by 2030.

Mass frugality of consumption by citizens

Barring a sudden technological breakthrough in mega-scale carbon capture technology, and/or non-fossil fuel energy generation capability, or a major reduction in fossil fuel supply or demand, there is currently little chance of keeping 1.5 (°C) alive. There is not enough non-fossil fuel generation capability to meet current and projected demand. Unless we manage to reduce our demand, the energy shortfall will be made up from fossil fuel usage.

In my view, to keep within the 1.5 °C limit, the phase out of fossil fuel needs to be substantially completed by 2030. The reason for such haste is that even if a breakthrough in mega-scale carbon capture technology became available now, it would take years to implement to the level of absorbing even current emissions.

Real zero by 2030 (instead of net zero by 2050)

Even if 'war footing' restrictions were imposed by the authorities, this would be a huge challenge, and on the face of it almost impossible. It would require all of us who can afford to be consumers, or overconsumers, globally, to commit collectively to go cold turkey to limit our consumption to essential products and services only, for the sake of all future life on the planet.

As already noted, although the 'green' principle of reducing consumption is nothing new, what is new is the urgency of the situation. We have simply run out of time. This is why activists talk about the climate emergency, not that you would know it given the level of day to day 'Westminster village' (UK) concerns. Most of us are in a state of collective denial, many perhaps feeling deprived for too long from business as usual consumerism and global travel during the pandemic era. If a crisis were to arise, we would expect the emergency services to bale us out, and look to 'the authorities' to impose any necessary 'war footing' restrictions.

In principle, such urgent restrictions could be imposed by 'the authorities'. But as noted above, it is clear following the immensely disappointing COP26 revelations that China, Russia, and India were not intending to commit even to net zero by 2050. Overall progress in the West also falls far short of what is necessary.

It is time to recognise that we cannot afford to wait any longer for the authorities to act on our behalf.

It is hardly likely that TwVI (those with vested interests) are going to initiate any restraint on consumption, unless they were to expecting to achieve the result through increased inflation, or to be financially compensated as part of some global level deal, or by massively increasing the cost of fossil fuel at the taxpayers expense, with 'the authorities' claiming that this was necessary in order to meet the global warming temperature limit. Without full transparency of the economic process and money flows, it will not be possible to verify fair play by those in control.

Reducing fossil fuel demand through increased pricing will increase the prices of all consumer goods. Unless we choose to restrain our consumption voluntarily, then one way or another we will pay financially, which will double the hardship of living more frugally. But if we do not even try to kickstart 'war footing' level action by the authorities, through our own collective restraint, we are not going to keep within the 1.5 °C limit.

This task could be greatly facilitated through the engagement of a global citizens' collective. In 2021 the first Global Assembly’s presence at COP26 (Anon., 2021A) meant that for the first time, citizens had a seat at the global governance table, marking a significant development in the way the world makes decisions. The Global Assembly is set to become a permanent piece of world governance infrastructure, combining a formal forum of citizens statistically selected to be representative of the global population, and distributed fora organized by local communities.

Related developments include climate assemblies taking place at local and national level in many countries, in which statistically representative samples of the population meet to hear expert evidence and deliberate on climate-related topics and make recommendations for governmental authorities to take up (Anon., 2022r), (Anon., 2022s).

Global citizen action

Citizen initiatives have been referred to at various points throughout the website narrative. It has been observed that unless such initiatives support economic growth, they are invariably blocked by powerful vested interests, especially if they are perceived to pose a potential threat to economic growth. At an individual level this is disempowering, but we are now in such a serious situation that unless we all pull together collectively, with common purpose, urgency and commitment, the answer to such questions will become irrelevant.

In view of the powerful grip of those with vested interests, my personal view is that it is important to maintain a distance between the grassroots response of citizens, and the more formalised 'establishment' stakeholder [Issues] processes which have developed during the last few decades. Citizen efforts need to be, on the one hand, individual and private, but on the other global and collective; united by a common purpose. The often quoted phrase "think global, act local" but modified to think global, act local - and privately expresses the point.

Young people need to be at the heart of such collective action.

Think global, act local - and privately

Additional reasons for favouring informal citizen action include the following. Taking the UK as an example, discussion within formalised citizen assemblies will be in relation to net zero by 2050, which in my view is too slow. Significantly it ignores the fact that the UK footprint is artificially low because so many of our manufactured goods are produced in countries like China. Any formalised agenda will tend to prioritise projects which favour economic growth, such as new technological infrastructure. More generally, any formalised agenda will tend to minimise any initiatives which would adversely affect the mainstream economy, again such as demand reduction.

There is however something of a paradox regarding citizen action en masse:

To be effective a massive global citizen response is needed, which will require cooperation and organisation, but on the other hand can only work if individuals act freely with genuine democracy, without external coercion or pressure. "United we stand", in the sense of having one voice, but as a collective of independent individuals.

The distinction of many - but independent individuals also needs to maintained in order to reduce the risk of group opposition [Issues] by the status quo.

It is envisaged that organised citizen meetings would take the form of mutual help and co-operation sessions, through sharing knowledge and experience.

The purpose is not to protest.

The priority is to help and support individual citizens practically to privately reduce their personal consumption.

The less individuals publicise their actions, the less likely they are to be bothered by anyone. No laws are being broken; their action is peaceful and voluntary. Ideally the first 'the authorities' would know about such citizen action would be when official statistics about the economy prompted an investigation into an unexplained drop in consumption of products and services within better-off population sectors.

Those of us who are fortunate enough to be consumers, or overconsumers around the world need to take the lead in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by aiming for real zero by 2030, not merely net zero by 2050. This will require voluntary frugality of consumption; to work towards restricting our personal consumption of products and services to essentials only, starting now.

For those of us who are 'comfortably off' this will be extremely unwelcome. The only alternative is to be complicit in condoning a path to eventual oblivion.

To overcome apathy and denial to secure the necessary commitment, the first stage is to have serious conversations among friends and families about the urgency of the situation.

Every 'privileged consumer' can make useful reductions in their personal consumption habits. It is important to take that first step and do something. It could be viewed as a step on from recycling.

Young people need to have a key role in this process. Initially it is their future which is at stake, and many are showing signs of stress about it. They need to understand what they are up against, and how to face it. They are skilled at using social media - and if mass voluntary frugality is to be effective this message needs to go viral.

To kick-start the necessary dialogue with 'the authorities' it is estimated that a mass global engagement of the order of 100 million privileged consumers would be necessary; ideally this to include around 10 million of the most privileged consumers.

Rising to the Challenge [The Case: Positive steps]

To address the global warming change issue and aim for real zero by 2030, the immediate priority is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing our consumption of oil, gas, and coal per se.esar 

Practically this must start by reducing consumption of products and services to essentials only. All these use energy, most of which still comes from fossil fuels.

To be clear, the purpose of the proposed citizen action is not to destroy the economy. It is to begin to do what is practically necessary for the health of all life on our planet. This action has the additional benefit of sending a strong message to 'the authorities' that some citizens are prepared to pay more for non-polluting products and services which do not contribute to the destruction of life on our planet.

If it takes such a message, to cause a tangible depression of the economy, in order to kick-start the necessary dialogue, then so be it.

esar   Although reducing our dependence on Russian oil and gas is a way to peacefully protest against the invasion of Ukraine, Russia is finding other markets.

Economic sanctions [Power structure: Notes]

When the authorities get involved...

The type of citizen action required at later stages if the authorities get involved will be different. Some thoughts on this are discussed in the links below.

How can we (global citizens) rise to the Challenge? [The Case: Positive steps]

Towards a global citizens' collective (above)

Potential contributions from individual citizens - going further (below)

To be effective, global citizen collective action will involve thinking and acting 'outside the box'. Helping to solve the problem of an economy which relies on overconsumption - and particularly of fossil fuels, and which ignores the costs of rigorous sociological and environmental protection in order to maximise profits, will be a challenge.


Potential contributions from individual citizens - going further

Encountering obstacles

As soon as a citizen attempts to shop in a discerning manner, difficulties will arise. For example trying to purchase cosmetics or household goods which do not contain plastic, microplastic, or plastic/ packaging is almost impossible. It is now integral to many commonly used materials, which are no longer what they appear to be. For example, 'wipes' are very widely used, and are available in many different forms. The TV documentary series War on Plastic (Anon., 2019h) publicised the fact that wipes might look like paper, but are often strengthened with plastic (Anon., 2021f), (Anon., 2021h). These cause problems in sewage treatment plants and rivers; wipes can be found lining river banks through the disgraceful practice of discharging untreated sewage into UK rivers (Anon., 2021i), (Bullough, 2022).

Clothing now often contains plastic fibres. Since it is a consumer market, if there is enough consumer pressure, either by consumer boycotts or bad publicity through consumer-led campaigning, companies will adapt. This is frustrating, but is the present day reality after years of clever marketing and BAU. We also have the problem that product labelling is often deliberately unhelpful.

For some people, it may be necessary to adopt a different attitude towards consumption, for example towards purchasing airline tickets.

Notes: Refraining from being an overconsumer [Life choices]

It could be argued that an aspect of being a discerning consumer is to resist the 'amorality' underlying corporate sponsorship in the arts, culture, and sport (see below).

Becoming an activist

There may come a point where a concerned citizen reaches such a level of frustration that she/he really wants to try to influence change of the system. Some options available to concerned citizens are outlined in the link below.

Concerned citizen response [Issues]

Suitably empowered citizens could actively encourage trusted élite individuals to move towards more enlightened, human values-based, government policies/ business models. Examples of projects could include: calling for greater transparency in relation to government and business practices; voting systems; and products/ services throughout supply chains. Trusted élite collaboration with citizen-based NGOs could be explored.

In principle:

Subject to personal circumstances, most individuals have some choice about the type of work they do.

Employer/ employee activism [Issues]

Special roles for 'convert-élite' individuals?

The powerful élite individuals who are the key drivers of dark governance, unsurprisingly, can experience extreme internal human values conflicts. They cope with these conflicts by compartmentalising their lives between work and not-work. The robustness of this type (i) coping strategy, and the ruthlessness of some type (ii) behaviours can be intimidating.

Coping strategies adopted by corporate executives [Life choices]

It is hoped that, in response to changing conditions, some élite individuals might yet recognise their responsibilities as citizens, which accrue from their assumed rights over people and planet. They might conclude that it is in their best interests to turn away from their previous roles, and begin to genuinely try and become part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.

Untenable internal-values conflicts for élite individuals? [Life choices]

The era of naive public gratitude for corporate PR which claims to 'give something back' using Corporate Social Responsibility [Power structure] rhetoric needs to pass. The situation is now far too serious.

Corporate sponsorship in the arts, culture, and sport [Power structure]

To genuinely become part of the solution means exactly that. So what sort of contribution could a genuine 'convert-élite' individual realistically be expected to make? It would seem unlikely that she/he would be welcome in her/his previous assignment; making resignation obligatory: "If you aren't with us, you're against us".

As noted above, in principle most individuals have some choice about the type of work they do.

An individual resigning from an élite executive role in order to work in a less cost-externalised field might beneficially impact the planet directly, and also indirectly if the new work was paid less generously and thereby reducing the temptation to overconsume.

Such an individual is more likely to be able to afford to resign his/ her employment than an 'average' citizen.

He/she would also reap some benefit from a reduction of conflicted values from the work switch. A win:win:win.

Convert-élites who are genuinely committed to reducing their addiction to power, wealth, and control can expect to face some difficulties.

The toughest challenge of all [Life choices]

The convert-élite individual could enter electoral politics, for example to work on corporate law reform, electoral reform, monetary reform, implementation of a new type of economic process, or pioneering a new type of enlightened business.

In principle:

Ex-corporate élite individuals could choose to go into electoral politics, and become more involved in enlightened statecraft, with heart-driven human values at the core.

Although constrained to discretionary or voluntary 'self'-regulation by current corporate legislation, the bar could be raised by such individuals who might be able to push for mandatory legislative reforms.

In economic theory, there have been many calls for combining knowledge and regulation to internalise the externalities of the market system (Meadows, 2005, p.258). Similarly in the case of corporate law there is a wide spectrum of professional views between pro-enlightened shareholder value and pro-pluralism. Unfortunately, well-intentioned moderates are no match for ruthless operatives such as TwVI (those with vested interests).

They could choose to refrain from hiding behind corporate personhood, and come out to head-up more enlightened types of organisation/ corporation, with heart-driven human values at the core.

While convert-élites would know how to play the game, and the usual fate of whistleblowers, as part of 'walking their new talk' they might choose to expose the shady methods used to swing deals.

Perhaps they could initiate some kind of truth and reconciliation process whereby it was conceded that it would be in the interests of all, as part of public trust-building, to move towards much greater transparency of business activities.

Unfortunately, once outside the fold, the convert would face the same intransigence as the rest of us; nation-state electoral politics, corporate law, and market competition. Her/his expertise would therefore probably be best utilised in an advisory role, but no doubt hampered by Non Disclosure Agreements etc..

In a manner slightly analogous to the poacher-turned-gamekeeper concept, convert-élite individuals could reverse the 'revolving door', to directly help citizen-based [Issues] NGOs. With their work-ethic, expertise, contacts, and executive experience they could make immensely valuable contributions towards repairing some of the damage that dark governance has caused.

In principle:

Ex-corporate élite individuals could choose to directly help citizen-based NGOs to: gain access to decision-makers; publicly confirm and acknowledge the extent of the dark governance problem, (using mainstream and social media); run educational workshops to assist citizens with greener lifestyle planning, and to help citizen-engagement with the issues by giving guidance on how to cut through the corporate PR machine.

Poacher-turned-gamekeeper deployments are not uncommon; some examples: youth gang criminals becoming youth-workers after serving prison sentences, ex-drug addicts running rehab centres and help groups, convicted computer hackers becoming IT security advisers, and power-sharing after the Northern Ireland Troubles.

A summary of my reasons for moving towards the application of a moral compass mandate to corporate law, which takes into account both materialist and post-materialist insights, is given in the following link:

Towards a politically doable perspective [Moral compass]

A more comprehensive argument is given in:

Moral compass mandate [Moral compass]

In principle:

Given the dire global situation regarding major human-caused predicaments, and after due consideration of materialist and post-materialist perspectives, no just reason is apparent as to why a moral compass mandate should not be applied globally to corporate law.

The mainstream economy has relied on mass overconsumption which is unsustainable, both environmentally and sociologically. It is argued that mass consumption of non-essential products and services needs to be curbed, and some ideas for a new type of economic process which is based upon essentialness value have been suggested.

Ideas for an essential consumption only (ECO) type of economy

In principle:

I have set out some ideas for a different kind of economic process which I think would be more fit-for-purpose than the existing system in terms of addressing the global major human-caused problems (MHCP)s.

It is recognised that some convert-élites might appear to co-operate with a more enlightened agenda, but in reality use it as convenient cover while actually carrying on much as before. But this would be little different from what has been happening for years anyway.

The importance of engagement in meaningful activity

This section addresses some of the implications of moving towards a different type of economy, one which is compatible with living in a biosphere. Reducing overconsumption is likely to result in a period of job losses. But for various reasons it is possible that the spectre of long term mass unemployment may happen anyway, as already discussed [Life choices].

The idea of everyone being paid a universal basic income (UBI) has been suggested as a humane solution to long term mass unemployment.

It has been concluded from the personal quest to date that it is important for an individual to engage in meaningful or purposeful activity, irrespective of whether it is paid, paid well, or unpaid. This begs the question about what each individual would find sufficiently meaningful or purposeful. But aside from this, it is contended that a 'meaningful activity' does not need to be remunerated beyond that necessary to be solvent, and in a position to adequately honour familial, social, and societal obligations.

Depending upon how societies are organised in the future, in terms of the freedom of choice individuals are given regarding meaningful activity, and on the priority given by the authorities to moving towards sustainable living within the biosphere, a UBI could lead to a golden age [Issues].

It is sobering to realise the extent to which our present dire situation was anticipated [Issues] back in 1973, and yet allowed - indeed encouraged - to develop.

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that this important systems understanding was capitalised upon (literally) by some people with large vested interests, to secure their own golden age - in advance by making a lot of money; and plundering virgin natural resources while they could. The phrase 'making hay while the sun shines' comes to mind, a key externalisation being climate change; despite ardent denialism by those with vested interests.

It has been argued that 'net zero by 2050' (or later) is just the latest manifestation of the élite plan.

Rogue operator behaviour [Power structure]

What does 'net zero by 2050' really imply? [Power structure]

For there to be the possibility of a new golden age, citizens will need to resist any dystopian trends, for example oppressive surveillance [Power structure] by the authorities which could be used to control citizens. For example, to carry out forced labour in return for minimal UBI subsistence payments.

It is inspiring to discover NGOs comprising groups of citizen activists who are actively engaged in resisting oppression. The Corner House is such an NGO, and provides a valuable resource by documenting their ongoing work and experience (Website. The Corner House).

A breath of fresh air?

Many inspirational possibilities have been proposed, covering transformations at the individual level (Cormack, 2007) to the societal (Alperovitz, 2016), (Anon., 2014a). Within a suitably enlightened global governance system, and humane corporate legislation [Life choices], profoundly necessary policy decisions could be contemplated. TwVI financial compensation scenarios such as corporate courts could be quashed, and constructive schemes aimed at reducing MHCPs could be established. For example, in our present situation regarding the urgent action necessary to reduce fossil fuel combustion, nations whose economies were genuinely reliant on their fossil fuels could be required to rapidly phase them out, meanwhile funds could be allocated to compensate them for a transitional period. Similarly compensation could be paid to the island-states currently suffering from the consequences of sea level rise due to climate change, which they were not responsible for.twt  Historic third world debts could be cancelled. In due course major changes to the debt-based monetary system could even be made.

There is certainly no shortage of issues requiring the meaningful engagement of global citizens.

twt   As noted earlier, at COP27 there were finally some hopeful signs of progress on this, however time will tell. In the past it has been known for promised funds to fall short, and for IMF 'development' loans with strings attached to benefit large corporations and add to developing country debt. The large land reclamation projects urgently needed by island-states could succumb to this pattern.

Every individual has a unique life journey

It is part of the human condition that the nature of individual life choices moment-to-moment characterise a unique life journey. The cumulative effect of these choices could be imagined to provide coarse indicators of what this journey actually amounts to. Taking the time and space to review our inner journey should not be viewed as a waste of time. It can influence our life choices, and provide inspirational ideas, both of which could be good for us as individuals, and good for society.

In retrospect, the actual process of exploring my own inner journey resulted in a pragmatic solution to that clichéd question:

Does a human life have a meaning or purpose?

This was the most pressing existential question which prompted my personal quest in the first place, and the most straightforward to answer, at least at a superficial, pragmatic level. What is life? [Moral compass] was another such question, originally posed as an apparently necessary prequel. However, the pressure to specifically address it at the time was relieved by actual commitment to the personal quest, which provided the personal goal congruence missing throughout my career. This has given purpose and meaning by virtue of providing an ongoing focus for reading, thought, contemplation, analysis, and creativity; which continue to inform my life choices, roles, and contributions. It has led to answers to my originally posed question about what I, and any citizen, can actually do about global problems.

Concerned citizen response [Issues] to global issues.

So why did personal goal congruence matter so much? In my case I think it was because its absence indicated that something about the way we are obliged to live 'did not compute'. We all have to live with reality, and commitment to an inner journey helped me to find my niche.

For example it can facilitate an acceptance that while one's best endeavours can only be a drop in the ocean, they can nevertheless be viewed as a purposeful and worthwhile contribution. If one believes in what one is doing, and can afford to pay the bills, unpaid voluntary, post-retirement activity associated with a personal quest can feel more worthwhile than pre-retirement paid employment without goal congruence.

Speculations on societal trends and some possible implications for the future of 'work' [Life choices].

One of the challenges posed by the 'information society' is how to filter out fake news. The paradox about whether we believe in something because it is true, or that something is true because we believe it, has to be faced. Is it more important to know who to trust, and therefore what to believe, or who to believe, and therefore what to trust? The 'old boy network' adage: "it's not what you know, it's who you know" can only have come from the privileged class. In a context of seeking metaphysical truth, one needs to understand the basis of core and relevant information. The process of digging for this, and discovering what is relevant, reveals a lot about the way things work. Each of us has to decide how far we need to dig in order to be satisfied that we are on a right path to the truth we seek.

The mainstream scientific worldview which underpins the status quo is materialist. At a common sense level, this mechanistic worldview simply does not accord with our felt experience of who we are as human beings. Our felt (subjective) experience, and our values, are all we can know  (Website. Rupert Spira The Essence of Non-Duality), and are therefore of supreme importance to each individual.

Mechanistic scientific worldview [Moral compass]

There must be many people who believe ('know') that a deeply felt inner yearning for truth is somehow evidence of the existence of a bigger picture. We all want to be happy, but many seek happiness in the wrong place (Ibid.). In my case, in the end, after a great deal of reading, questioning and thought, there came a point where it became very unsatisfactory to sit on the fence with umpteen plausible scenarios, each with a specific list of as yet unanswered questions. Pragmatism took over. It seemed better to 'toss a coin', figuratively speaking, in relation to all the materialist versus post materialist arguments. It was decided to go with gut instinct, and commit to the post-materialist. This position assumes that:

Matter exists within conscious Awareness

- not that conscious Awareness exists within matter, as currently assumed in mainstream materialist science.

Most people are probably not aware of this concept, and even fewer understand it or believe it. This is just as well for the current main beneficiaries of dark governance. It would hardly be in their interests if people en masse discovered a vastly bigger (and infinitely fascinating) context for their lives than overconsumption.

Are we being kept in the dark? [Moral compass]

For those who are able to accept that more happiness, or more sustained happiness, depends more on being than on having, then it might be worth investigating how such a consciousness state might be attained. An issue central to the main theme of this website is to what extent the findings from such an inner journey might affect one's life choices. The extremely serious consequences of the prevailing dominance of belief in a limited interpretation lims  of reductive-determinist materialist science lie at the core of the issues addressed in this website.

'Amoral' BAU, with its mandated profit maximisation in the corporate interest, and the robotic legal abomination of the Corporate Person, overrides human values. It legally permits the exploitation of human and natural resources, primarily for the benefit of a small élite group. The Corporate Person construct is a violation of basic common sense, and excuses the rogue operator behaviour which is the key driver of the major human-caused-problems.

lims   ...a problematic impasse in living with the duality that "we inhabit both a subjective world and an objective world" (Watson, 2014,Ibid., pp.517-521)...

See: Reticence to discuss spirituality [Moral compass]

It has always been about economic growth [Introduction]

In the UK, having presided over Brexit, and the vaccination rollout during the Covid-19 pandemic, a manifestation of Americanisation/ the Anglo-Saxon business model/ the 'special relationship' during 2021 was for the then UK Prime Minister to conduct televised press briefings while standing at a podium between two furled UK flags. This pro-trade symbol of nation-state politics epitomises for me the great gulf between where we are, and where we need to be.

For example, the European business stance which recognises that it is not possible to quantify the unquantifiable [Power structure] is a step forward from the American business model which financialises everything, however untenable (Financialisation [Power structure]). The untenability of some financialisation assumptions epitomises the materialist/ post-materialist split which lies at the heart of the potentially deal-breaking being versus having issue. For those who may be unfamiliar with the notion of exploring Being, an introduction to the territory is given in the links associated with the artwork Reality check.

[Moral compass] is directed towards an attempt to reconcile various controversies in order to establish a sound basis for a moral compass mandate [Moral compass] which could, in principle, be applied to corporate law. The materialist/ post-materialist split over issues such as free will is discussed. Perspectives from emergent materialism, sociobiology, and teleological behaviourism are contrasted with a profound post-materialist big picture view of reality.

The issue of whether or not nature, being amoral, precludes the notion of a moral compass mandate has been addressed. It was possible to conclude, using secular materialist science, that a moral compass mandate is not precluded. This conclusion was drawn without the need to invoke post-materialist science. Materialist science has evolved from its reductionist-determinist origins, and in particular an extremely important insight of Darwin [Moral compass], which has great relevance to tackling the looming global warming crisis, had come to light. That this hopeful insight has not been more widely publicised (whereas we have all heard about the "survival of the fittest") is discussed in It's a big ask [The Challenge].

It is concluded that there is no just reason, in principle, why a moral compass mandate should not be built into corporate law.

Expert comment and advice, including from convert-élite individuals, would be welcomed.

For the sake of all life on the planet, we have to hope that the life-priorities of enough capable individuals might be mustered to facilitate change in the right direction, before it is too late.


For those interested in taking the analysis further, see the section Altruism and selfishness [Moral compass].

Some key practical conclusions, which have relevance to the core theme of this website, are that:

Reality is non-dual; actions manifested in the world and the inner intentions behind them are two sides of the same coin

Being informs Doing

Doing without Being leads to wrong actions

From Being


Notes: 'Global citizens pay for everything'

Link to the section in Global citizens pay for everything  referencing the note below.

Already some people even want 'net zero by 2050' to be deferred?

For example, during the Conservative Party mid-term election process (for a new prime minister) it was reported that some people are so concerned about the rising cost of living (due to inflation, and rising energy costs related to post Covid-19 factors and the Russian war in Ukraine) that they even want 'net zero by 2050' to be deferred. During an interview climate change was not included in a cited verbal list of 'emergencies' to be faced by the new prime minister (Anon., 2022t).

Notes: 'Ideas for an essential consumption only (ECO) type of economy'

Link to the section in Ideas for an essential consumption only (ECO) type of economy  referencing the notes below.

Tobin Tax

Link to the section in Re-financialising in support of essentialness value  referencing the note below.

On the "Tobin tax" (Korten, 1996, p.321):

'International Financial Transactions Tax  A 0.5 percent tax should be collected on all spot transactions in foreign exchange, including... ..as proposed by James Tobin, winner of the 1981 Nobel Prize for economics....would help dampen speculative international financial movements but would be too small to deter commodity trade or serious international investment commitments...The priority for applying the proceeds from this tax should be to establish a debt repayment fund to retire those international debts of low-income countries....A second use of this tax should be to finance the operations of the United Nations and its specialized agencies'. .


Link to section Process application referencing the note below.

Although unpalatable to many people, sectors such as tourism need to be regarded more as treats. This may be upsetting, but it regrettably reflects the increasing stark reality of the current human predicament. As a direct consequence of decades of necessary remedial actions being put off, we are running out of options (Meadows, 2005, pp.248-250).

Taking back control?

Link to section Offsetting injustices referencing the note below.

In principle, there is no reason why organisations modelled on an offsetting injustices basis could not be established more generally. With the prevailing corporate mindset they would be viewed as 'charities' - giving 'aid'. But this is another form of semantic inversion [Power structure]; it all depends on the frame of reference. Even with the existing system, if enough privileged citizens cared about fairness to 'share' by voluntarily 'paying' with their money, or their time, then "many hands [could] make light work".

In relation to such an ethic, the behaviour of some corporates during the Covid-19 pandemic, and rubber-stamped by governments in the rich world (with little protest by privileged consumers/ taxpayers, it has to be said) would be regarded as an outrage.

This example refers to the injustice inflicted by some expedient operations of TwVI in 'Big Pharma', which is not being offset by the rich nations. During the Covid-19 pandemic some corporations have been making huge profits from annual booster vaccinations for those who can afford to pay, while guaranteeing their future income through indirectly assisting the spread of disease-variants among the too-poor-to-be-vaccinated.

Targeting those who can afford to pay [Power structure]

These huge profits will be made from the taxpayer in rich countries. While there is no doubt smugness all round for the big pharma executives and their investors, this situation provides yet another graphic reminder of what is wrong with business as usual - the absence of a moral compass.

Moral responsibility and the amassment of power [Moral compass]

The system could be made less unfair if the if the tax burden fell on the corporate and richer societal sectors, and a significant proportion of this revenue sent to poorer countries to support their vaccination programmes.

A 'charity' could fund and organise the distribution of Covid-19 vaccinations to the poorer parts of the world.

Globalisation with a nation-state based political system has allowed corporates to make money while perpetuating inequalities and injustices. TwVI have it both ways. If privileged citizens continue to look the other way, MHCPS can only get worse.

Trickle-down economics

The idea that all benefit from economic growth because of spin-off benefits from the rich to the poor. "... the trickle-down effect operates poorly in Brazil, and not at all in India" (in 1991) (Latouche, 1993, p.38). In general, rather than trickle-down the reality is very much on 'funnel-up'. Especially in regard to debt repayments. But as with most of BAU, it depends on your point of view.

The concept of "no gain without pain" has been used in the past to erroneously justify economic growth as the way to reduce inequalities by the 'trickle down' effect, whereas an emerging view is that equitable economies follow from designing wealth distribution into a network from the outset.

Designing wealth distribution into a network from the outset (reference citation only) [Power structure: Notes]

The Russian invasion of Ukraine

Many citizens in Europe and the UK have responded very generously [Issues] to help the substantial number of refugees fleeing from the war. Possible citizen actions by those immersed in a war zone might be limited, but soon become apparent. The need for official humanitarian aid can only increase as the war unfolds.

Within a more enlightened, fit-for-purpose global governance system, there would be 'no enemies across the border'; but just decent human beings everywhere trying to live in peace.

Exercising rights and responsibilities in the world [Being]

Notes: Towards a global citizens' collective

Link to the section in Towards a global citizens' collective  referencing the note below.

Previous work

For example the 'Global Ethic' declaration by the Parliament of the World's Religions (Anon., 1993), see Feeling the common ground [Purposeful art]; the 1995-7 World Values Study (Norris, 1999); The Charter for Global Democracy and the many other global governance-related initiatives carried out around the time of the millennium (Hagger, 2018b, pp.144-5); and more recently the surveys carried out by Freedom House (Hagger, 2018b, p.74).

Top [Positive steps]

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