by Rabia Abrar
Over the years, I have committed to ‘do my part’ to help the world ‘fix’ the effects of inequality and the climate crisis.
I have joined passionate youth in supporting the work of vitally important organisations which address the downstream effects of inequality and the climate crisis: fundraising to build libraries or to create children’s bed kits, supporting community food drives, becoming a reducetarian and campaigning to share the ‘how to’ for individual climate action in a personal 100-Day challenge and in my work at Hubbub.
And yet, I always held frustration about why these issues exist in the first place. Why do we need to redistribute income after poverty has reached crisis levels, why are we having to fund clean ups of oil spills and why are individuals expected to ‘consume responsibly’, when producers are not also mandated to produce responsibly?
Joining the Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll) has helped articulate my long-held beliefs: business, politics and economic activity should exist solely to deliver collective wellbeing – a.k.a social justice on a healthy planet.
We should only pursue growth in those areas of the economy that contribute to collective wellbeing and shrink those areas of the economy that damage it. And this shift in the purpose and functioning of the economy requires systems change.
The Wellbeing Economy and A Healthy Planet
As Dr. Katherine Trebeck described in a recent interview with the Herald,
“The wellbeing economy agenda … comes from a recognition that, if we don’t transform how the economy operates – who wins, who loses out of the economic system, how we price things, what we incentivise, how businesses operate, how we build our infrastructure – we won’t have a chance of delivering that goal: social justice on a healthy planet.
Crucially, a wellbeing economy will only ever have been achieved if we have delivered environmental sustainability, addressed climate breakdown and regenerated our environment.
That’s what today’s Global Climate Strike is about. In at least 3500 locations around the world, youth are striking as part of the Fridays for Future movement, to reinforce the urgency of the climate crisis even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and to demand more urgent action on the climate and ecological crisis by governments. Young people are taking action both online and in the streets where COVID-19 regulations allow.
Social Injustice Drives Environmental Breakdown
Katherine explains that,
“the environmental crisis is [actually also] a social justice issue and the two of those are bound up in how we design our economics.”
And further, much of our environmental breakdown is actually rooted in social injustice.
Fascinatingly, research shows that:
- High levels of inequality drive huge amounts of consumption and hence emissions, especially by the very wealthy
- Inequality actually undermines political mobilisation on these issues, which is why those countries that are less unequal are more likely to be more proactive on addressing environmental issues.
Redesigning our Economy
“If we transform the economy towards a wellbeing economy, this will help us deliver on the social justice side of things and on the environment.”
The Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll) is a collective of organisations, alliances, movements and academics operating collaboratively across many different sectors to redesign the economic system – including place-based hubs, which are working with governments across the globe to test out new narratives, policies, ideas and models to make the wellbeing economy a reality in their own localities.
This work is crucial, especially now, as we all discuss how to ‘Build Back Better’ beyond COVID.
As the brilliant (and terrifying) Metronome’s reprogrammed digital clock illustrates – we have a short window of time to make this economic systems change – and the clock is ticking.
But I agree with Katherine when she says:
“What keeps me optimistic is the young people … around the world who are so passionate, so articulate and so bright. Climate breakdown is something they don’t question because they’ve grown up knowing that it’s a reality . . . and so they’re rolling up their sleeves and being collaborative.”
Want to get involved?
Join the conversation and action around the Global Climate Strike or WEAll Youth network, a global movement of regional youth communities collectively taking action towards a creating a wellbeing economy.