How Nature Can Make You Kinder, Happier, and More Creative

We are spending more time indoors and online. But recent studies suggest that nature can help our brains and bodies to stay healthy.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: greatergood.berkeley.edu

Everyone, including myself has experienced the magical wonders of nature and how it inspires us. Walking for just 30 minutes is enough to put our minds at rest and significantly reduce our stress-levels. We should therefore be thankful and grateful for nature and everything that it provides us

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Creating sustainable and resilient cities

Urbanisation is occurring at an unprecedented rate; 75% of the world’s population will be living in urban environments by 2050. (Person, Newton, & Roberts, 2014). As the vast majority of the global population will be living in cities in decades to come, there are many challenges that we must face as stated by authors of the book: “Resilient Sustainable Cities; a future”

“Not only are cities facing their current challenges of pollution, transportation, climate change etc. but they are about to experience the ‘slow burns’ of population growth that will stretch to breaking point urban infrastructure and service capacity; resource scarcity (i.e. peak oil, potable water and food security) that will dramatically change what we consume and how; environmental pressures that will change how we live and where; and shifting demographic and business preferences that will exacerbate pressures.” (Person, Newton, & Roberts, 2014)

To summarise, what has been said above is that mankind faces two major (broad) challenges in the 21st century:

  1. To urgently deal with climate change and pollution that is caused by human activities.
  2. To change or transform urban infrastructure and the current way we live and consume our products.

Despite the fact that many cities, including governments, businesses, organisations and society as a whole recognize the importance and urgence of dealing with these challenges, the very first step is the need to have a common understanding of the position of a city in relation to its (surrounding) environment. What this means is that a city should be aware of its existence and relationship relative to the natural world. Once this is understood and recognised by (key) players within a city, including the municipality, businesses and citizens, then (as cited by Peter Newman and Isabelle Jennings authors of the book, Cities as Sustainable Ecosystems) ideally a city should have the following point of view or perspective in relation to the environment:

“The ecosystem viewpoint is an inclusive one that sees humans as part of local socioecological systems, from bioregions to the biosphere, in which the focus is on relationships and processes that support life in its myriad forms, especially partnerships and cooperation.” (Newman & Jennings, 2008)

They (the authors) add: “The core idea of the book is that cities need to be soon as ecosystems integrated within their wider context – communities nested within bioregions and the global biosphere.” (Newman & Jennings, 2008)

Ecosystems are: “all the living things, from plants and animals to microscopic organisms that share an environment” (Dictionary, Vocabulary.com). When talking about ecosystems within the context of a city, then the term, Eco-city is applied.

“Eco-Cities are places where people can live healthier and economically productive lives while reducing their impact on the environment. They work to harmonize existing policies, regional realities, and economic and business markets with their natural resources and environmental assets. Eco-Cities strive to engage all citizens in collaborative and transparent decision making, while being mindful of social equity concerns.” (Hodgson)

The last sentence of the explanation given by Mr. Hodgson is of crucial importance in striving for a more sustainable and resilient city as he says that eco-cities aim to engage all citizens in collaborative and transparent decision making. Despite the fact that citizens are key (players) in decision-making and (urban) planning of cities they live in, in most instances that is not the case as the local government and governance of most cities are currently centrally controlled and dominated by political and industrial players. However, this is changing as cities such as Melbourne, Australia, Portland, US, Vancouver, Canada, Barcelona, Spain, Växjö, Sweden, Copenhagen, Denmark and Eindhoven, the Netherlands are becoming more flexible, open and more willing to invite industry, science & education, civil organisations, communities and above all: citizens to become involved in (urban) city decision-making and planning. One of the most practical and inspirational examples of how a multidisciplinary approach in which stakeholders of a city come together to collectively tackle (urban) challenges at a local level is the co-creative, multidisciplinary venture called: AiREAS.

“AiREAS is a multidisciplinary venture that focuses on creating “healthy cities” by taking air quality and human health as points of reference.”

“The mission of any Local AiREAS is to co-create a healthy city through purpose driven interaction of the four key parts of any local society:”

  • Local government: regional responsibility
  • Business:  applied innovation and services
  • Science: research and education
  • Local population: behaviour and mentality

(Close, AiREAS, marktleiderschap.wordpress.com)[1]

The multidisciplinary approach that AiREAS uses to co-create a healthy city is based on core human values which are:

  • Food (including water)
  • Health
  • Safety
  • Self-sufficiency
  • Self-awareness

To many people, it may initially seem a little confusing and difficult to understand that a co-creative, multidisciplinary venture is based on (human) values instead of economic or profit motives. Especially as people ask themselves: “Where does money come in or how do they finance these projects?”

Indeed, it might seem cause confusion when hearing about AiREAS as a co-creative, value-driven venture. However, despite the ‘confusing’ ideology or perspective of AiREAS in developing innovations and creating values which contribute to living healthy, sustainably and in harmony with nature, it does provide benefits to everyone as it involves all pillars of a society.

The perspective or viewpoint regarding money within AiREAS is that it is an instrument or tool in setting up and carrying out projects, but not the end-goal of making a financial return or profit. Money is a human invention, originally created to facilitate the trade between goods or services more easily, then its predecessor which was bartering. However as humans are (or tend to be) greedy in nature, since the invention of money, banks, businesses and financial institutions have used it to enrich themselves and eventually and inevitably, society had become succumbed by profit motives. And as we are all well aware of, greediness, materialism and capitalistic thinking has inevitably caused financial crises and depressions. Money is not everything. You cannot buy health.

One of the co-founders of AiREAS, named Jean-Paul Close has illustrated (as can be seen below) the unique position that AiREAS operates in and distinguishes the traditional transaction economy and the transformation economy.

Transactie vers transformation3

AiREAS operates in the transformation economy where new innovations and values are created through multidisciplinary co-creation. These innovations can be enlarged in the transaction economy through which a royalty is paid back to AiREAS in the transformation economy. In this way, AiREAS creates a full “financial” cycle in which every new innovation that was initially financed by the multidisciplinary project group earns itself back through royalties which can be used to finance new projects.

Having clarified how AiREAS operates within a local economy and through its unique position in the transformation economy are able to become financially self-sufficient in which can be called their own ‘circular economy’, it is important to understand how they function and use their ideology in co-creating a healthy city.

Currently many (developed) cities are in the process of developing and using (new) technologies and innovations in creating a “Smart city”. A Smart city, according to Wikipedia, is a city that uses information and communication technologies to enhance quality, performance and interactivity of urban services, to reduce costs and resource consumption and to improve contact between citizens and government. Its objectives are to make more efficient use of physical infrastructure, to engage effectively with local people in local governance and to learn, adapt and innovate. However when cities such as Eindhoven reach level 3 of city development (integrated Smart City), there is choice regarding of how to use the gathered information and applied (communication) technologies. These two options are:

1:  Use innovations and applied technologies for the purpose of (governmental) control and economic steering (i.e. traffic cameras, taxation, facilitating businesses and industry rather than looking after the needs of citizens)

2:  Develop and use (new) technologies and innovations in a multidisciplinary way, involving citizens as participants in city (planning) projects.

The latter option is where AiREAS is positioned. As the second option involves every stakeholder of a city (i.e. government, science, education, industry and citizens) it facilitates the needs of everyone living and working in a city. AiREAS is a practical example of how it uses this multidisciplinary approach to develop technologies and create innovations that contribute towards a more resilient, healthy and sustainable eco-city.

The illustration below may enhance your understanding of where AiREAS is positioned within the context of city level developmentCity developmentThe main focus of level four, city development, is on an active and participative society. Creating a healthier, more sustainable and resilient city ultimately depends on the willingness of every pillar of a society, including citizens to collectively take responsibility around core human values. Once citizen, government, businesses and (research) institutions recognise the importance of the liveability and attractiveness of a city depends on the health and safety of its citizens and the (surrounding) environment, then inevitably, it must decide to shift its economic priorities towards social, sustainable, and ecological goals.

If a city and all of its inhabitants desire to live and thrive safely and healthy, now and in the future, then they must take responsibility together in a multidisciplinary way in which ‘everyone’ actively participates and is involved in decision-making regarding infrastructure, (spatial) planning, transportation, energy etc. It is neither going to be top-down or a bottom-up approach, but everybody working together simultaneously. AiREAS is the very first co-creative multidisciplinary venture that is a practical, leading example of how citizens can work together in order to collectively take responsibility for their environment.

 

 

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A critical view of the Paris climate deal

Following the failed negotiations of the 2009 UN climate summit in Copenhagen, a new attempt has been made by governments from 195 countries to negotiate a new global climate change agreement. This time, the governments say that they are more optimistic in making real progress to switch to renewable sources of energy and make the transition towards a low carbon economy. Although there are hopeful signs that countries around the world (especially developed ones) are determined to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, there are still many unclarities. Nigel Arnell from the University of Reading said:

“The agreement includes a commitment to update pledges and make them more progressive, but the text is vague on the overall ambition: it does not specify a date for the peaking of emissions, and specifies only that reductions should lead towards “greenhouse gas emissions neutrality” in the “second half of the century”.

Not are there only unclarities surrounding the Paris climate pact, but the question if the agreement will be legally binding is also not yet clear. The only thing that is being said is the following:

“The agreement will be considered a “treaty” under international law. However, governments have yet to agree on precisely which elements will be legally binding, an issue that will affect whether and how the United States and other key countries become parties. The agreement will likely include binding procedural commitments – such as requirements that parties inscribe and maintain nationally determined contributions, and report on progress in implementing them. But some countries, including the United States, oppose a legally binding requirement that parties “implement” or “achieve” their nationally determined contributions. The agreement is unlikely to include such a provision.”

What this means, in broad terms, is that if countries do not pursuit their pledges of reducing carbon emissions, they are not taken to the international court. If the climate change agreement remains a non-binding agreement, then it could mean that countries may not follow up their promises and the goals that have been negotiated will not be achieved. Moreover, if a global financial crisis hits the world again, then the developed countries may not mobilize $100 billion a year in public and private finance for developing countries from 2020 onwards. Although there are still a few disputes regarding this agreement, it is not yet binding. So if this part of the climate change agreement remains non-binding, then the developing countries may not receive the financial and technological support they so desperately need to keep their emissions under control.

Another strange observation is that shipping and aviation are exempted from the climate change agreement. The Co2 emissions from these two sectors combined account for more than 4% of global man-made GHG emissions. (Sources: International Chamber of Shipping 2014; Air Transport Action Group, www.atag.org, April 2014)

Conclusion

Although governments from 195 countries are more optimistic, hopeful and determined to make the transition towards a low-carbon economy, there are still many ambiguities that have to be dealt with. If parts of the global climate change agreement remain unclear and there is no clear agreement of whether there should be a penalty for not implementing or achieving national determined contributions, then the main goal of keeping global temperatures under 2 degrees Celsius may not be achieved.

In the following part of this topic, I will introduce a whole new possibility and approach of how communities, organisations, businesses and whole nations can limit and/or reduce GHG emissions by working in a unique multidisciplinary way.

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How do I use my talent?

Are just a handful of people really talented, or does everyone have a gift; a natural ability? Well, opinions are divided about this, but I personally believe that everyone has talent. It’s just that many people don’t know that they have a unique set of special skills. Whether it’s social skills, intelligence or pure physical skills (I.e. sports), everyone has their own personal forte.

Talent

In my opinion, there are two main steps in realising one’s potential:

Discover your talent
A very interesting and important question: how do you discover your talent? Well, there are several ways which can help you:

  1. Self-reflection – What am I good at?
  2. What do I really want?
  3. Is there anything stopping me? How can I overcome this?
  4. What do other people see in me?

Using your talent effectively
Again, there are several ways in which you can use your talent to produce the results you want:

  1. Being flexible and adaptable – willing to change under different circumstances
  2. Being open to new ideas
  3. Accept criticism from others
  4. Using your own self-reflection frequently
  5. Ask others how you are doing

Although these are key elements in discovering your talent and using it effectively, it can only work if you have these personal characteristics:

Self-belief (confidence), determination and perseverance

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Benefits of a shorter working week

Working 40 hours a week or more can be stressful for people, especially when they’re in a demanding job. Stress through long working hours and a busy job can take its toll on employers/employees. Absenteeism and employee turnover is often caused by people who experience heavy levels of stress on the work floor. Over the years, psychologists, doctors, economists and even wealthy businessmen such as Carlos Slim, have pledged for a shorter working week. There are many benefits of working less.work-life-balance

Below are ten reasons for a shorten working week:
(Source: http://www.neweconomics.org/blog/entry/10-reasons-for-a-shorter-working-week)

Smaller carbon footprint: Countries with shorter average hours tend to have a smaller ecological footprint. As a nation, the UK is currently consuming well beyond its share of natural resource. Moving out of the fast lane would take us away from the convenience-led consumption that is damaging our environment, and leave time for living more sustainably.

Stronger economy: If handled properly, a move towards a shorter working week would improve social and economic equality, easing our dependence on debt-fuelled growth – key ingredients of a robust economy. It would be competitive, too: the Netherlands and Germany have shorter work weeks than Britain and the US, yet their economies are as strong or stronger.

Better employees: Those who work less tend to be more productive hour for hour than those regularly pushing themselves beyond the 40 hours per week point.  They are less prone to sickness and absenteeism and make up a more stable and committed workforce.

Lower unemployment: Average working hours may have spiralled, but they are not spread equally across our economy – just as some find themselves working all hours of the day and night, others struggle to find work at all. A shorter working week would help to redistribute paid and unpaid time more evenly across the population.

Improved well-being: Giving everybody more time to spend as they choose would greatly reduce stress levels and improve overall well-being, as well as mental and physical health. Working less would help us all move away from the current path of living to work, working to earn and earning to consume. It would help us all to reflect on and appreciate the things that we truly value in life.

More equality between men and women: Women currently spend more time than men doing unpaid work. Moving towards a shorter working week as the ‘norm’ would help change attitudes about gender roles,  promote more equal shares of paid and unpaid work, and help revalue jobs traditionally associated with women’s work.

Higher quality, affordable childcare: The high demand for childcare stems partly from a culture of long working hours which has spiralled out of control. A shorter working week would help mothers and fathers better balance their time, reducing the costs of full-time childcare. As well as bringing down the cost of childcare, working fewer hours would give parents more time to spend with their children. This opportunity for more activities, experiences and two-way teaching and learning would have benefits for mothers and fathers, as well as their children.

More time for families, friends and neighbours.  Spending less time in paid work would enable us to spend more time with and care for each other – our parents, children, friends and neighbours – and to value and strengthen all the relationships that make our lives worthwhile and help to build a stronger society.

Making more of later life: A shorter and more flexible working week could make the transition from employment to retirement much smoother, spread over a longer period of time.  People could reduce their hours gradually over a decade or more.  Shifting suddenly  from long hours to no hours of paid work can be traumatic, often causing illness and early death.

A stronger democracy: We’d all have more time to participate in local activities, to find out what’s going on around us, to engage in politics, locally and nationally, to ask questions and to campaign for change

Conclusion

It is apparent that long working hours and a long working week is one of the biggest causes of stress on the work floor. High stress levels often lead to employee turnover and absenteeism. Therefore, it is a good idea to shorten the working week for the benefit of the employee. However, not only does the employee benefit from working less, it also provides economic, social and even environmental benefits. Working fewer hours for money leaves more time for the essential activities of everyday life that we do without being paid. Bringing up children, preparing meals, caring for loved ones, learning things, making and repairing things, inventing and creating things, meeting up with friends, venturing into the open air, helping out in our neighbourhoods, playing music, reading, running, tending gardens, playing sports, politicising, philosophising, campaigning to change the local high street and the world at large.

(Source: http://www.neweconomics.org/blog/entry/a-shorter-working-week-just-what-the-doctor-ordered)

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Eindhoven, the healthy city

Eindhoven is a large city thanks to its geographic location, proper infrastructure, and above all: Philips. In population terms, Eindhoven has grown rapidly; from 103,030 inhabitants in 1935 to 223,220 in January 2015.

Eindhoven, just like any other big city has had to cope with mobility problems due to the large flow of traffic in and around the city. As most people have cars today, the roads are becoming increasingly packed with vehicles. Because more people travel by car, the air has become more polluted with toxic emissions. Although we know that more traffic causes more pollution, there has never been an attempt to ‘’visualize’’ the pollution levels – up to now.

Welcome to AiREAS!

Aireas 1

AiREAS is a co-creative and multidisciplinary venture that focuses on “healthy cities” by taking air quality and human health as points of reference. Although AiREAS first started in Eindhoven back in 2010, any city can join or copy the ‘’principles’’ of AiREAS and use the ideology behind it to make their own city ‘’healthy.

The mission of any Local AiREAS is to co-create a healthy city through purpose driven interaction of the four key parts of any local society:
• Local government: regional responsibility
• Business: applied innovation and services
• Science: research and education
• Local population: behavior and mentality

Deriving from their mission, AiREAS performs two key activities (so far):

  • ILM: low cost, fine maze, real time air quality measurement system
  • Health monitoring of a large sample of citizens.

The ILM (Intelligent Measurement System)
AiREAS in corporation with ECN, Philips and Axians have developed and succesfully installed 35 Airboxes in Eindhoven. These Airboxes measure real-time air quality. The data that is gathered in these airboxes is processed by ECN and is subsequently sent to Axians which communicates the data to the wider public.

Monitoring citizen’s health
At the beginning of June 2015, a small sample of citizens walked through Eindhoven wearing backpacks stacked with measurement equipment that determines their GPS location and exposure to air pollution, including ultrafine dust. The purpose of this activity was to measure the participant’s direct exposure to air pollution indoors and outdoors.

The experiment was organized by the Dutch technology institute called TNO together with the health risk assessment research authority (IRAS) of the University of Utrecht and facilitated by Local AiREAS in Eindhoven.

AiREAS 2aireas 3

The ultimate purpose of AiREAS
The original objective was to show the world that healthy cities can be created when responsibility is taken by the entire community together. Now the experience is made available worldwide. Local AiREAS elsewhere in the world will be local for local and interconnected in a worldwide network.

For more information, please click on one of the following links below:
http://www.aireas.com/welcome-to-aireas/
https://globalaireas.wordpress.com/
https://marktleiderschap.wordpress.com/

Sources:
Jean- Paul Close, Founder of AiREAS, Sustainocracy, Transformation economy and STIR.

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Why are we here?

Almost everyone has given thought about our purpose here on this beautiful planet; earth. Life is wonderful and to think that this earth once was a hot, dense and volcanic planet some 4.5 billion years ago which transformed to a flourishing and life-supporting globe is remarkable.

What is even more fascinating is that we humans have evolved from primary caveman, hunters and farmers to sophisticated, intelligent human beings. Indeed, there are many theories surrounding the evolution of mankind from our primary ancestors such as the ape family, to biblical stories such as Adam and Eve and some go as far as extra-terrestrials beings manipulating our DNA to give us the cognitive ability to solve complex problems and the ability to speak a language.

Of all the theories about the evolution of our species, one is commonly accepted and that is that we are descents of the ape family. However, when we look very closely to apes such as the chimpanzees and compare them to us, there are still some ‘’vital’’ missing which sets us widely apart from each other.

visitor-tracking-intelligenceHumans vs. Apes

  1. Human brains are larger and more complex than those of the apes
  2. Humans beings have elaborate forms of communication
  3. People can walk upright and above all: have the ability to SPEAK (a) language(s)

So, although our genes are about 98.5% identical to that of the Chimpanzees, we are still totally different from them in our communicative and cognitive abilities. Therefore, in my opinion the theory of human evolution linking apes as our primary ancestors is not correct.

And as a Christian believing in God, even the biblical story of Adam and Eve does not explain how mankind has evolved as such intelligent and sophisticated human beings. For that reason, my personal opinion is that we must have had help from a source an unknown to us and the only plausible explanation is that during our evolution some form of higher intelligence has given us certain mental capabilities that we need to become how we are today. It might sound far-fetched and somewhat ridiculous, but the only probable explanation is that mankind was provided a jump-start by some form of intelligent life outside in the Universe.

How else is it possible that we as human beings have the ability to communicate, speak, read and write and above all: possess the cognitive abilities that enable us to think analytically about abstract and complex problems?

Even apes cannot be learnt to walk upright, ride bicycles and above all: make fire. In addition to those basic things, over the course of human history our civilisations have become more sophisticated and advanced to the point that we drive cars, build large, complex structures and have the technology to communicate effortlessly throughout the world.

How can we as human beings throughout our evolution become so knowledgeable, so clever, so advanced throughout earth’s history and all other forms of life (animals in particular) in comparison to ourselves not perform the things we can?

Does that not seem strange?
Dolphins, Birds, Apes, Lions; all of those animals have not progressed, become so sophisticated and advanced in comparison to mankind. Why is that? Why are we so different, so unique? Is it indeed the law of natural selection?

 Conclusion

I personally cannot accept the common theories regarding the law of natural selection. It doesn’t sound logical to me. Look around and see what we have created, built, developed up till now. It’s truly remarkable. Over half a decade ago, we’ve begun space exploration and we’ve even travelled to the moon! Everything what we’ve done is thanks to ‘’help’’ we’ve had thousands of years ago from some form of intelligent life. Although, there is not conclusive evidence supporting (my)/this theory, some parts of our DNA CANNOT be traced in the ‘’animal’’ world or the ‘’ape family’’. I’m not the only one who has this theory. Many authors, astronaut theorists and others also believe and/or support this theory. The most notorious and famous book about our origins is by Eric von Daniken’s book: Chariots of the Gods: Was God An Astronaut?

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Dealing with unemployment

Jobs that provide income for people and simultaneously contribute to the economy is at the centre of attention in governments throughout the world. Apart from the fact that people need jobs to secure their income to pay for their basic needs, employment is also considered necessary for a healthy, growing economy.

But how healthy is our current economy and does more employment contribute to (sustainable) growth?
Well, opinions are divided about this, especially because growth and unemployment have been two major issues in countries over the past few years. Since the global economic crisis began in 2008, economists, theorists, professors at universities and many others have pondered about the causes of the financial crisis. The common agreed upon theory is that the financial crisis started in America by banks lending out subprime mortgages to borrowers who couldn’t afford one. This and other combined facts related to banks issuing loans and not getting them (fully) back whilst having low reserves was one of the (major) triggers of the economic crisis. However, according to some professors at universities, the economic crisis is caused by a more deeply profound problem.

One of the major causes of the financial crisis is that our (global) economy/economies have grown too big for the ecosystems that contain it. This is because the (global) economy is a subsystem of the biosphere. All of the inputs from the economy come from the environment and all of the wastes produced by it return to the environment. As the economy expands, it consumes more materials and energy and emits more wastes. However, as we live on a finite planet, with limited resources, this process can’t go on forever.

funny-ecards-151-unproductive-work

So what does all of this have to do with employment?
The economic situation of a country and the number of jobs are closely linked together. As commonly known, a growing economy is usually contributed by an increasing number of jobs. However, as mentioned before, our (global) economy has grown too big for the ecosystems that contain it. Therefore, endless growth is impossible as resources are (faster) depleted than they are replenished.

What we need is to redefine productivity and the way we measure progress. First of all, progress in our modern-day consumption society is GDP which is the total amount of spending by government, businesses, citizens and organisations in an economy.

Although GDP measures economic activity or money changing hands, it does not take the following important issues into account;

  • The health and well-being of a society
  • The (extra) pollution caused by economic growth
  • Happiness and social cohesion

So, if GDP does not take these important issues into account, is there a better way of measuring growth? Well, researchers from the New Economics Foundation have come up with the following measurement tool:

It’s called: the Happy planet index
It measures the ecological efficiency with which we are achieving good lives

HPI

The numerator in the equation (happy life years) is a composite of life expectancy and a life satisfaction obtained from surveys.

What is the difference between GDP and HPI?
GDP sums up the money exchanged in market transactions. HPI gauges how well we transform the limited resources available to us into long and happy lives.

So if we measure progress in a completely different way, would it really make our lives better?
Well, there are many other factors that play a key role in this. One of the most important factors of course is secure and meaningful employment. What do I mean with secure and meaningful employment? Well, jobs should add/create value for the very same reason(s) they are created. A teacher adds value by teaching students through providing knowledge and stimulating critical thinking. A policeman adds value by keeping the neighbourhood safe and secure. A doctor adds value by saving the life of a patient. These jobs have always been and will always remain important in our society. However, there are many jobs which are not (really) meaningful, thus hardly adding value to society. Think for example of a call centre employee, a print press operator, a fashion designer or an assistant manager of a fast food chain. No discredit to the people who occupy these jobs, it’s just to illustrate my point.

Problems of unemployment due to flaws in our current economic system

  • The misuse of gains in labour productivity

Technological progress has allowed businesses to become more efficient at producing goods and services, such as it now takes less labour to produce the same amount of stuff than in the past. However, instead of using new technologies to reduce working hours, we have largely used them to produce more goods and services, while keeping working hours relatively constant. This choice has made economic growth a requirement for creating and maintaining jobs. However, the strategy of increasing production and consumption to secure employment has become untenable, especially for those economies that already use too many resources and emit too much waste.

  • Employers frequently lack flexibility

In trying to cut costs by standardising their operations, firms institute “one size fits all” rules for work schedules and hours. For example, some companies offer only full-time positions with no opportunities for alternative work schedules.

  • A mismatch between jobs supplied by the economy and jobs society really needs

Available jobs reflect societal values, but we are undervaluing the maintenance of healthy communities and ecosystems while overvaluing the consumption of stuff. For example, jobs that desperately need doing such as repairing damaged ecosystems don’t get done because it’s unprofitable whilst brokering speculative financial deals is being done because there’s a profit to be made.

Solving the unemployment problem
So how do we tackle the unemployment problem? Well, (although it’s easier said than done) jobs should be created which people value and in which value is created. Labour should be directed towards constructive and meaningful tasks. According to ecological economists, Martin Pullinger and Blake Alcott, two key policies, one of them which is work time-reduction is proven to be effective in securing plentiful and meaningful jobs.

Work-time reduction
Instead of using productivity gains to boost production, we could gradually shorten the working day/ week/year. This largely applies to jobs involving manual or physical labour, not in human- service industries such as education or healthcare. According to a number of surveys taken throughout the years, people rather earn a little less money and have more free time instead. Another way of reducing work-time, is to increase opportunities for part-time work, job sharing (two people combine part-time work to make up a full-time job), options to take career breaks and parental leave. These policies are often called “work-life balance” and several European countries have been implementing several of these policies for years.

Conclusion
Our current economy is centred on growth by increasing GDP through increased production and more labour activity. However, the (global) economy has grown too large as it depletes natural resources faster than it can be replenished and it exceeds ecological limits. Therefore, a different way of measuring growth (or progress) and defining productivity differently are two key factors in creating more meaningful jobs. Instead of using GDP as a measurement tool, we should use the Happy Planet Index which measures the well-being of a society against the ecological footprint it leaves behind. Furthermore, we should change our priorities when it comes to (creating) jobs. Jobs should reflect the value(s) of a society and therefore more emphasis should be on maintaining and repairing damaged ecosystems. Also, the amount of hours people work on average should decline as it has several benefits including more free time and more jobs. More jobs are created this way because the decreased number of working hours is spread more evenly throughout the population. As increasing productivity decreases the need for labour, everyone does a bit less paid work and fewer people are forced out of their jobs. In addition, less working hours means that people can spend more time to seek purpose and fulfilment outside of work.

Sources:

Enough is Enough: Building a Sustainable Economy in a World of Finite Resources, January 2013.
Written by: Rob Dietz and Dan O’ Neill.

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The art of progress

Society has been developing ever since the dawn of civilisation. We’ve made terrific progress in many different fields including agriculture, healthcare and technology. Although these developments have improved our lives significantly, it also has caused many problems and difficulties we face in the world today. Just think about the massive amount of pollution our way of living is having on our ecosystems. Our modern-day society which is largely based on consumption has caused massive problems which are threating our very own existence. There isn’t the need to go into detail about all the causes and consequences of our actions. That is pretty clear in my opinion. What we do need to (urgently) change is the way we define and measure progress.

progress

What does progress mean to us?
Well, the common notion of progress is often related to economic growth (GDP) and technological advances (to some extent).

Although GDP measures the total amount of spending by citizens, companies and government in an economy, it does not take important things into account;

    • The health and well-being of a society
    • The (extra) pollution caused by economic growth
    • Happiness and social cohesion

So, if GDP does not take these important issues into account, what should we do instead?
Well, people from the New Economics Foundation have come up with a better alternative.

It’s called: the Happy planet index
It measures the ecological efficiency with which we are achieving good lives

HPI

The numerator in the equation (happy life years) is a composite of life expectancy and a life satisfaction obtained from surveys.

What is the difference between GDP and HPI?
GDP sums up the money exchanged in market transactions. HPI gauges how well we transform the limited resources available to us into long and happy lives.

Conclusion
Although we’ve made terrific progress in many different fields including agriculture, healthcare and technology, it has caused many environmental/global problems. As GDP does not take the health and well-being of a society into account, it fails to measure the impact a (growing) economy has on the environment. Therefore, an alternative and better way to measure progress is to use the Happy Planet Index which measures the well-being and ecological footprint a society has on the environment.

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Changing our education system

As we humans are gaining knowledge and are learning new things every day, it is important to ‘’update’’ our education system now and again. In fact, throughout the past, education has changed a lot and as a consequence, society has changed as well.

Thanks to digital technology, we can go online almost anywhere and can find information within seconds. Whole encyclopaedias, dictionaries and books can be found online. The need to go to the local library is more and less abundant now through the rise of the internet.

Although, digital technology has brought us great advantages, it also presented us with a numerous amount of ‘challenges’, especially when related to our education system.

School, colleges and universities all use of digital technology. From presenting information through PowerPoint slides on a digital screen to registering and collecting student information. It’s all done digitally these days.

Texas State Finance lab

As almost everything is done online and through digital methods, it has changed our education system completely. For example, students (like me) don’t necessarily have to attend classes because what has been taught will appear online anyway. Furthermore, as nearly everyone can go online, there is less need to go to school in the first place apart from taking exams and having discussions with teachers from time to time. The consequence of this is that it can lead to students losing motivation as they are ‘’losing touch’’ with their school, class and teachers. This can eventually lead to students dropping out of school. In addition to this problem, there’s another:

The bureaucracy within schools is having adverse effects in keeping up with the pace of change.
The amount of red tape schools have to deal with is negatively impacting the way that courses are set up and taught to students. The reason for this is because there is still a high level of bureaucracy within schools and that slows down the pace at which they can change things in order to keep up with the social/technological developments that are occurring at the same time. The solution to this problem is to simplify the way that schools are organised and also in the way they carry out their activities and procedures.

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