Spencer's Solutionary Essay

My vision for a positive future includes the environment, but it is not defined by it. Our relationship with nature does a lot to define us, and even for people who don’t care about that, it has an undeniable effect on our health and general wellbeing. With that said, I personally am more concerned with what humans do to each other. Moving toward what I would see as a positive future would mostly mean increasing equality, specifically in the senses of politics, society, and economics. It would also mean preserving that equality for the future. That is where my concern for the environment comes into play, as I agree with Teddy Roosevelt that it is our duty to preserve the environment and its resources for future generations, rather than using them all up in a flurry of short-sighted and self-indulgent activity. On a personal level, this means awareness and consciousness of what impact our actions have on others, directly and in the long term. For instance, before we burn down a massive area of undisturbed forest wilderness, we should not only ask ourselves what immediate effect this will have on ourselves, people in the area, and the life that makes the forest its home, but also what the longer term effects will be of destruction and/or development and whether what we’re doing is actually worthwhile.
I have heard the argument made that, as long as some specific issue remains, it is irresponsible of anyone to instead focus on or donate to efforts to solve another problem. Although I think this argument has some validity--your poodle needing a multi-thousand dollar perm should perhaps not take precedence over a poor child needing a multi-thousand dollar but life saving operation--it ignores the fact that focusing on one issue alone as a species would mean everything else worsens indefinitely. That is why I think concern and activism for the environment is important, but it is not the only important thing. As I am more interested in governmental and societal oppression, I naturally see those issues as more pressing. As a result, the Solutionaries working in political reform and activism are of the most interest to me. Still, the best intentions often have negative consequences; Brett going “into this thing with the best intentions” didn’t stop things going wrong and Samuel L Jackson as Jules shooting him in Pulp Fiction. While hopefully not that extreme, genuine efforts to effect important change can have serious unintended consequences. Many people, in their passion for social justice, overlook other types of justice. Some types of aid in other countries leads to more issues; unskilled charity workers often make low-quality products or crash local economies. Similarly, efforts for social justice can lead to suppression of important rights like that of free speech. Those who suggest abridging our fundamental liberties in exchange for ill-defined or internally inconsistent ones, like the idea of a right to be free of offense, consider themselves Solutionaries but, in my opinion, are misguided enough to seriously harm both their own cause and society in general.
Personally, I am interested in pursuing legal or political activism, both in the United States and abroad, especially in Latin America. I am primarily interested in government abuse and the protection of civil rights and liberties, an area in which I feel we are insufficiently active or vigilant. In general, I tend to distrust the state and its agents, and I intend to pursue that distrust through activism and attempts at reform until it blossoms into a healthy, full-fledged paranoia and persecution complex. In all seriousness, the preservation of liberty is at least as much an uphill battle for Solutionaries in that arena as, for example, environmental activism is. In both cases, we are fighting human nature. Perhaps the major difference is that governments tend to be more amenable to environmental reform while most companies oppose it, whereas it is governments that pose the greatest threat to liberty and companies that generally support it.
I am pessimistic about our situation but optimistic about our future. I believe that change can and will come, or that at the least things will not get too much worse. Younger generations are increasingly aware of their relationship with the environment, and I am hopeful that public pressure will come to force governments and corporations alike to cooperate with the environmental movement and become more sustainable. They are purely self-interested, and so the only thing that can motivate them is if they materially benefit, but in not too long I think they will benefit much more from changing. Boycotts and changing consumer habits will provide some of these benefits, but peak oil and environmental crisis will leave no choice. As resources like oil or rainforests begin to more fully dry up and disappear, local governments no longer reaping the benefits of lucrative trade agreements will be forced to consider the long-term consequences of their decisions and weigh that against quality of life and income from tourism, which will continue long after the money from strip-harvesting resources would have run out. I doubt that there will never be a time when the environment is no longer a pressing issue for some reason, and I even more seriously doubt that we will reach some utopia with the perfect degree of government and with neither oppression nor serious, crippling inequality. That does not mean we cannot choose to move toward those goals, and it does not mean that we should not hope to at least come near them.  We might not be able to change human nature, but I believe that humans can change nature and that, as long as there are Solutionaries working in every part of the world, there is reason to be hopeful for the future.