From a 2016 survey on a representative sample of French people (2004 respondents in total). Source

Humanism needs to get vocal, here’s how to do it

A commission of eminent thinkers will expose in 2019 their solutions to tackle humanity’s problems. Here is a plan to echo their proposals so broadly that policymakers will have no better option than to implement them.

Even though humanity has never been so prosperous, several global and intertwined issues threaten our society: poverty, inequalities and climate change, to name just a few. To address theses issues, the Institute for New Economic Thinking has recently initiated a Commission on Global Economic Transformation, appointing “some of the world’s leading economists, policy experts and thought leaders” to present a report in 2019, under the leadership of two Nobel Prize-winning economists, Joseph Stiglitz and Michael Spence.

This is not the first time that a commission will draft a plan to fix or enhance our society. In 1975 for example, the Dag Hammarskjöld report was presented at the United Nations under the vibrant title What Now. It described bold policies that would put the world on track for sustainable development. Yet, its recommandations were never applied. One decisive reason for that lies probably in the lack of public and media attention. Indeed, the report must have been covered no more than a few minutes in the news and then forgotten by the vast majority of the people. Needless to say, the brevity of media focus is now more salient than ever, and the upcoming report will also be quickly forgotten with indifference, absent resolute efforts to make it a benchmark manifesto.

Of course, before taking actions to make the future report a best-seller, we have to make sure that it is of outstanding quality. This is the first step of the three steps process I envision for the Spence-Stiglitz report to really make a difference. Outstanding quality requires to synthesize diverse and cogent views into a comprehensive and consistent framework. To that goal, we would ideally mobilize the knowledge of numerous experts and make use of the best methods to collect, confront, structure and synthesize the researchers and experts’ personal views on policies that ought to be implemented. The various contributions could be submitted in a Wikipedia-like permanent website for political thinking, which would notably handle the compatibility between propositions and their rate of approval.

Students and universities around the World could mobilize to develop freely the website and gather the opinions of experts and stakeholders. This website would then be used by the commission to write collectively the report that will advise governments to take precise actions. An excerpt of the report would also be written, in the form of a manifesto.

Once the report completed, sketching an efficient, comprehensive and consensual way to tackle the big issues of humanity, the second step is to harvest as many signatures as possible, from scientists first, and then from all kinds of celebrities and organisations.

The third and decisive step of the process is to convince the boards of Facebook, Google, Wikipedia and the like to publish the manifesto and ask their users if they agree with it or not. Convince the boards of Facebook and Google to engage their community with such a political matter should not be insurmountable, as their heads are well-known philanthropists, and will likely understand the stake of this action as compared to inaction.

My guess is that the results of the poll would be a landslide in favor of the manifesto. Indeed, when humanist wisdom is suggested, evidence show that people respond massively in favor. For example, a 2016 survey on French people showed that 99% wanted that every human get the necessary conditions for well-being (access to drinkable water, food, shelter, education, healthcare, security, etc.); 85% were in favor of a tax on the top 1% to finance the development of low-income countries; and they typically answered 5% when asked the proportion of income that should be transferred from rich countries to poor countries (which is ten times the current level of Development Aid). And this concern for global justice is not a French singularity: a Pew global survey showed that in every country, a majority of people supports a national limitation of greenhouse gas emissions (one of the lowest rate of support is in the US, with ‘only’ 69% support).

From a 2016 survey on a representative sample of French people (2004 respondents in total). Source

I bet that this original and participatory media campaign will push governments to actually implement the manifesto, thanks to the social pressure. In any case, to achieve a sustainable development, a critical mass of humans must unite and engage to the point that this will foster a global civic movement and urge governments to take ambitious actions. In that sense, a massive media campaign is probably our only hope to spark global action.

The above text summarizes the conclusion of a broader reflection on what can and what should be done to tackle climate change.

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