To Policymakers, on Behalf of Mother Earth

Matt Beyer
Regenerative Finance
5 min readAug 11, 2021

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Photo at https://unsplash.com/@micheile

I’m usually not one to write on this specific topic but I wanted to address something that’s been on my mind over the past few days, an issue that has continued to resurface over the past four years.

In the spring of 2017, I took an honors college course on the earth environment and its conditions, which examined how humans have created a disproportionate amount of harm to the environment in general when compared to any other organism. Although there is work being done to slow or even terminate certain detrimental activities in some respects (e.g., the phasing-out of Starbucks’ straws, Norway’s ban of deforestation, and the U.S.’ re-entry into the Paris Agreement), I feel there is still more that can be done to ensure a general wide and mainstream audience is taking action to protect our earth. This was especially apparent in 2021 — considering how environmentalism concerns were heavily-shelved the year prior due to, you guessed it, the COVID-19 pandemic — but it’s an issue that continues to this day.

But my primary goal is not to complain. I’m here with ideas. But first, a question:

What are two things that Americans generally love? Give up?

MONEY and COMPETITION

Whether you’re part of the upper, middle, or lower class, “the mass loves cash”. America is a country that thrives on consumerism, and capitalism has become a staple in American terminology. On top of that, Americans love to witness a contest. Whether it’s a football game, a singing/dancing competition, a game of high stakes poker, beautiful bachelor(ette’s) competing for love, or a professional online streamer event, Americans love to observe and take part in some form of contest (hell, one of the most popular T.V. shows in the late 2010’s was literally called Game of Thrones).

With these observations in mind, I strongly believe that the best way to catch the attention of Americans — and not just a sect of the population, but a general mass — is to fuse money (or other reward alternative) with competition, and somehow apply it to the betterment of the Earth; for Americans to take part in something not just out of a sense of soulless obligation, but honest anticipation. This is where a “cash for trash” campaign comes into play.

As you may already know, the concept of a competition promoting environmental protection is nothing new. I remember growing up, there was a campaign orchestrated by the Disney Channel called the “Friends for Change Games”, which incorporated its own environmental push by promoting its celebrities towards its young, impressionable audience.

So how would this be any different? Well, here’s my rendition.

This “trash for cash” incentive program (not my terminology) is a potential community contest where any number of contestants would compete in earth related events subdivided into categories (categories sorted by subjects you may find in school). For example, one category could be engineering. In this event, contestants would be given a specific amount of time to envision and create a model which would subsequently help innovate or create a system to improve the environment and/or promote a more eco-friendly, habitable life. The contestants would then explain their projects to environmental board judges, who would then decide on a winner. The person who wins would receive a sizable reward; one they could spend/use however they choose. Originally, the prize was cash, though this idea may be dropped due to ironic counter-intuitiveness (you would need to cut down trees to create said cash for an earth-saving effort, so the only “cash” being distributed is in the name of the competition, for creative purposes). My latest idea of a prize was some form of tax deduction because I believe an act of conservation could help serve various wildlife and environmentalist societies (and on top of that, taxes are one of the two universal certainties that all [or at least, most] Americans are affected by). All proposals will be explored by the board for careful review and (a) contestant(s) wins if the board accepts the idea and considers it a plausible idea for real-world application. And again, as I stated before, one of the primary goals behind “cash for trash” is not to appeal to one specific target audience, but a broad, general audience, to ensure as many people are informed about, advocating for, and participating in the project’s message as possible (further promoting the philosophy that innovation shouldn’t be defined or constricted by age).

The bottom line I’m trying to emphasize here is that Americans will be more likely to partake in an event/cause if they believe that there is going to be payment for it, a quid pro quo. This idea essentially highlights the American Dream because it shows that if you’re willing to put in work for something, you will be guaranteed compensation in some way: as a winning contestant and/or, at the very least, an environmentally conscious individual involving oneself in a more mutualistic, reparative relationship with Mother Earth, who we so often take for granted.

As the old quote goes, “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone”. So how long do we have to wait until it is gone? How much longer before the polar caps melt, the earth gets warmer and warmer, and more and more life is extinguished off either by pollution, overhunting, or rapid loss of habitation? How long will it be before there is no time left to worry? Although this is an admittedly cynical outlook, I — and so many others — want to be more optimistic and say that we’re doing better than we were, say, 50 years ago, but the future is still unwritten.

With all this in mind, I am not what some may call to be a “self-proclaimed environmental activist”, nor a major policymaker, and I know I could’ve done and could be doing a lot more to minimize various environmental issues with small, everyday actions (e.g., properly disposing of recyclable products in their designated receptacles). I’m merely one person with an idea, one person who hopes there are more people willing to listen, more like-minded individuals who are willing to put out their own ideas. And even if these ideas seem rudimentary, I feel that there is nothing wrong about laying the groundwork for a well-established beneficial cause, especially in a society that I feel could use a figurative flame under its posterior from time to time.

And with the new environmental reports coming out, what better time than now?

If you’ve gotten this far, thank you for reading. If you have any comments, questions, or ideas you’d like to pose, I’d be more than interested to hear them in the comments section or otherwise. Again, I know this idea is not original and may present various concerns, but my main objective and hope in this letter is to provide food for thought on how we as a greater society could take solid steps towards environmental repair and protection, and to ensure the next generation doesn’t know what they’ve truly lost from years long gone.

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