Jun 6, 2019
In his last article Joe Human looked at the section in Mike Berners-Lee’s 'There Is No Planet B' on Travel and Transport. In this, his final article on the book, he covers Mike’s chapter on values, truth and trust, which begins: 'All the pathways of this book seem to be converging inescapably on the question of values. It turns out to be the crunch point.' Read on to find out what it should mean to ourselves to save our planet.
None of the changes Mike Berners-Lee proposes that we need to make – whether we are talking about farming and food, travel and transport (which I have covered), or growth, money and metrics, people and work, business and technology (which I haven’t) – can be made unless we have a fundamental reappraisal and realignment of the values which underpin the way we live now.
And of all the values which could be mentioned, he focuses on three which he considers the most important. These he says, quite apart from whether they are inherently ‘nicer’, we absolutely need for purely practical reasons in order to survive:
- Respect for the inherent equality of all people (The principle … includes, but is not restricted to, all questions of race, gender, class, nationality, religion, sexuality and anything else you care to mention.)
- Respect and care for the planet in all its beauty and life-supporting complexities and life forms.
- Respect for the truth – for its own sake – which requires the honouring of facts, as far as they can be discerned. It also requires you to allow others to have the clearest view of whatever you or they may deem to be evidence. And it requires complete transparency with regard to reasoning, methodologies and personal interests.
Minding each other and our planet
All the evidence and analysis tells us that if humans are to thrive over the next hundred years and beyond, we are going to need to learn how to be as respectful, truthful and kind to each other and to the planet as we can.
Can we change our values?
Having laid out his stall, Mike then asks: Can we change our values? He suggests the evidence shows that we can, by inviting us to consider how over the last 35 to 40 years we have been changed by neoliberals and free marketeers [employing] a variety of techniques: focus on money, establishing status around material possessions, advertisements that link happiness to material things even when those things are clearly pointless.
So he says, if we can move in what he considers has been the ‘wrong’ direction, at least as far as our survival now is concerned, surely we can move the other way.
Personal values we need to cultivate in order to survive
He then asks How to cultivate the values we need. His list is long, but at the personal level he suggests:
a. Spending time thinking, reading and talking about them with others, and trying to develop a community to do this.
b. Consuming critically and mindfully, identifying the messages and motivations behind adverts, films, news items and political arguments, and helping your children to do this too.
c. Having experiences that bring you into contact with a wide range of people – including those from whom you feel most detached and towards whom you feel least empathetic.
d. Ensuring you do not try to win arguments by appealing to unhelpful values, which may get you a short term win, but which ultimately are own goals.
Writing this article I have been conscious that the values which Mike espouses are very much at one with those of CDEC.