Let’s talk about caring for people and leaving a resilient future in place for the next generation. It's time to be good ancestors.


Why caring for people should be a central issue


Has ‘caring for people’ been given enough weight? An old trope references ‘saving the planet’ as if it were a distressed, weakened entity that’s laid to ruin without us. But Earth’s fate isn’t dependent on human intervention. The planet itself doesn’t need saving, it has survived many previous states without us. The balance of climate patterns, sea levels and surface temperature needs restoration for our survival. Also for the gorgeous animals being stripped from the globe.

Ideally, a new narrative needs to take the fore. It would shape the West’s public perception in two social categories:

  • People who want to save Earth from horrific humanity by caring for the planet above all else.
  • People who align the movement with a form of paternalism.

Historically speaking, it would be good for us on the pro-planet side to be known as brave but empathetic visionaries, capable of connecting all the dots: from human first to non-human second. People are the drivers for collective change. People’s choices make or break historical turning points throughout all generations.


Where are people currently placed in the chain? 


The term ‘Anthropocene’ was coined as a descriptor for our current era: in which humans have become the dominant force shaping Earth’s composition and processes. Isn’t placing people first and genuinely caring for them by considering the things that make their life harder, what their hopes are, and what they want for their children (or why they don’t want children at all), a better place to start?

It’s been argued that ‘Anthropocene’ studies and most of its output create an elitist, academic distancing for the average person (Hornborg 2017)— embedding the notion of out of touch, ivory towers. Hornborg sees a reliance on our current presentation of humanity’s journey as a simple stream of technological prowess, and consequential destruction (Hornborg 2014). For example, the discovery of fire is a linear trajectory to the steam engine. This attitude takes its resting place in inevitability — a way of viewing the natural course of human nature. But Hornborg argues that we should understand where we are now from a ‘sociogenic’ perspective.


What is a sociogenic view of the world?


The sociogenic perspective acknowledges an uneven distribution of resources, and power between nations, social groups, and even species. The emphasis is on understanding social relations first, before diving into a viewpoint where human domination is inevitable. After all, there is unequal responsibility for climate change, unequal exposure to its worst impacts, and a wealth-centric view about who needs to cut what and where NOW.

Astronomical disasters permitting, the planet has life without us. Through caring for each other and social engineering, a new way of human living must emerge. Let’s imagine a scenario where the less developed countries aren’t ravaged first. Then let’s imagine what kind of change in our relationship with people worldwide would need to develop first. And, what about the people and generations in our country who already feel they have been left behind?


Do we care for people in the UK?


Generally speaking, a period of certainty and prosperity is over for our country. It’s no longer appropriate to forecast based on previous trends. Have you noticed an overuse of the word ‘unprecedented’? A study found that if people drove around a car park with plenty of open spaces they let other people go, smiled and waved people forward. If there was only one or two spaces, their altruism plummeted, reported mood went down — in a scarcity mindset, the fight for resources is on.

So maybe that’s why we aren’t very kind to ourselves or others right now. It seems compassion and togetherness are on the decline and misanthropy is rife. In the eco-movement, the prevailing narrative suggests that since humans destroyed this planet it’s only right or fair that we suffer for it. This isn’t a healthy space for collaboration when a large amount of UK people’s day-to-day is suffering below the breadline.

Self-hating, almost pointlessly negative talk is often what I hear from well-off, middle-class people. There’s a tendency to look down on working-class people’s shopping, eating or driving habits; passing judgement without considering the wider context. The gap between the haves and have-nots is huge — a chasm. The knows and the know-nots are a subgroup within that. Essentially, disparities in knowledge and basic priorities exacerbate the divide.


The limits of guilt and scolding


While middle-class self-reflection is warranted (the contribution the UK’s top 10% earners make towards global warning compared to the other 90% is staggering), ‘guilt’ rarely achieves anything except a faint sense of satisfaction for having got it off the chest. Would those affluent but morally righteous earners truly trade their relatively comfortable lives in a different economic era, buoyed by fossil fuels, for one marked by experiencing less and reduced upward mobility?

If this is you, consider Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and recognise that those earning below a liveable threshold may perceive planet-centric discourse differently than you.


Not caring for people creates this


In response to feeling individual, alone, mistrusting and unsupported, most people want to have control over their own choices and decisions. Nanny state ‘nudges’ are viewed with mistrust.

But total liberty without state intervention —a truly free market—can spiral into a truly uncaring demon: anarcho-capitalism. This is a political situation where individuals are free to engage in any transaction without regulatory oversight. In addition, production and technological distribution have no restrictions.

There is an eery similarity to our inequitable economic situation today. In anarcho-capitalism, individuals with significant wealth and resources, such as billionaires, would have the freedom to invest in and control technological advancements without oversight.

In the absence of government enforcing antitrust laws or regulating monopolistic practices, billionaires could use their wealth to dominate markets, stifle competition, and consolidate their control over key industries, including technology. This concentration of power would allow them to dictate the terms of access to technology, shape societal norms and values, and influence political decision-making to further their interests.


If money rules all


This uncaring political philosophy, where the money god wins, can only create a losing situation for the majority. Most people’s lives would be controlled privately. For those who love liberty, it should be horrendous to imagine top-down power over people’s mental choices, not just their shopping or transportation choices (nudges the state might make).

The reality is, wealthy people already have more control over private ownership of things, and access to goods and services. Individuals with limited resources or marginalised, sidelined communities face significant barriers to accessing these things, only exacerbating existing inequalities.

A truly caring society tries to bridge that gap. Social connections are imperative to ‘saving’ anything. Look to fiction and try and find a story without connections between at least two humans. It’s what makes life possible: the lack can dry us up of fuel. Atomised humans are unable to seize opportunities and sometimes can’t carry on going forward.


Let’s change the focus to being good ancestors


Isn’t it motivating to imagine a future where the next generation doesn’t look resentfully up at older ones thinking, you had it all and left us scraps?

I attended a Social Connections workshop recently and there was a range of nationalities, races, class backgrounds, genders and income brackets in the room. The group leader told us: ‘It’s likely that most of you are scared of the other, in one way or another’. Having grown up on a council estate, he admitted that earlier on in his career, he went into rooms full of middle-class people ready to hate their opinions or see them as out of touch, smug etc. But from the many conversations he’s had, he now realises much of this thinking pattern is the bias that locks the divide in place.

We went on to break into small groups and air our opinions; sharing our ideas for what would help help solve the problem that the biggest indicator of success in Britain is what your parents earn. We agreed on a lot of things, disagreed with others, and came up with practical solutions. I left dreaming of multiple hubs like this all over the country, where communities learn from each other and step over into other boundaries.


Good communities already exist


It’s easy to dream, but what do we already have in front of us? Micro and small businesses, as well as sole traders, may hold the key to fostering the social connections essential for collective well-being. As frequent points of contact in a capitalist society, they can infuse kindness and empathy into daily interactions, creating positive ripples in people’s lives. More than that, some offer work opportunities to marginalised groups; some offer a safe space for people; some donate a percentage of profit to local charities etc.

Considering whether their work appeals to people from other walks of life than their own, businesses can make a big social impact. The global supply chain counts as well too, of course. Ultimately, while businesses may reap gains from caring for people, let’s have pure intentions for fixing the underlying issues in our society first. Could your good business contribute to ensuring stability for future generations? Let’s encourage ethical capitalism: where business models set up a more resilient future which puts people at the heart.

Brigit Douglas

Brigit Douglas

Membership Manager and Executive Director at ORB


Brigit’s background is literary and philosophical rather than business-based, however, she’s continually excited by the power of ethical entrepreneurship she witnesses in her work with ORB. She enjoys copywriting for busy micro business owners, sole traders and ORB itself.