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Mass extinction on the horizon: Is Universal Basic Income the answer?

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Mark Maslin and Simon Lewis, authors of the book “The Human Planet: How We Created the Anthropocene”, published an article on Apolitical, suggesting that Universal Basic Income (UBI) may be the answer to the threat of mass extinction caused by anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD).

The impact of the human race on earth is so massive that we have entered a new geological era, the Anthropocene, characterized by the changes to our ecosystem brought on by human activity. The planet has reached its limits, and can’t sustain civilization as we know it much longer: pollution, rising temperatures, reduction in biodiversity are interconnected phenomena that are in dire need to be addressed immediately.

As humans are responsible for the situation, Maslin and Lewis re-analyse human history in order to suggest possible solutions: they identify five chronologically ordered types of human society, from hunter-gatherers to consumer capitalists. Each stage relies more on energy consumption and in the diffusion of information and knowledge, which translate in rising natality and productivity.

In order for a sixth, sustainable type of society to emerge, something has to change, and renewables, coupled with new ownership models, will have a pivotal role. Innovation by itself it’s not enough, as it may lead to even greater production and consumption:

“The core dynamic of ever-greater production and consumption of goods and resources must be broken”

UBI may have a role in breaking the link that sees consumption as the reward for being productive at work, and has the potential to reduce our environmental impact. By providing the potential to plan long term, and to retrain, UBI would allow people to avoid environmental damaging work, and to devote more attention to sustainable activities.

“UBI would give people the right to choose when it comes to fulfilling their own basic needs (…) With carefully designed policies that push society towards a new mode of living for a new epoch, we can do what is necessary: reduce human suffering, enable people to flourish and not destroy the life-supporting infrastructure of Earth in the process.”

More information at:

Lewis, S., Maslin, M., “Mass extinction on the horizon: Is Universal Basic Income the answer?”, Apolitical, February 28th 2019.

About Daniele Fabbri

Daniele Fabbri has written 19 articles.

The views expressed in this Op-Ed piece are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of Basic Income News or BIEN. BIEN and Basic Income News do not endorse any particular policy, but Basic Income News welcomes discussion from all points of view in its Op-Ed section.

6 comments

  • Haarp

    How does giving people money, which in turn allows them to buy all sorts of expensive goods (until inflation drives up the prices to unpurchasable levels), prevent any kind of “extinction”? Usually the pessimists demand everyone go back to stone age living to stop consuming.

    • Daniele Fabbri

      Dear Haarp,

      The majority of proposals for funding UBI are based on some form of taxation and not on money creation, and people having a higher purchasing power as a result of UBI will likely use it to buy primary goods, afford housing, start businesses and afford better education.
      UBI resulting in inflation is far from a certainty, you can read more here:
      https://basicincome.org/news/2016/11/will-basic-income-cause-inflation/

      What the authors of the article say is not that UBI by itself will fix climate change and environmental problems, but that people, given the choice (not being in conditions of financial distress), are likely to devote more time and attention to their impact on the planet.

      Moreover, some UBI proposals see taxes on pollutants or on the use of non-renewables resources as a mean of financing, and this could encourage more responsible consumption. Green movements have often been interested in basic income, you can read more here: https://www.greeneuropeanjournal.eu/green-observatory-basic-income/

  • Khannea Sun Tzu

    Horrific beyond words – A world with human mass extinction
    Nightmarish – A world like in the movie Elysium

    (scrolling down a fair bit)

    Pretty Unpleasant – A dystopian world with a low basic income and a lot of hyper-rich people

    (Scrolling down another half page)

    Sucky – a world where everyone gets about 15K a year, and there’s still capitalism

    (Scrolling down a full page)

    Acceptable – a world with global maximum incomes and dignified basic incomes.

  • I unknowingly invented what is now called the UBI in 1973 to allow everyine, everywhere to conemplate zero economic growth, even if they had notheing to start with.
    See my weblogfor my latest thinking
    http://www.clivelord.wordpress.com

  • Nancy Campbell

    Please -Everyone- Protect the survival of the economy above all else. Recession won’t make us happy. Look at the many oil-rich countries in the world who are mired in civil and economic chaos. Look at Venezuela!

    Thinking “TOO small” when confronted by big numbers, (billions, trillions, quadrillions) threatens to be the downfall of this civilization.

    The advocates of capitalistic, free-enterprise systems need to Think BIG. Think UBI big._____ NOT debt.___NOT taxes.___A monthly bonus income of “NEW MONEY” to every adult.

    It requires a Federal Government to issue “New Money” that enables consumers to keep consuming what producers produce.

    Redistributing money already in the system as UBI, (Universal Basic/Bonus Income) only produces a worrisome, downward spiral of diminishing returns.

    Wealth managers know that money, in a pile, is nothing more than biodegradable paper and shiny tokens. It can’t be ridden, eaten or worn. It doesn’t medicate, educate or replicate.

    No amount of money, no matter how it is introduced, ever restarts an economy once the marketplace is empty and bare.

    Providing debt-free, tax-free monthly, “Bonus Income New Money” to every adult is an immediate, short-term correction, the first of however many corrective fiduciary actions it takes to carry this existing economy to new levels of success and stability.

    Free-enterprise, capitalistic economies thrive and survive as long as things are abundantly available in the marketplace, no matter how big the “Numbers” are.

  • Married couples find the need to pay the mortgage means two-job households are the norm. The status of jobs is also one of the main declared objectives of feminism. This, plus relentless consumerism leaves little time for procreation. No wonder birth rates in most western countries have fallen below replacement rates! Jobs are a brilliant contraceptive.

    So now factor in Basic Income. The status of ‘job’ is less important. It becomes possible to live a simpler lifestyle. The new status is ‘right-living’. And what better way to enjoy this than having lots of children, lavishing time on their upbringing?

    But wait! Although they each consume less, the numbers start rising again, rapidly. Surveys suggest that most people would like to have four children if they could afford it. For every mouth, the State sends a Basic Income. How long before the total human ecological footprint expands as 12, 13 0r maybe 20 billion mouths need to be fed?

    I hope I’m wrong (I’ve been in this Basic Income game since 1984), but I worry what those liberated from wage-slavery by Basic Income might spend their time doing. Drugs and rock ‘n’ roll are OK, but sex…..

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