As we look to Post Growth futures, a topic that is important to consider is the role that the Internet will have in that transition. How will the Internet change with a stabilizing population, with reduced global poverty and with a global economic system that is designed to serve people and planet before profits? And even more so, what is the role of the Internet and social media in getting us there?
Big challenges such as climate change and global poverty raise big questions about complex solutions. But one of the biggest barriers to action in my eyes is a perceived lack of correct information. On many of these global topics we see information wars, wars about if there’s a problem, how big it is, and if what we’re doing to fix it is actually working.
In the realm of climate change we have warring sides of debate. We have the outspoken skeptics such as Lord Monckton who argue that there is little to no correlation between CO2 levels and temperature and contrasting that, we have organizations such as skeptical science (and the majority of the global scientific community) who argue that the balance of scientific evidence (including CO2 level and temperature correlation) leads to the overwhelming conclusion that climate change is anthropogenic and a serious issue that we need to act upon.
When we talk about poverty we have one story told by people such as Eric Reinert on “How Rich Countries Got Rich… and Why Poor Countries Stay Poor” but we have rebuttals from individuals such as Bill Gates who tell us that the percentage of those who are very poor has approximately halved since 1990 and that the trend is continuing.
When reading any of these articles or opinions in isolation they can often appear extremely coherent and persuasive, yet it’s impossible for two opposing views to both be correct on a global scale. Conventional wisdom suggests that before acting we should consider whether our actions are going to make a positive difference or not! (though an asset based approach goes some way to challenging this conventional wisdom.)
The cumulative effect of these wars of ideas is to breed inaction. In their book “Merchants of Doubt” Naomi Oreskes and Eric Conway detail how through keeping doubt alive has stalled action in both the case of tobacco smoking and climate change. William Shakespeare felt the same way in 1623:
“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.”
In an age of clearly insufficient quantitative literacy among global citizens, how is the average person expected to reconcile these opposing arguments?