We’re living in a time filled with paradox: on the one hand, sustainable technology is growing at a faster rate than ever before. However, there are forces that represent the old guard who would prefer to continue relying upon the same tired resources that won’t be around for very long — coal, oil, and natural gas are still responsible for two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions, worldwide. Something clearly needs to change.
Some may define freedom as being independently wealthy or running a successful startup business. Others may define happiness as being free from the constraints of an unsustainable economic model. In a provocative op-ed piece recently published by Fast Company, Jason Hickel and Martin Kirk pose what some might consider a surprising question: Is capitalism the root of society’s ills? They cite a Harvard University study “showing that 51% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 no longer support the system of capitalism.”
Though Hickel and Kirk’s point may seem unrealistic to many older Americans, to younger generations, a more socialistic society may be ideal. A society that subsidizes basic healthcare, education, food, and shelter is becoming increasingly appealing as basic living expenses seem to be increasing exponentially with no visible end in sight. The phrase “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” points to the ability to choose one’s direction in life. Not being burdened by crushing debts that render someone unable to make housing payments or have their basic needs met. The possibility that an extended hospital stay or terminal illness could cause bankruptcy or the loss of one’s house is unthinkable to most of the developed world, where healthcare is government subsidized—hence largely free. Here are a few specific ways the new generation defines ‘freedom,’ today.
If you have the ability to apply for a loan or a credit card without fear of repercussions or bad news, you live in relative economic freedom. Unfortunately, that’s not how our society works. Because we do live in a society largely based around capital, the better one’s use of capital, the more opportunities an individual is given.
Therefore, the better your credit score the more financial choices you’ll be able to make. The implications of this are potentially debilitating, if you happen to find yourself in a lot of debt for one reason or the other. The good news is, it’s entirely possible to improve your credit. It just takes diligence, patience, and time.
One way to reestablish your credit, after paying down outstanding debts, is to open a few credit card accounts. Believe it or not, some sort of credit is bound to be available. It just may be the case that your options will be limited, at first, to relatively high-interest accounts like secured credit cards. The optimal usage of a credit card account is 30 percent—as opposed to paying it off, right away. Ironically, if you can manage to make a payment every month, consistently, while keeping the usage under 30 percent, your credit score should go up.
Freedom from Pollution
As previously mentioned, climate change is a major obstacle keeping our world from having the peace of mind to be certain that our children and grandchildren will still be able to play, hike, and ride their bicycles outdoors, without fear of developing asthma, lung cancer, or heat stroke. The major obstacle keeping us from moving forward with a solution consists largely of proponents, investors, and owners of large fossil fuel companies who stand to lose trillions of dollars once their companies and products are no longer viewed as viable or sustainable methods of powering our cars, cities, and businesses.
The good news is there is a way forward, but it requires investing in sustainable energy options and resources, in order to reverse the warming trend. The increasingly hot temperatures, coupled with unsustainable farming methods, has damaged agriculture’s ability to grow food at the same rate as in the past. Marylhurst University cites Fortune’s claim that “one of the easiest ways to avoid a food crisis in the future is to look into eliminating food waste on a local and global scale.”
One way to minimize food waste is freeze produce not immediately used until ready for use. Supporting small, local farmers is another way to put money back into our communities and support sustainable agriculture, rather than mega-farms and large corporations. Also, we should compost as much leftover food waste as possible, in order to prevent adding more methane gas emissions to our landfills, and be sure to donate untouched packaged goods to food banks, whenever possible.
Freedom from Discrimination
All of us deserve the chance to live without fear of discrimination, prejudice, or hatred. However, because of the sheer number of cultures and subcultures in our society—including those who may practice a different religion or observe an unfamiliar spiritual practice—certain circumstances or events might cause some of these differences to come to the forefront, making it all the more crucial that we seek out ways to understand one another, rather than focus on our differences.
One example is a natural disaster, such as Sudanese people needing to flee South Sudan due to recent famines, and Syrian refugees fleeing their homeland due to war and political unrest. In both cases, there are huge cultural, linguistic, and spiritual divides that all parties must deal with during the relocation process.
Faced with many such societal upheavals, many young people are becoming interested in careers that attempt to alleviate social and human rights issues, such as a position in social work or the nonprofit field. In the event of a crisis or disaster relief situation, social workers often act as mediators or facilitators between local populations and spiritual leaders in the community
Otherwise known as work-life balance, younger people are demanding more flexibility in the workplace than ever before. People are self-selecting employers who value wellness and operate as a team, rather than via a strictly top-down approach. Encouraging employees to go for walks can increase overall productivity as well. Workplace freedom requires trust from management that employees will show up and do the work required of them. Regardless of whether they take an afternoon off for family reasons and make the time up later. The ability to work remotely is another attractive perk that many offices are offering their employees. This is in part because it makes economic sense for many employees to stay home if there is a snowstorm, rather than call in sick. In the end, workplace flexibility is a win-win for everyone.
Lastly, younger people are changing jobs more frequently than their parents’ generation, and this is in part because companies are changing and shifting more frequently now; but it’s also because younger people are putting more of a premium on work-life balance, and less of a premium on a high salary, regardless of the cost. The freedom to pursue one’s career of choice is one that should never be taken lightly; happiness, health and wellness is better than stress, illness, and early death—enough said! How do you define freedom? Does this definition seem different than that of your parents or grandparents? Share your thoughts in the comments section, below.