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  • Jose Arrieta

Implausible SDG Solutions are Better Than None at All

Our world is faced with problems that seem insurmountable. Problems that have followed us for decades and they seem to get worse every day. From global warming to hunger, poverty, and inequality. These are problems that are very hard to solve and the few solutions to them suck. However, these problems need to be solved and in absence of nice solutions, the implausible and hard solutions need to lead the way. Here, I provide three+ such awful solutions.


Carbon taxes

It would cost on average about 5-10% of the world GDP to cancel the effects of climate change. It is a lot of money but not a crazy amount. Let's imagine that the UN proposes a tax. The bottom half of society by income and wealth does not pay the tax. The top half pays 10% of their income in a carbon tax. If enforced and the mechanisms employed for carbon sequestration are thoroughly reviewed and optimized then we will solve climate change.


The elephant in the room question is: Why would the top half accept to give away tithe to save the world? I do not have an answer to this, but tithes have been common in history. They have been the way rich people pay for salvation. It was only after Martin Luther felt it was immoral for rich people to pay the church for its services that rich people realized they could be more strategical with how they invest their taxes.


Indeed, as Seneca once said: "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rules as useful" or to avoid the time jump in the paragraph, we can quote Voltaire when said that "there is no God, but don't tell that to my servant, lest s/he murder me at night". Where I am going with this, is that global warming is an inequality-enhancing system if left unchecked, a warmer world will be a more chaotic one and if the rich want to stay rich, it might be wise to pay tithe. Alas, Adam Smith is always right.


Redistribute donations

Every year, there are about a trillion dollars given away in charity and donations of all kinds. Were these dollars and cents given away directly to doing good better, i.e., alleviate extreme poverty, we could directly solve two sustainable development goals at once: hunger and extreme poverty.


Let me explain. At the moment, about one in ten people in the world are in extreme poverty. Extreme poverty loosely define encompasses people who earn less than 2 US$ a day. So if we gave each of these persons 730 US$ every year, we would by definition end extreme poverty. And given that hunger is at bottom of Maslow's pyramid, we could imagine hunger will go as well. This would total less than 600 billion US$. Donations can pay for this if funneled appropriately.

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Donations are by definition disposable income. If with your disposable income you are to help solve the perennial problem of civilization, Then, it's hard for me to empathize on why choosing a less optimal redistribution of your donations is best.


Wait or ask children for help

The past was an awful time. It was awful for minorities, for women, for LGBTQ+, for anyone but the few who were in power. In the past though, the economy was smaller. There was less disposable income and lower international trade. International trade is awful for many reasons but it does allow for hidden Pareto Optimalities to appear. As David Ricardo explains even comparative advantages lead us to a better world.


I say this because a hidden mechanism that enables the improvement of society is the ever-increasing wealth produced by our world. Even for Acemoglu and Robinson was it hard to imagine that in absence of an industrial revolution, would we have left our feudal states. So my third implausible solution is not a real solution but a request for time. Just wait. What our parents thought was immoral encompassed a different pool of behavior than what we find immoral. Alas, "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice".


A _EIRD cis-gender male asking minorities to wait is preposterous and wrong. So, let me give a second solution. Talk to children. The political left, the movers and changers of the world, myself included, have a shitty habit of overintellectualizing hurt. Indeed, science and facts are behind us, but we still lose people who are hurting to liars. For some reason, in all our knowledge we forget how to feel and how to express our positions in a way that makes people care. My solution to this is to talk to children and ask them for help.


Greta Thunberg is probably the second most effective climate change warrior in history (Cristiana Figueres, is still the GOAT). Why? Not because she showed how strong the consensus of scientists was but because she could transmit emotions and change people's hearts not minds. This is something lefties do not know how to do. So, if you need to make inequality disappear faster talk to your nearest child explain to them why racism, homophobia, and/or sexism hurt you. Ask them for help and with them, as your spokechild you will be doing much better than by sharing facts from any of the articles I have linked above.


Coda

If you are human and have a heart and a mind you probably hate or find all these solutions implausible. I agree 100% with you, even as an organization scientist, I have no idea how to implement them. They are awful solutions but they do provide for a solution. This is diametrically opposed to our Zeitgeist in relation to these problems. Our media focuses on how awful these problems are but not on how to solve them. I echo Rutger Bregman, in that a lot of conversations feel like if [we] are in a firefighter conference and no one is allowed to talk about water. Alas, I provide my the 3+ droplets to try and quench the forest fires of our generation.

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