What space travel TV shows can teach us about inequality?
Imagine you are aboard a spaceship flying through space at six hundred kilometres per second, travelling to Mars, you are a maintenance engineer, you injure your foot, you get taken to the sick bay and given the appropriate medical attention. Your injuries stop you from continuing in the same role, your privileges change, smaller quarters, less entertainment credits. But your basics like everyone else on board is met, food, healthcare, extended learning, and a slick high-tech V-neck onesie.
You do not have to imagine that hard, you are already travelling on a spaceship right now. It has forcefield protection from meteors, asteroids and solar particle radiation. It has supplies in its lands, atmosphere and oceans. It has opportunity for nature and humanity in its vastness. But life on this rocky tract is not all the same as our Mars expedition.
For most of us on earth our experience of how we take care of each other is a universe apart of what happens on these imagined space explorations. We are mostly a world of an assumed meritocracy, you get what you work for.
Some of the meritocracy stalwarts reading this might say that those voyagers earned their way onto that ship, which would be true. But isn’t it also true that our own entrance to this world was by nine months of unbridled effort and care by our mothers, and our own striving defying every obstacle to being born. From there it was then about who your parents were, who were the people around you, which school you went to, and how hard you worked. Yes! That must be it, how hard you worked! But find me a CEO who works as hard as a construction worker, or a sanitation worker, or a member of our armed forces. The argument might then be, that you also must work smart. But then find me a business leader who is smart as the scientists who keep warning us about climate change and pandemics.
An interesting idea that Covid-19 has revealed is that the pandemic was no one’s fault. We should help those disadvantaged by the crisis, shoring up trillions for monthly allowances, suspension of loan repayments and other stimulus. The virus has given our leaders a chance to show us that we can care about the less privileged, and to provide a baseline of humanity for everyone.
Covid-19 has shown us that meritocracy does not need to be a barrier to our common humanity
And this inequality between human beings does not even start to describe our inequality with the environment. So much of our standard of living, our measures for productivity and growth require an unbalanced exploitation of the earth’s resources. In our imaginary spaceship this resource unbalance would jeopardize everyone aboard. It is jeopardizing everyone on earth too, we would be doing something, if we were willing to listen to scientists.
There is enough research to show we can fulfil a lot of pro-humanity, pro-environment policies. A Yale study on how Medicare For All would be cheaper for the American tax payer. A Stanford study showing renewable energy would be 57% cheaper than alternatives for 143 countries. We should also look beyond economic metrics when understanding what’s better for us, and the environment, but that’s beyond what I want to focus on here.
So if being great to each other and the earth, is so beneficial why aren’t we already doing it. It’s a complicated why. I think a common thread is our leaders. If you are in an autocracy then it’s tough to out-voice monied interests. But if you live in a democracy, then you must start voting for candidates who support pro-humanity, pro-environment policies. A lot of these policies are usually designed not to have a net cost on the middle class. Don’t boo, vote.
Meet the Andromedians!
Back on our Earthship, we are sailing towards the Andromeda galaxy, we should land in about 5 billion years. Covid-19 has marked 2020, as a year of great loss, but wouldn’t it be great when we meet the Andromedians, we can tell them that 2020 was when we picked up the pieces and created an Earth that was better for all.
This article was originally published on Medium.com