Welcome to The Progress Motive

Hello!  I’m Helen Breewood, this blog is The Progress Motive and I’ll be writing about how we can solve global problems and make the world better for everyone.

You should follow The Progress Motive if you want to:

  1. Explore the root causes of today’s global problems, and
  2. Discover the people, ideas and technologies that are solving those problems.

What are the problems?

The world faces so many issues that it can be hard to know where to start.  Here are just some.

Driven by the burning of fossil fuels and destruction of forests, greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere are rising and threaten to destabilise the climate, potentially irreversibly.

So many species are dying out that some scientists think the Sixth Mass Extinction is happening.  They blame “habitat loss, overexploitation for economic gain, and climate change”.

A forest in Indonesia is cleared to make way for an oil palm plantation.  Image credit: Aidenvironment.

Although natural resource use has tripled since 1970 and it would take 1.6 Earths for current consumption levels to be sustainable, 795 million people still don’t have enough to eat.

Eight people control as much wealth as the poorest half of the population put together.

Poorer people and nations are more vulnerable to the effects of environmental damage.

Even many wealthier people are not secure, since many skilled jobs are threatened by automation and artificial intelligence.

There is good news too

So much bad news on so many overlapping topics can be overwhelming, especially when it’s not clear whether there are viable alternatives to the current system.

However, the tremendous challenges we face can also be seen as a great opportunity to build a better, fairer, greener world where everyone can reach their full potential.

That work has already started.  Many start-ups are creating solutions such as lab-grown meat and fish, cheap online education and applying artificial intelligence to healthcare.  Solar energy is growing exponentially.  Economic experiments are testing concepts such as basic income.

Solar panels being installed. Image credit: skeeze.

Why is this blog called The Progress Motive?

Many of today’s problems can be traced to the current economic system, which is powered by the profit motive: each person and business tries to make as much money for themselves as possible.

This is supposed to automatically lead to the best outcome for society as a whole, but it isn’t working well in practice.  Today’s economic system doesn’t meet everyone’s basic needs, yet is dangerously undermining the ecosystems we live in and the natural resources we depend on.

To me, “the progress motive” is shorthand for the idea of an economic system driven by real social progress, not just profit, and where it makes more sense for individuals to do things that help everyone than things that can harm others.

I don’t know how such a system might work – that’s part of what I’ll be exploring on this blog.  I’ll investigate different ideas and look at questions such as:

  • How can we meet everyone’s needs and protect the living planet at the same time?
  • Which new and existing technologies can help us and how can their benefits be spread fairly?
  • What business models, economic structures and social norms will we need to prosper in the future?
  • Is tweaking the current system good enough or do we need to build a new system?

Want to read more?

To join me in discovering how to make our world fairer and more sustainable, fill in this form.  You’ll be notified of new posts.  You can also follow me on Twitter for updates.

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Where next?

Want to jump straight to the solutions?  Find out about fifteen projects working on the top five solutions to climate change.

Interested in how the economic system works?  You might like to read about what the profit motive is and how it’s supposed to work.

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