There are two ways to meta-analyse this article. ? Since at the time of writing, I am only beginning the process of publicising iDonateByShopping.org, we are definitely not raising millions of dollars a year! It’s more like hundreds at this stage. So one could view this train of thought as counting one’s chickens before they’ve hatched… but I’d like to frame it as an affirmation… stating the truth in advance! Indeed, the goal with iDonateByShopping.org is nothing short of raising millions of dollars a year, as I can see a huge potential for the service.
But quantity of income aside, there is still an important question here. Another alternative title I had in mind was “Where Would You Donate A Million Dollars A Year?” In other words, where is the best place to donate money if we want to make a positive change in the world?
Now, there obviously is not one correct answer to this question. Each person is likely to point out a particular passion they would like to see realised, a grievance they would like eliminated, or an issue with personal history to them that they would like to resolve and spare others from suffering. All of these approaches are valid, and they way I see it, any fuel that can be used to do good in the world is a positive thing.
I also have my own personal visions that I would like to see realized. For instance, I have a romanticised love for a future with fusion energy, granting humanity near infinite energy with zero pollution emitted — the issue here is that it isn’t actually clear whether or not the technology is feasible, and also that the research has been costing billions of dollars to get even where we are today. I don’t feel good about risking our entire community’s efforts and the funds we raised on a “maybe.” I want something solid with guaranteed results… Growing up in sub-Saharan Africa, I also have a tangible sense of the suffering happening on the continent. Helping with malaria prevention and tackling neglected tropical diseases was actually the first option I went with during iDonateByShopping.org‘s creation, and I spent many hours creating content, spent a few hundred dollars on graphics, and a lot of time researching and thinking into how to best help Africa, if I would be able to help at all. After much contemplation though, and especially integrating Spiral Dynamics into my thinking, and also considering the long term impacts of programs such as malaria prevention… there is a huge question mark on the long term benefits of such programs. Are we actually addressing the root causes of suffering on the continent, and also, will addressing the issues make the world a better place to live in the next 50, 100, 500 years? I am convinced that these programs and worthy to be run and they should continue! But as a global community, I have come to the conclusion that there are deeper issues we can all address that will help the descendants of literally every single person today. There is an issue on a tipping point of history.
In a strictly secular sense here, the Earth is home, and her wellbeing is vital to ours! If we turn the planet into Mars or Venus, there will be no more joy for anyone!
There are many ways to address the issues regarding how we harm our planet. Definitely we should be looking towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions… but let’s be realistic, the world isn’t going to stop using fossil fuels any time soon. Companies will not stop until they are financially and/or politically forced to do so. We must also of course stop destroying our forests worldwide and respect the spaces of nature we have as a tremendously valuable resource.
But apart from this, we definitely have a huge potential to restore and even create new ecosystems on our planet! The Earth and Nature are amazing! Researches have recently shown how planting trees in all the feasible locations on Earth can reduce CO₂ levels to that from 100 years ago. As devastating as destroying nature can have on the larger ecosystem, so also can planting new forests have an exponential effect!
At the end of the day, how do I want the world to look in a hundred years time? Whether we crack fusion or not… whether we cure diseases or not… whether we lift Africa and the Middle East out of their suffering, whether we reach a technological singularity or not… whether world peace or another world war(s) happen or not… whatever happens the presence of forests and a healthy ecology will always be a very helpful presence in the future.
And none of this is to mention the intrinsic beauty we can create from forests! We can plant them to create beautiful natural parks and keep our psyches connected to nature in our increasingly urban future! We can all participate in the joy of creating life, life, life!
Also, planting trees literally creates jobs and helps stimulate the economy… in many third world countries troubled my many corruptions, many people simply need an honest job where they feel they are contributing to their society. There is a lot of greed in humans, but there are also a lot of persistent beauty and societal goodwill in people. If you see young gang members in Africa talk about their path, they very commonly say that there is not other option… there are no honest jobs available. We will also have the added possibility of increased tourism and natural parks for locals to enjoy… which can help stimulate the economy… and happiness in locals is a great way to stimulate innovation and creativity!
But Gerhard, aren’t you being a bit (or a lot!) Utopian and romantic in your thinking? Well, I am certainly not saying the forests are the magical solution to all of our issues. The Congo has an abundance of forests but is the home on untold amounts of nightmares and suffering. But… I am trying to make a good case here, and the benefits I mentioned are very solid, and some level of benefit to humanity is virtually guaranteed. We definitely need to work on other aspects of humanity’s evolution through this very unique stage in history. I believe we need to look at the many complexities involved, and we need smart, dedicated wise men and women for this. Planting trees is not enough.
Coming down to Earth for a grounded conclusion; planting trees is a very solid and guaranteed manner in helping the world… not only today but in the future. It is simple enough vision to communicate to others quickly, and it is uncontroversial enough to gain backing from a wide audience. The cost of planting a tree is also very low, and can be done today for under $1 a tree. There is a tangible benefit to the users, as we can all calculate 5% of purchase price and estimate how many trees our shopping just planted! There is also a strong desire by society today to plant trees, and in a fund-raising venture, it is better to join a vibrant cause than to convince others of an obscure idea. Reforestation is also something that I am personally very passionate about, and that is important to fuel all the work involved behind the scenes!
If you don’t actually know what iDonateByShopping.org is, check out the website! I am more than eager to discuss any questions and comments you have regarding the venture — I look forward to hearing back from you.