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Change the World in 2007 | The Nation

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Peter Rothberg

Peter Rothberg

Opposing war, racism, sexism, climate change, economic injustice and high-stakes testing.

Change the World in 2007

We should all be thankful that 2006 is ending in so much better shape than it started. Media Matters' recent round-up of the most outrageous right-wing comments of the passing year remind us what a huge victory was achieved with the routing of the Bush agenda and the continuing implosion of the Republican Party.

So here's to a hopeful and happy New Year. Around the web, you can find plenty of ideas for resolutions for 2007. CodePink suggests talking to someone different from yourself about why you believe we need to end the war in Iraq, writing one letter to the editor each month, and joining a host of antiwar groups in Washington, DC, on January 27 to present the Mandate for Peace to Congress. (CodePink is also soliciting resolutions, which will be published online.) WireTap surveys young activists across the nation who share their own resolutions you can use to make a difference. Martha Rosenberg offers eleven useful resolutions for Big Pharma in a piece on CommonDreams.

Writing in WorldChanging.Com, philosopher Edward Wolf says the key to being in tune with social change in 2007 will not be what we think, but how we think. "Politics resembles a battle of brands more than an exchange of ideas," Wolf observes. "The blogosphere has blown the doors of civic conversation wide open but hardly elevated the dialogue, as almost any comment string confirms. But that may be changing as social networking and open-source tools reshape the 'spaces' in which people interact. Can new leaders emerge in such spaces?" He thinks so and advises watching for leaders who "embody humility, not those who merely espouse it."

Writing in the same WorldChanging series, Jason Kottke calls for a True Cost rating on food and products, like the nutritional information on a cereal box or the Energy Star rating on a refrigerator. True Cost, as he points out, would allow consumers to make legitimately informed decisions about how they spend their money. When True Cost is factored in, conflict diamonds become a more morally charged choice, as does clothing made in sweatshops. Organic blueberries flown in from Chile may be healthier for your toddler, but how much carbon dioxide was released into the atmosphere to get them to your kitchen? What's the energy cost of living in the suburbs, compared to living downtown? Do the people who made the clock hanging on the wall get paid a fair wage and receive health care? Just how bad for the environment (and for me!) is the laptop on which I'm typing or the cell phone on which I'm talking?

Numerous economists have made the case that the value of transactions is determined far too narrowly by the reigning neo-classical economic model. True Cost tries to offer a counter-framework in which the value of an item includes a number of factors beyond its market price, centrally its environmental, social and health costs. The environmental cost of aviation, for example, could add five hundred dollars per passenger to airline travel. Farming and forestry prices reflect the immediate costs of labor and capital, but do not include long-run ecological costs. Paying two dollars per pound for supermarket chicken does not cover the cost of cleaning up rivers polluted by poultry factories. That charge goes to society at large.

In a nutshell, it seems to me that if we can ever make use of Kottke's idea and have some kind of True Cost estimate available to consumers, it would be a major step forward. Working toward that seems to me a good resolution for 2007.

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