Can unions save the world? While that task may be too broad of a burden to place on workers, a NASA report seems to suggest unions could play a large role in keeping worldwide catastrophe at bay.
Mathematicians from NASA have confirmed what workers, some economists, common sense and basic humanity have always known: people should receive a fair wage and a more equitable piece of the pie. This is to say that a NASA report agrees that the current system of a few economically powerful individuals holding sway over the masses is a flawed and unsustainable position.
For a study with such a blatantly undramatic title, A Minimal Model for Human and Nature Interaction, is rife with dramatic conclusions. Written by a team of mathematicians, the study eschews niceties and gets right down to brass tacks. The study holds that there are two major issues facing the earth. Unless resolved these issues are said to promise catastrophic results. After delving into the decline of former empires, the study asserts that such declines have two common issues:
(i) Economic stratification; and
(ii) Too much strain on ecological resources.
Unless these issues are resolved, the prognosis is grim. Not merely grim, but dire, with the report finding that without corrective action the collapse of human civilization is not only possible but likely.
Basically, as ecological resources become less plentiful and economic stratification either continues, regular people will suffer declining living standards. The elites are expected to be the last to be affected by the strain on resources, leading to overconsumption by the elites and a concomitant paucity of resources for the masses. [Note: the terms “Elites” and “Masses” are those used in the NASA report and are not my terms].
The lack of resources available to the masses could lead to prices that are forbiddingly high and which bar regular people from purchasing resources. The likely outcomes of this scenario are gross economic hardship, housing shortages and, at its worst, famine and starvation. As reported in the National Post, Derrick O’Keefe, the former editor of Rabble.ca, notes that the NASA report basically reduces our options to either: “socialism or extinction.”
There are Solutions
The NASA report doesn’t advocate that we simply shrug and accept this Doomsday scenario. There are solutions. It’s been posited that two broad and necessary policy shifts could stem the tide of destruction:
(i) Greatly reduce inequality; and/or
(ii) Dramatically reduce resource consumption and population growth.
Organized labour can be the answer to both of these solutions, but more obviously for the first. Unions have been demonstrated to effect societies by raising wages and improving the standards of living for all workers. At the same time as unions are raising workers wages and standards of living, the economic inequality is reduced, leading to a more equitable distribution of resources. In a 2002 study, Unions and Collective Bargaining: Economic Effects in a Global Environment, the World Bank states as much: “…union density correlates negatively with labor earnings inequality and wage dispersion.”
So if we want to head-off the catastrophic warnings in the NASA report, it seems obvious that we must insist on policies that support workers more and corporate tax breaks less. Policies must focus on reducing income inequality, creating better standards of living all people and pursuing sustainable consumption. In short, everything unions have long fought for.
It’s time to stop measuring the value of our country solely on the basis of the GDP. It’s time to consider our worth in more human terms. Otherwise, our civilization may prove all too human to survive the results.