I recently read the book Net Positive by Paul Polman and Andrew Winston which started me thinking about how and where I can make a net positive impact on the world. If you are not familiar, net positive is “a philosophy that is based on trying to maintain a positive balance in your life by doing more good than harm and contributing more than you take.” (Source: Effectiviology.) While it can be hard to be positive, it is worthwhile. Here are some areas where we can be net positive:
Keep democracy strong
Can we all come together for the greater good? The floodgates of misinformation opened up when Ronald Reagan abolished the Fairness Doctrine from FCC in 1987, and we are witnessing the bifurcation that comes from this false information today more than ever. It is our job as individuals to hold people accountable in a conversation, or for broadcasters reporting news, to be truthful.
We started off on negative foot in this country by allowing slave owners to have ⅗ vote for slaves. To become net positive the white supremacy has to go. Why are colonizers better than anyone else? We need to be cohesive as a group and follow science. Politics and religion take us astray, and science brings us toward being net positive.
When we push back the oligarchs and the fascists, we can keep the Earth habitable for people. If democracy is strong, justice is for the majority, not the few. We are working for the greater good and can work together to restore the Earth.
Focus on climate change initiatives
Restoration projects are net positive; they do more good than harm. All states have a Superfund for environmental clean up and it is time to clean up the collateral damage that we’ve made. We are either going to make the earth net positive and habitable for humans or this is the last chapter. Rather than focusing on living Mars, we can invest in keeping Earth habitable without having to terraform it.
In the book Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer acknowledges all of the wrong that happened to the Indian people, but she doesn’t focus on blame. She focuses on working together to heal Mother Earth. She conveys that we are not owners of this land, but stewards of it. Our job is to make the Earth better than we found it and pass it onto our children.
Invest your money impactfully
Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) is a broader category / new standard for impactful investing beyond just socially responsible investing (SRI). Investing for impact has moved beyond just suppressing certain genres of companies; rather, it focuses on broader factors that “do good.” For instance: having a diverse board that includes people of color and a 50/50 mix of men and women, paying employees a living wage, insisting that your suppliers pay a living wage (or get a different supplier) and requiring that your suppliers harvest sustainably.
Broaden your perspective
Reading and travel are both net positive activities. When you have books on the shelves, and you’re encouraged to read and learn, you can broaden your perspective. Travel opens your mind and heart and exposes you to other ways people live. Both are likely to result in more empathy. With empathy, we can live more wholeheartedly.
Bring the safety net back:
Let’s take some of the money that we’re throwing at the military industrial complex and invest it to bring the safety net back. Net positive investments here include: education funding and social services, universal health care, and bringing back unions. Fund social services, help to house people. Hold the police accountable to protect and serve. And when they harm people they need to be held accountable without protection from liability. Invest to train more people to de-escalate problems rather than make them worse.
This is certainly not an all-inclusive list. Do what you can to make a net positive impact on the world, and share your stories and ideas here with me.