Due to the inherent nature of mankind, we will always be unsatisfied about things, therefore I would choose to use the power to change the world rather than myself.
This is however, not to say that I am content with my own being, in contrast, I realize that I am flawed and so too is everyone else. Even if we manage to use this power to ‘fix’ ourselves, we will be bound to find other personal traits that would dissatisfy us. As a result, we would get stuck in a loop of forever trying to perfect ourselves, probably without end due to the subjectivity of ‘perfection’.
While the philosophical question Rewrite poses us is broad and can be applied to many topics, I wish to explain my motivations of choosing to change to world using the example of climate change (as Rewrite focused on for a large part).
I admit that I would be fearful in the theoretical situation of having a power capable of changing the world, I would still persist to use this power in this way because of a multitude of arguments, of which the most important are:
The rigidity of our current socio-technical structure.
Due to the establishment of large technical structures (LTS) that are embedded in present day society and of which the boundaries are overlapping each other, makes the process of forcing a sustainable transition on these LTS very hard, let alone trying to force a sustainable transition on whole networks of LTS (which could involve tens of thousands of people). Governments and NGOs have tried it and they have failed in doing so. While system optimisation occurred within the LTS as a result of less successful governmental policies, there is yet a lack of radical change for the better (Geels, F. W., 2011). Considering the nature of LTS introducing a real transition into these is thus very, very hard by normal standards.
Hence a significant power is needed to break the status-quo and to guide these LTS towards a sustainable transition for that otherwise we will most likely continue to use fossil fuels to the point of our own downfall.
(Background info) Due to the energy transition that occurred since the industrial revolution, nature, in the eyes of man, became a bountiful resource, waiting to be fully exploited of. As a result, the rate of consumption of natural resources and production of waste started to reach unsustainable levels. LTS were introduced e.g. infrastructure, telephone cables, oil pipes etc. which functioned favourably in this era known as the great acceleration. Due to their positive outputs, these LTS were firmly embedded in our society (Geels, F. W., 2011), becoming something ‘common’ and ‘normal’, some would even say ‘necessary’.
The inequity between present and future generations.
There is inequity not only between countries but also between (future) generations that induces jealousy and cannot be easily solved. As the industrial revolution spread far and wide, it were countries such as Europe and the US that benefitted the most and quickest from this energy transition.
However, countries such as Africa, India and other developing countries do not enjoy this luxury (yet). Due to this inequity of wealth, these developing countries strive to catch up to the Western higher living standards, often disregarding the environmental degradation that accompanies their industrial actions in order to follow the footsteps of Europe and the US. However, as the threat of climate change is becoming ever more visible and felt, developing countries are nowadays being condemned for the same pollution intensive development they are going through that modern Western powers were guilty of in the past.
As we want to prevent extensive climate change, it is morally wrong to condemn developing countries for trying to achieve the same economic growth that we have experienced however, allowing them to develop to the same extent as modern Western powers would cause a significant increase in the global temperature.
Since this dilemma is based on morality, no one is really in the wrong but debating about this problem will not get us anywhere. Therefore, at some point a decision must be made, a decision that people must abide to in order to cease the everlasting discussions and start moving on to the next step to promote and advance sustainability in society.
Futhermore, using the definition of sustainability and sustainable development according to the Brundtland rapport: Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (S. Imperatives, 1987: 41), there is a clear problem with providing equity between our present and future generations. The same opportunities that we are given today may or may not be there to future generations, therefore these future generations are robbed of being able to satisfy their expected needs as a result of us fulfilling our own needs in the present, without them being able to protest. To add up, while there is much debate and little consensus about what actually should be done in order to preserve the needs of future generations as the debate is ongoing, more and more chances and possibilities will disappear for future generations. Therefore, I believe that at one point the everlasting debating and prolonging should stop and a decision must be made.
Worldwide problems such as climate change are very complex problems involving millions of individuals with their own interest and opinions postponing the environmental debate from coming up with real radical transitions to LTS in the world. Individuals or even groups of individuals can only exert a certain (small) amount of change. However, with climate change time is not our friend and dragging this problem on could cause most catastrophic results for the whole of mankind (prisoner’s dilemma). Therefore, I believe that if I had this power I or anyone else would have this power, it would be in our best interest to use it to solve global issues such as environmental problems in the short amount of time that we have (thus change the world).
S. Imperatives (1987). Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future. Page 41
Geels, F. W. (2011). The multi-level perspective on sustainability transitions: Responses to seven criticisms. Environmental innovation and societal transitions, 1(1), 24-40.