Russell Brand appeared on the BBC's Newsnight last night and a video of the interview is quickly spreading online. The host and interviewer, Jeremy Paxman, started with a dismissive line of questioning regarding what gave Brand, who started his career as a comedian and actor, the authority or the right to share his political views via The New Statesman magazine, where Brand has recently been named a guest editor. As you'll see, Brand spoke passionately about the need for revolutionary change in how governments and corporations are treating the planet and underserved populations.
There's a lot to digest, but Brand explains his basic premise like this:
"The planet is being destroyed. We are creating an underclass and exploiting poor people all over the world. And the legitimate problems of the people are not being addressed by our political powers."
And his solution?
"We shouldn't destroy the planet. We shouldn't create massive economic disparity. We shouldn't ignore the needs of the people."
It's pretty simple.
But where he and Paxman disagree is whether the current way of doing things is suitable to address these huge, global problems. Paxman argues for the status quo establishment and says change must come through the system by voting, while Brand supports an anti-establishment, revolutionary form of change from outside the current system.
Watch the video and let us know what you think in the comments.
But here's why I think Brand is right. The ideas Brand is getting at are not new to TreeHugger. Since our start, we've covered the many ways things aren't going well, as well as the ideas and solutions for how we can improve.
As Annie Leonard's The Story of Stuff excellently illustrates, the current structure of the capitalist system does not adequately take into account the external costs that go into producing energy, products and "growth" as we currently define it.
That must change.
Brand says we need a socialistic, egalitarian system, but even within our current capitalist system, one big step in the right direction regarding the climate crisis would simply putting a price on carbon.
Beyond that, designers and manufacturers must consider the end of life for their products. The current way we're doing things can't continue. Nor, Brand argues, can elections make the difference in addressing such widespread, crises on a global scale.
For example, these haunting photos show the human impact of digital waste from the computers and electronic devices we use every day. Even when "recycled" too often they end up abroad being burned by children trying to melt down the precious metals. We can design solutions to this.
Our oceans are so littered with little bits of plastic we toss out that fish and birds are killed by mistaking it for food, as Chris Jordan's photos document.
As Bill Clinton recently explained, we also need consciousness-raising to recognize our interconnectedness in order to create cultural change.
Demand for shark fin soup that is primarily appealing as a status symbol and tradition leads to the death of millions of sharks every year.
Demand for cheap coal power leads American energy companies to just opt for blowing off the entire tops of mountains, ruining the landscape and releasing toxic pollutants into streams and rivers.
And instead of going full-speed ahead with alternative energy, we're scraping the barrel of dirty fossil fuels, in the form of tar sands oil and putting our water at risk by fracking for natural gas. And we're creating immense damage to the landscape and atmosphere as a result.
These are just a handful of the endless horrors of what currently passes for the status quo. It's no wonder that Russell Brand is angry and a bit frustrated by being called trivial by Paxman. The younger generations are inheriting a world and a set of systems that are riddled with problems. I disagree with Brand when he says that voting doesn't matter, but he's right that voting alone hasn't and can't fix all of this in the time period that it needs to happen.
He says we need a revolution. I say he's right.