How a 3-Day Weekend Can Curb Climate Change

Universal Basic Income (UBI) and the movement towards a shorter work week is not just a solution to inequality, but one also aimed at stabilizing the environment.

Graffiti mural of Mona Lisa underwater.
Mona Lisa underwater. Mural by Martin Ron. Photo Veronica Maggi/La Voz Interior


Universal Basic Income (UBI) and the movement towards a shorter work week is not just a solution to inequality, but one also aimed at stabilizing the environment, writes Professor Greg Marston, from the School of Social Science at The University of Queensland.

In his essay for the Green Institute, 'The Environmental Impacts of a UBI and a Shorter Working Week', Marston outlines how the process and debate surrounding UBI allows us to confront difficult questions within our society about how we live and work now, and how we should be living and working. After all, how do we give everyone access to a better life?

Many countries around the world have begun experimenting with the idea, including the Netherlands, Finland, and Canada. The results of these studies are still pending. However, a review of the data from a study done in the 1970s in Manitoba, Canada revealed just how much some extra cash can do to correct inequalities early on.

The data revealed there was a 9 percent reduction in working hours among new mothers and teen boys. The new mothers used the extra cash to extend their maternity leaves and spend more time with their babies, and teenage boys no longer had to drop out of school to support their families, resulting in more boys graduating with high school degrees. These families could afford to keep their sons in school because of basic income.

A UBI has the power to change much of what we might consider our consumer culture, tipping our values in a different direction, says Marston, one less reliant on materials. “We might see less reliance on the daily commute from the urban fringe to the city center to work during the week, and on the weekends people may also rely less on traveling to shopping malls to spend their disposable income on a mix of necessities and luxuries alike.”

A shorter work week would help further these carbon reductions, argue economists David Rosnick and Mark Weisbrot. For example, they say, if the United States were to adopt standard European working hours, the U.S. could reduce emissions by 7 percent, according to their report.

There’s even further evidence for how a three-day weekend can affect energy consumption. Back in 2007, Utah shortened the work week to four days for its state employees. It extended its Monday to Thursday hours and eliminated the Friday workday.

Quartz reports:

“In its first ten months, the move saved the state at least $1.8 million in energy costs. Fewer working days meant less office lighting, less air conditioning, and less time spent running computers and other equipment—all without even reducing the total number of hours worked.”

However, normal hours resumed for state employees back in 2011 after complaints of being unable to access services on Fridays. People weren’t used to being barred access to certain services on a Friday, but if this policy were adopted evenly across the state, perhaps it would have been better received.

Like all radical new policies and ideas, our society will need to engage with them by asking for evidence. Is this policy sustainable and does it provide us with a better lifestyle?

“Whatever specific social policy reforms are debated and adopted in the future,” Marston writes, ”the justification for ‘welfare’ will need to be reframed in terms of human security and genuine sustainability, rather than facilitating labor market participation at whatever personal and environmental cost.”

There is no dark matter. Instead, information has mass, physicist says

Is information the fifth form of matter?

Photo: Shutterstock
Surprising Science
  • Researchers have been trying for over 60 years to detect dark matter.
  • There are many theories about it, but none are supported by evidence.
  • The mass-energy-information equivalence principle combines several theories to offer an alternative to dark matter.
Keep reading Show less

Why does life flash before your eyes in a life-threatening scenario?

The experience of life flashing before one's eyes has been reported for well over a century, but where's the science behind it?

Photo by Kalea Jerielle on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

At the age of 16, when Tony Kofi was an apprentice builder living in Nottingham, he fell from the third story of a building. Time seemed to slow down massively, and he saw a complex series of images flash before his eyes.

Keep reading Show less

How romantic love is like addiction

Might as well face it, you're addicted to love.

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash
Sex & Relationships
  • Many writers have commented on the addictive qualities of love. Science agrees.
  • The reward system of the brain reacts similarly to both love and drugs
  • Someday, it might be possible to treat "love addiction."
Keep reading Show less
Politics & Current Affairs

Autonomous killer robots may have already killed on the battlefield

A brief passage from a recent UN report describes what could be the first-known case of an autonomous weapon, powered by artificial intelligence, killing in the battlefield.

Quantcast