I am writing to you at the end of the pandemic year of 2020, approaching 40 million cases and 1.2 million confirmed deaths from the COVID-19 coronovirus. This is a terrifying and totally uncertain revolutionary time, with many people deciding on how to get what they need to survive. Kaety and I are living in New York City, where we moved on March 1st, seeing family and friends and working on as if safe, mostly from a distance, removed from community. Now seven months into the pandemic, we have been told that distance+masks+sanitization practices will keep us safe until there is a vaccine or maybe even a cure–but we are not sure when that will be. As the winter approaches, with the prospect of remaining distant until the spring, many people are openly afraid of what staying distant will do to their Health, physical, emotional, and ecological.
In November 2020 while the more than 100 million ballots that had been sent by mail in the U.S presidential election were being counted, a group of what were then known as “essential workers” started 5 Questions, the movement to collect answers from as many people around the world as we possibly could, with the promise to publish the results if we received 1 billion responses, and asked for help translating the questions as they traveled around the internet and the world. The group was founded to channel the energy of a) U.S citizens who voted, b) U.S citizens who were somehow prevented from voting by aggressive interest groups, and by laws that compromised their legal status as a full human and c) non U.S citizens terrified at the possible re-election of the CRASS (criminal, racist, anti-ecology sexist, sociopath) so-called “leader of the free world.” The group was also founded following the U.S Supreme Court’s decision to cut the national census short, perhaps supporting the president’s effort not to count every person living on U.S soil. And above all, the group was founded in an age of global unrest and confusion besides U.S-related events, because the internet, World War II and the world first atomic bombing, the invention of plastic and synthetic Nitrogen, the Great Depression, the end of British colonialism and partition of Africa and the Middle East, a ten-fold worldwide increase in fossil fuel consumption, multiple massively destructive revolutions in China and Russia, and so many more wars, mass population realignments, and government formations had occurred in the lifetimes of the oldest living humans. For these essential workers and billion or more people they were trying to survey, it was time to create a movement bigger and more human than voting and the census.
The 5 Questions were:
How old are you now? What age do you want to live until?
What is your name and where you do live? Do you have a home? If not, what would you need to make a home? Do you want children? How many? Where do you want them to live?
What makes your home feel like home? Would you feel safe or at home living in a different place than you live now? Do you feel safe or at home in the current political system you live now?
How much money do you make now? How much money do you believe you would make in your current economic system in the next ten years? How much money would you donate in the next ten years if your money were going towards renewable and regenerative resources?
How much time and energy do you have now? How much time and energy would you give if your time and energy were going towards renewable and regenerative resources that could protect your home, your family, or the planet in the next ten years?
As I write to you in 2020 the World Population is 7.75 billion people, almost four times what it was 100 years ago, and yet today we actually have the tools to reach and count a larger percentage of the people in the world than we did 100 years ago. We also have reached an understanding that just 3.5 percent of people can change a country’s agenda, and therefore began 5 Questions knowing that results from just 270 million people (3.5 percent of the world population) could be enough to create international change.
Unlike political campaigns, because of the rules most countries have made around voting, we were able to collect more surveys than any documented human election in history–600 million surveys– from November 2020 to November 2021, release a results report in December 2021, and appointed an international board of directors in January 2022 working closely with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to make data-based recommendations to individuals, corporations, governments, coalitions, and the United Nations. Each December, each year’s survey results were gathered and published, and every three-year-trend was further studied by teams of social, economic, and environmental scientists. To help you understand how our moment moved into your moment, I can share the most consistent or alarming patterns in 3+ year trends in the 2020-2030 decade:
1. Average age of “What age do you want to live until?” declined from previous year 8 out of 10 years by an average of 1.2 years. Total average decline was 72 (2020) to 61 (2030)
2. From 2026-2030 Total increase in “No” in response to ” Do you have a home?” was 15% of the world population. From 2026-2030 Total increase in “I don’t know” or “I don’t know, please help” responses to “If not, what would you need to make a home?” was 25%. In the same time period, there was only a 2% decrease in “Yes” responses to “Do you want children?,” confirming the human urge towards family regardless of circumstances. Throughout this time period, responses varied to “Where do you want them to live?”, with “here” (45-60%) and somewhere safe (18-45%) being the top responses each year.
3. In 2020 and 2021, likely due to the pandemic, an international average of 80% of respondents answered “NO” to “Do you feel safe or at home in the current political system you live now?” This figure was our motivation and central fundraising tool to spread 5 Questions in 2020. Also worth mentioning–the lowest international total throughout the decade, however, was only 64%.
4. For those who made at least double their national poverty-line salary from 2020-22,75% of respondents said in the next 10 years they’d donate at least $1,000USD (still the central international currency at the time), while 52% said $5,000 USD, 24% said 10,000USD, and 2.2% said $50,000USD or more. In 2022 we released a 3-year trend report with the total amount of money this could raise, and action steps year-by-year that we promised to enact upon donation, allowing for 6 months to begin raising funds. We became not-for-profit that year, and by the 2025 trend report those percentages were 78%, 70%, 45%, and 18%. By 2025 we were able to foresee, and by 2027 implement net-zero emissions plans countries whose governments followed our social-economic-ecological council’s recommendations. By 2030, although the U.S, China, and India still accounted for more than half of global carbon emissions, each had begun to consult with 5 Questions, while numerous smaller countries, led by first Iceland and New Zealand, had achieved net-zero emissions.
5. The most subjective question, related to time and energy, did not elicit remarkable patterned results but rather a diversity of subjective responses. However, 22 countries were able to implement regional volunteer programs at renewable energy and regenerative agriculture business in exchange for tax cuts, free energy, or free food for those who could donate one or more days a week of their time to work towards these ends.
I and my colleagues do not know which domino we were that helped cascade the 2020-1 pandemic towards productive international listening. Opportunities to communicate globally are still young yet, and given that global c02 output had more than doubled since the advent of the internet, it seemed only fitting to use our systems of communication to begin reclaiming that ecological change. We also accept that if political corruption had been less rampant and corporations had not become wealthier than governments in that same time period, individuals might not have consented to participate in such a thing as 5 Questions above or besides their voting in national elections and census. We did not offer any compensation, but also did not promise and therefore could not be lying. We did not ask about whether respondents felt their politicians were lying to them because statistics were already showing more than half the world believed politicians lie by 2020. Instead we asked people to share their truth, and only began to make recommendations, not promises, then plans finally change after data by 2022. We had the advantage of studying the documented and anecdotal history of dehumanization, especially in the recent past, and advantage of finding 10,000 college students who had deferred during the pandemic year and chose to catalog as many as 200 surveys a day, with weekends, for that year. We doubt we could have 10,000 volunteers for so long if “life as normal” had been going on. This may beg all kinds of philosophical questions of gratitude for the pandemic, and questions of causality rooted in whether the earth, protecting itself from the human parasite, may have somehow engineered such a thing, but we are not a philosophical organizations. I share these thoughts with you, as oceans continue to rise and politicians continue to run governments, as an origin story of sorts. There is a flood, a fire, an evil, a CRASS autocrat, and numerous energized groups of 10,000 or more people all over the world. You too can find them, and channel their energy to continue eating food, feeding food, cleaning water, drinking clean water, and do the business of what we called “living,” and what my parents used to call “saving the world.” What do you call it now, I wonder?