Maartens website

Activism?

You see, the world gets better all the time. Mostly, this is thanks to people who believe in something, and actively strive to better the world. They come in all sizes and types, but they're collectively named "activists". Now, I know that most people reading this don't think about themselves as being an activist; most likely you're studying, or working a career, taking care of friends and/or family. You don't have time for activism. At best, you might donate to a cause you believe in, or buy a sticker. Maybe even just because it's a small tax writeoff.

And you know what? That's perfectly fine. This page is not to tell you about how you're not doing enough or why it would matter more than what you're currently doing. There are enough other people that profess that already, and I personally don't think it helps activism a lot. Besides, lots of people already do things because they assume it helps. Look at recycling, blood donations, organ transplants (especially altruistic donations), child adoption, and so on. I know it's not often regarded as activism, but I do want to look at it in different ways than the stereotypical spreading of pamphlets and asking for signatures on market squares.

That's why I made this page for activism: I think a lot of people really want to make a change, but don't see it as viable for their life. Or they're not sure what to do. Here, I present a list of causes and activities I believe can make the world a better place for everyone. It's also important to remember that nobody can do everything, plenty of valid reasons why that's the case. Maybe you think that organic farming is better for the environment, but you still buy non-organic food because you can't afford the higher price. But that doesn't mean that partaking in activism is hypocritical by default (which is a reasoning that somebody actually used in a discussion about activism with me). On this page, you find causes I believe in, that you can donate to, or small things you can do in your daily life that help that. You won't find the general calls to action here like "You should vote" and "Recycle as much as possible", I assume most people already see those often enough. I target more specific and fewer mentioned points. For some things, I propose certain replacements to "ease" taking on an cause without disrupting your life radically. (Like vegetarianism; it's a good thing, really, but replacing ⅓ of most people's daily diets is too radical for most people to do anyway.) I hope it allows you to partake more in activism.

I want to end this with a nice citation, accredited to Frederick Douglass:

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.

Urgent: Do NOT procreate

I know this sounds pretty radical, but allow me to explain in detail. I'm sure you'll understand.
The scientific consensus is clear: Humans are the main cause of the climate mayhem, period. Collectively, we are ruining the planet's ecosphere. It's also clear that there's a direct correlation between the earth's temperature, and the amount of humans that are on it: This graph shows the rise of the global population, and these graphs show the increase of greenhouse gases during that same timespan.

I'm not the first one to state that having no children is the best thing you can do: A study calculated that living a completely car-free life reduces your carbon footprint by 2.4 tonnes of CO₂(-equivalent emissions) per year, while having just one (just one!) fewer child reduces it by 58.6 tonnes of CO₂. Per. Year. It goes without saying that having one fewer child is way easier than living without a car for the rest of your life.
You can see why it strikes me as very odd that lots of people are calling for small solutions like electrical cars, or a vegetarian diet, while at the same time omitting what might be the easiest and most effective solution to make a truly great impact on the world. Sure, the other things help, but not nearly as much as having no/fewer children.

From that (again: scientifically proven) point, the inference is thus: Every ecological problem caused by humans gets larger and more destructing with every new human. The easiest and best solution to this problem, is to do as I do, and have no children. By not creating more humans, you are saving the planet from probably 4-10 people in the following decades.

Having no children allowed me to study whatever I want, and might be the biggest contribution to planet Earth I'll ever make. At the same time, I've seen a member of my family give up a possible job as police inspector because she got pregnant. These are just personal anecdotes, but I doubt I'd have to look very far for other examples where somebody had to stash per dreams because of an oncoming child. (If that person even gets to see that child very much: My parents got divorced, which is not only bad for the children of said parents, but in my case, my father didn't get to see me very often when I was a minor.)

Some people suggest that not the amount of people living is the problem, but that the way they live is bad. So solving the climate mayhem can also happen with a more sustainable lifestyle.
Let's ignore the fact that saying seven billion people is "not too much" is (at least) remarkable. First, for a lot of people, a more "sustainable" lifestyle is simply too hard to accomplish. The more people there are, the less resources are available for everyone. Lowering the population directly implies that everyone's lifestyle becomes automatically more sustainable, and requires practically no difficult intervention.
Also, this statement prepositions that there's enough resources for everyone. This is ignorant; if everyone lived in a decent way, we'd need at least 2.5 Earths just to keep up. Currently, the disgusting way people in third world countries have to live can't even offset a way of living humanely.
Finally, the climate mayhem has already started, and its consequences are already happening. Even assuming that 7 billion people is not too much, getting them all to live sustainable will take way longer than simply reducing the population, and we can't afford any delay.
Oh, and before I forget: Having no children and a sustainable lifestyle are not mutually exclusive. We can (and must) do both.

Some people tout the economy as a reason why this is a bad suggestion.
First, simply making this statement implies that economical progress is an argument that's worth taking into consideration with the current direction we're heading, which is one where the economy will be the least of our problems.
Secondly, many economists say that a constant growth is economically necessary, and since the economy grows with more people, reducing the birth rate is bad. This argument dismisses discussion out of hand ("It goes against our current system, therefore this will be bad"). It also assumes that we should always work towards "economic growth", which could work if the planet would also grow infinitely. Since it doesn't, economic growth is finitely bound, and since we're currenty using more of the Earth than it can possibly replenish, we've exceeded that limit. Thus, our current economic situation is incompatible with the planet we all live on. One of the two must change, and we're stuck on Earth, so the economy must change.
While we're on the subject of economics: A reduction in the world population has also secondary economical benefits: It's easier for a government to pay for healthcare and education if there are fewer students/patients to pay for in the first place. These funds can then easily be divested to paying pensions for the elderly, or other problems that need funding. Also, jobs that have struggle with constant shortage of workforce (like school teachers) will see this problem gradually disappear. Of course, global heating already puts economies across the planet in jeopardy because of all the problems it causes, that then need fixing. It also causes so-called climate refugees, who also need to be granted asylum, and all the costs that come with it.

Governments ought to teach children in school about this matter, and spread information about (working) anticonception measures. An increase in abortion rights will also help, and is also beneficial to the rights of women, another important problem. It goes without saying that I am pro abortion rights.
Of course, many of these measures directly contradict religious teachings (including the thought that women must give birth as much as possible, ideas that are also often espoused by extremist groups, like Vlaams-Belachelijk and AfD), but we mustn't listen to that; they're fundamentally irrational, and their preachers would rather condemn people to parenthood against their will, rather than allow abortions, which are medically speaking less dangerous procedures than giving birth. Forcing people to risk maternal death against their will because of a flawed reasoning is reprehensible, that's why they should be called the pro-death movement; because of these people, the US now has the highest number of maternal deaths in the developed nations.

While I don't want humanity to disappear, I don't have to worry that my call to not have children will cause that; there is no way I'd ever become so influential that I would cause that to happen. Therefore, any change that I might cause is all to the good.
I also don't want governmentally issued laws that limit procreation; that is very unlikely to work anyway, and since lower income households have more children on average than higher income, the burden of such a law would fall on those people that have enough problems already. It would also fuel the idea that wanting a family should be a misdemeanour, which is ridiculous. (To continue on that: The government should focus especially on immigrants and lower income households, because these groups have statistically the largest families. Reducing the birthrate with them will have more effect than with other types of households.) Also, children that are born, deserve/need all the help to develop themselves, and laws need to be put in place that supports families, such as school and child subsidies, to name a few.

Additionally, the time that would otherwise need to be invested in child care, is then completely up to you to use for other things. You can go on a very long vacation, you can devote yourself to a cause, make a lucrative career, study, ...

But perhaps you still want to have a family. And that's no problem whatsoever: Thousands of orphans are waiting for a family as you're reading this, and studies show that adoption does wonders for a child's development. By adoption (or fostering), you can build a family, without increasing the climate mayhem. It's a great way to devote yourself to a better world, and be a parent to somebody who desperately needs it.

(Anti-)Glossary

Words mean things. Like, a lot. We use them to communicate our thoughts, how we perceive the world and how we organize that. The way we speak impacts what people think of us, and influences how they might think about stuff.
All that to say that another form of activism can come from using a vocabulary that differs from the "mainstream". By thinking about what you say, you can have a clear thinking process, and avoid giving other people the wrong ideas. This is why I put up a glossary here that you can use to avoid misconceptions in your daily conversation.
For a glossary related to informatics, I urge you to read the GNU project glossary which handles that off already. My glossary here is a personal one, and tackles more diverse topics. Some of these are mine, but if I did not coin a term, I will put a link to where I found it.

Alt-right
Fascism
What is usually referred to in mainstream media as the "alt-right" movement is a collection of groups that in general favour fascist doctrines, that spread hatred amongst society, and propose blanket discrimination and racism to the fullest extent possible, with the eventual goal of destabilizing everyone and everything, just for the sake of destabilization. They call themselves "alt-right", which is a portmanteau of "alternative right". This wording is used to describe their views as an "alternative" to other right-wing views, but what they're standing for (fascism, and sometimes even neonazism) is in no possible way an alternative political stream for which support can reasonably be defended. Calling it alt-right fails to indicate the imminent danger these people pose, and hides the fact that they are fascists. Calling things by their actual name removes this mask of being "alternative".
Pro-life
Pro-death
People that fight against abortion rights see this as some kind of moral crusade that they are pro-life, as if to say that people who propose abortion rights are anti-life. This is dangerous spin: Not only do abortions allow many people a path out of poverty (which would also impoverise any offspring they get), abortions are medically speaking less dangerous to the pregnant woman than carrying the foetus to term. America now has the highest amount of maternal deaths in the developed world because of these people. Thus, they are responsible for the deaths of many people, and since they see no problem with their views, they are pro-death people.
I did not coin this term.
pro-choice
Pro abortion rights
Pro-choice is used by people that propose extension of abortion rights, but don't want to stress people with their views. As such they state this is a matter of choice, while omitting the challenge of condemnation of abortion rights.
Let me be clear that no person in their right mind would say having an abortion is a pleasant thing. And in a world where women don't ever have a risk of getting pregnant if they don't want to, abortion probably wouldn't be so necessary. But in this world, it happens. And when it does, these people deserve all the help they can get. Abortion rights make that legally possible.
People who do undergo abortion do this because they have no choice left anymore, so saying that this is about choice is wrong. It is about the right to have an abortion when necessary, an essential right for humans. If that rubs anyone the wrong way, so be it.
I did not coin this term.
STEM
Literally just the name of the study
A lot of studies have been labeled STEM in recent years, because some people suggest that we need a lot of people with knowledge in those fields for the future.
I'm under the impression that it's now being regarded as something that puts "STEM studies" on a better level of regard than other studies. "STEM label or it's not a study worth pursuing", if you will.
I find that ridiculous; lots of non-STEM-studies bring forth people that we desperately need, also in this ever more connected world; interpreters are needed for translation, lawyers are required to give citizens legal representation and guidance, sociologists give us a scientifically based idea of how humans interact, and so on. I've studied informatics and I'd like people to call me what I am: a student of informatics, not a "STEM undergraduate".
Computer science
Informatics
In English (and sometimes also in Dutch), my study at the university is often referred to as merely "Computer science", as if the only thing I learned about is just "computers". That is degrading to my study and to my abilities, as well as to other students of informatics.
Informatics is the study of information: In more practical terms, that means a student-informatician learns about how information is retrieved, the nature of information itself, how we can store information, how we infer new information from data. The focus is really, information, not computers.
This means that an informatician wields a toolbelt of various skills: Per must learn about:
  • Statistics; the mathematical principles to interpret and collect information, as well as inferring conclusions from that information.
  • Discrete mathematics; the theories behind sets, tuples, graphs, algorithms, and so on.
  • Logic; this teaches about collections, making sound proofs, and computational complexity of algorithms.
  • Human interactions; how do people communicate with technology, how can we take their data and present them with understandable services, how do we deal with visually impaired, ...
  • Software engineering; what are crucial steps in developing software that can serve as a long-term solution, how to maintain it, how do you talk to clients and learn their wishes?
  • Telecommunication; what are the ways that we can transmit data, how do imperfections occur and can we fix them, can we perfectly reconstruct an analog, continuous signal with a digital, discrete one, ...
  • Cryptography; how do we secure information, transmit it without eavesdropping, can we safeguard vital communications?
  • And so on...
Informatics is a very broad study, and computer science is a part of that, true. But just calling it that does disservice to what it's really about. It also makes it sound as if there's not really that much to it, who doesn't work with computers? The reason that it's so often called that, is because informatics is thorougly linked to computers, and computers are actually incredibly handy tools for our study. But they're not the sole focus (at least not at the universities I studied them), and they shouldn't be. In fact, if a wizard would destroy all computers overnight, lots of fields in informatics could still exist on their own merits. Studying a science is all about learning the how, the why, the fundamentals, of your field, not just the tools you use, that's what college is for.
Calling informatics just "computer science" is akin to calling mathematics "number science"; it is true that mathematics has undoubtedly close connections with digits and numbers, but calling the whole study by that name does not take into account all the other fields that mathematics encompasses, most of which don't even really need numbers at all to exist. We understand that and call it by its proper name, so as to avoid reducing it to a portion of it that's very visible in our daily lives. Please treat informatics with the same reasoning, and don't call it "computer science".

Don't buy diamonds

Diamonds are often mined in inhumane circumstances. The profits fuel cruel wars, which cause havoc on the local population and finance terrorism on the African people, as well as enslavement.
They're also worthless; Diamond is a very abundant material, and can easily be made in laboratories. The price is artificially inflated by the monopoly on diamond distribution by the De Beers corporation. Buying a diamond automatically means you're being scammed.

If you want to buy an engagement ring (which is a ritual also fueled by a De Beers advertising campaign), look out for (cubic) zirconia or moissanite rings. They're a ton cheaper, and look exactly like diamonds. The latter was even mistaken for diamond by the person who discovered it for the first time!

Get/Stay off Facebook

Facebook is an immense threat to our civil rights and liberties. I cannot possibly overstate how important it is that we collectively act to make this company rot away.
The useds of Facebook have their lives completely tracked and monitored, everything. It's a flagrant privacy violation.
Believe me, I KNOW that leaving Facebook is a hard pill to swallow. Facebook facilitates communcation with acquintances and friends, and humans are social creatures, we long for connection with other people. When you've been used by Facebook, it's hard to get its hooks off. We cannot refer to this as an addiction, because that would be like calling eating an addiction to food. Saying "I have nothing to hide" is not what this is about. It's erroneous to say privacy and secrecy are the same thing. I don't hide from my friends that I take a bath to clean myself but I'd never allow them to watch me do so. I love my parents but I don't allow them to come inside my place without my permission. I'm not ashamed to buy orange juice but I pay cash because I don't want to be recorded doing so (which happens when you use debit/credit cards). I'm sure you can imagine more examples like these.
Also, even if you were a person that doesn't care about privacy, there are people that do, and need privacy. Facebook makes it harder to call upon that right, because its mere existence changes the status quo from privacy being a human right, to privacy being something that requires justification: "Surely if thát many people are on Facebook, maybe privacy isn't that important to have as a right?" For people that I manage to convince to leave, but just need a final argument to take the definitive step: I ask you to not only do this for yourself, but for everyone else as well: Every person being used by Facebook increases the power it has, but the reverse is also true: Every person that decides to take off the shackles, makes it easier for others to do as well. By not being on Facebook, you help everyone else with not being there either.