PROGRESSIVES often find themselves caught in a cycle of cynicism and disillusionment.

The frustration stems from witnessing the government’s inaction and the broader societal reluctance to address pressing crises.

The climate crisis is a prime example of this frustration. We want to believe that our collective efforts can make a significant impact.

We applaud and participate in individual actions, such as reducing our carbon emissions, choosing alternative modes of transportation, recycling, and advocating for sustainable policies. But the magnitude of the challenges we face often leaves us feeling powerless.

The reason is that in the grand scheme of things, these individual actions can sometimes feel like mere drops in the vast ocean of systemic change that is desperately needed.

It’s demoralising, to say the least.

Deep down, we know that these actions alone cannot achieve the systemic change necessary to combat climate change effectively. We need comprehensive policy reforms, international cooperation, and substantial investments in renewable energy, sustainable infrastructure, and environmental conservation.

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But it’s demoralising watching the sluggish pace of change and resistance from vested interests. How can we not be frustrated seeing corporations continue harmful practices, governments prioritise short-term gains, and communities suffer environmental degradation?

We’ve seen supposedly promising initiatives become mere gestures instead of necessary top-down reforms.

I empathise with this sentiment. I comprehend why many of us may experience disillusionment.

Maintaining an unwavering sense of hope in the face of overwhelming problems can be incredibly challenging. We have witnessed numerous instances where seemingly hopeful initiatives ultimately prove to be mere gestures, rather than substantial top-down reforms that are truly necessary.

The truth is, we yearn for substantial, systemic change

We long to see governments and institutions take bold steps to address the root causes of the problems we face. We want to see a paradigm shift in how we approach the climate crisis, with policies that prioritise sustainability, renewable energy, and environmental justice.

We know full well it is not enough to pluck the low-hanging fruit and make symbolic gestures. We need tangible, transformative action that will reshape our society and protect our planet for future generations.

However, our frustration with inaction should not immediately dismiss efforts to address immediate emergencies.

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Take the example of free period products.

When I wrote about providing free period products a few years ago, I received dozens of comments saying the priority should be reducing gender inequality and ensuring women can afford to buy menstrual products themselves. These critics argued that providing free period products is a “band-aid solution” that doesn’t address the root causes of the problem.

Of course, gender inequality is a major issue that needs to be tackled. Women still face discrimination in pay, opportunities and how society views them. These structural injustices certainly contribute to period poverty.

However, critics seem to imply we must choose between providing immediate relief now or focusing solely on reducing gender inequality over the long term. This is a false choice. We can and should do both.

We should not wait for “le grand soir” – a French phrase designing a day of social revolution that completely resets society – of gender equality to arrive before helping women in need today. We’ll be waiting a long time.

The National: Peter Kryant and his safe consumption van in 2020Peter Kryant and his safe consumption van in 2020 (Image: NQ)

So I’ll take the free period products, thanks, while continuing to advocate for policies that promote gender equality and justice.

Nobody is claiming that free period products alone will solve gender inequality or end period poverty. But will they help women who can’t afford menstrual products right now? Absolutely. And that’s worthwhile.

Sometimes we let the perfect be the enemy of the good, or at least of something going in the right direction. I feel, more recently, that we are letting this happen in the context of Scotland’s drug deaths tragedy.

In Scotland, the situation regarding drug misuse has been deteriorating year after year, resulting in devastating consequences for individuals, families, and communities. Lives are being lost, families are being torn apart, and the urgency of this crisis cannot be overstated.

Former first minister Nicola Sturgeon herself admitted that more should have been done, acknowledging the failure to prioritise the issue adequately.

The Scottish Government last week published a report calling for the UK Government to decriminalise all drugs for personal use.

The report also proposes immediate changes to allow harm reduction measures like supervised injection sites and drug testing. However, unsurprisingly, the Conservative UK Government quickly rejected the idea. Some progressives also torpedoed the idea.

In light of this dire situation, does it mean we should dismiss the recent call for decriminalisation, arguing it fails to address the larger systemic problems and underlying causes of drug abuse? I think that would be a terrible mistake.

We must recognise the urgency and necessity of decriminalisation as a crucial step towards addressing the immediate crisis.

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Experts and those who work closely with individuals struggling with drug abuse have long advocated for decriminalisation. Their experiences, combined with evidence-based research, support the notion that decriminalisation can bring about positive outcomes.

By decriminalising drugs for personal use, we can shift the focus from punishment to compassion, enabling individuals to seek help without the fear of legal repercussions.

Decriminalisation serves as an immediate intervention that can provide relief and pave the way for broader reforms.

It opens doors to comprehensive support systems, rehabilitation programmes, and harm reduction initiatives.

Of course, we must not overlook the larger issues at play. The root causes of drug abuse, such as social inequality, mental health challenges, and limited access to treatment and support, require significant attention and comprehensive solutions.

We must address these systemic issues in parallel with decriminalisation efforts

However, in the face of an emergency, we cannot afford to wait for a perfect, all-encompassing solution before taking decisive action. Lives are being lost daily, families are being shattered, and communities are crumbling.

Critics may argue that decriminalisation alone is insufficient and may even divert attention from the larger issues. While their concerns are valid, we can still acknowledge that this is a step in the right direction.

By taking this vital step of decriminalisation, we lay the groundwork for more comprehensive reforms. It serves as a catalyst for broader conversations, policies, and initiatives aimed at addressing the root causes of drug abuse.

Progressives must strike a delicate balance between addressing the emergencies at hand and advocating for systemic change. It is not an either-or scenario but rather a nuanced approach that acknowledges the need for immediate relief while also working towards long-term solutions.

The fight for systemic change will be a long one, requiring persistence and resilience in the face of setbacks. But if we lose sight of the very real crises demanding action now, we fail the people and communities suffering the consequences of inaction.

The path forward requires both immediate interventions and a vision for the sweeping reforms that will truly transform our society for the better.

Progressives must embrace the tension between the now and the not yet, taking action with urgency while keeping sight of a future where all people thrive in a society that doesn’t create so much desperation.