Photo source: Friends of the Earth/twitter
“If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.” -David Attenborough, natural historian, journalist addressing the contentious 2018 COP24 UN Climate Change Conference in Katowice, Poland.
You’d think that the collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world would be a most compelling motivator, but the weak kneed response by governments more concerned with economic growth than collapsing civilizations left the conference with much unresolved and little reason to believe current governments will rise to the challenge of keeping our Earth from rising another devastating 1.5 C.
Perhaps Pulitizer Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges is right in asserting that “There is one desperate chance left to thwart the impending ecocide and extinction of the human species. We must, in wave after wave, carry out nonviolent acts of civil disobedience to shut down the capitals of the major industrial countries, crippling commerce and transportation, until the ruling elites are forced to publicly state the truth about climate catastrophe, implement radical measures to halt carbon emissions by 2025 and empower an independent citizens committee to oversee the termination of our 150-year binge on fossil fuels. If we do not do this, we will face mass death.”
Indeed, given that the current head of the Environmental Protection Agency in the world’s largest carbon emitter comes to the job from a distinguished career as a lobbyist for the coal industry and given the uninspiring outcome of the Katowice COP24 Climate Change Conference, we clearly have to do much more than lobby our governments who—even when they pretend to care about climate change—are far too interested in corporate profits and growing our all-consuming economies to take meaningful action on dialing down Earth’s thermostat.
But wait! Aren’t the Trudeau Liberals leading the way with a carbon tax designed to reduce Canada’s carbon emissions? Well, this all sounds good until you read the fine print. In place of effective action that is in anyway commensurate with the rapidly approaching climate disaster the Liberals, in typical Trudeau style of talking a good line in public while bowing to corporate interests, will instead partner with provincial and territorial leaders to develop real climate change solutions, “consistent with our international obligations to protect the planet, all while growing our economy.”
Blah, blah, blah. I am so fed up with Liberal blah, blah generally– but particularly on the issue of collapsing civilizations and loss of much of the natural world. All this Liberal ballyhoo amounts to is a carbon tax the equivalent of four to seven cents a litre of gas. Gas prices go up and down almost weekly by four to seven cents and what difference does that make to the sale of gas at the pump?-buzz-all! How many people do you know who will make major lifestyle changes over a 4 cent/ litre increase in the price of gas? I would guess that the price of gas would have to, at least, double before the price alone would trigger any major life-style changes. Indeed, if a dollar/litre carbon tax proceeds were rebated to consumers as a direct monetary refund, many would, at least for the short term, reinvest their rebates in marching on with their fuel guzzling lifestyles. BUT over years the economic incentive of a dollar a litre carbon tax would drive many to adopt more energy efficient lifestyles and spend their carbon tax refunds on other priorities. And all that available rebate money in consumers pockets would certainly incentivize industry to shift production to create more energy efficient goods and alternatives to carbon intensive goods in order to capture some of those dollars.
The fatal flaw in thinking that a hefty carbon tax would bring meaningful change is the “Yellow Vests” scenario. Can you imagine the reaction of the right-wing propagandists?!!! My gosh, just look at the garbage coming from provincial and federal Conservatives as well as big money funded think tanks over the possibility of a 4–7 cent/ litre carbon tax!
Clearly small, even medium measures will not work socially nor politically. The only–ONLY!! possible/doable alternative to social and environmental collapse is in a Green New Deal designed to put humanity’s response to climate change at the forefront of our collective energies—as we have done when facing the challenge of wars and as FDR did in lifting the United States out of a persistent and devastating economic depression.
We must now turn away from the idea that got us into this mess, the idea that the goal of an economy is to simply grow—no matter what we grow. Like cancer cells all we need to do in a growth is all we can imagine economy is to grow with no limits, with no reference to the health and well-being of the environment or of any social good other than growth. As long as we grow the economy everything will be just fine. But while indiscriminate growth is good at feeding the greed of an opulent few it has proven to be the nemesis of any kind of social justice while it fuels the forces collapsing our environment and atmosphere.
The core idea of a Green New Deal (GND) is that we turn away from the indiscriminate growth idea and, very intentionally focus our economy in the health and well-being of our peoples and planet. AND the deep core strength of a GND is that it refocuses the very intentions of what our governments and economy are about. It will engage everyone in a new vision of how society works and what we are trying to accomplish as a nation and species. Rather than a punitive tax so easily attacked by the likes of Rob Ford, Tom Fletcher and the rabid right generally, as the carbon tax is seen to be, the GND is a society-wide engagement in reinvisioning the fundamental goals of human society.
It was said of Franklyn Roosevelt’s New Deal that while Hoover (the previous president who attempted to pull the US out of a massive depression by monetary policy alone) tried to save the banks, even the banks failed, but Roosevelt’s New Deal tried to save the people and even the banks succeeded. A Green New Deal would not tweak the growth economy with unfocused economic stimulus. Instead it would focus on reinventing the foundational goal of our economy. Instead of undifferentiated growth for growth sakes, a GND would invest massively in creating a new and different goal for governments and economies—Sustainability; to sustain, nurture healthy people in healthy communities on a healthy planet. The GND would come as a package deal designed to reinvest in living incomes rather than feeding the already overstuffed few; corporations would no longer be seen as “persons” with human rights but little human accountability. Under a GND corporations that do not contribute to our common good would lose their right to plunder our economies and planet for the benefit of a few. As with Roosevelt’s New Deal, our governments would directly and indirectly though new business goals and incentives reinvent the all of our economic activity to conform to an economy that delivers a package deal: good incomes, social fairness, and environmental sustainability. Instead of the GDP race to consume everything, while overfeeding the few and impoverishing the many, the new economic measure would be a “triple-bottom line” of economic, social, and environmental objectives designed to foster planetary and social sustainability rather than the blind/mad GDP rush to over feed the few while racing to consume everything—as though there were no tomorrow; as indeed there will be no tomorrow under undifferentiated growth.
As Chris Hedges so aptly states:
I am a father. I love my children. It is not about me. It is about them. This is what parents do.”
Me too; how about you?
If you are interested in being part of a Comox Valley effort to promote a Canadian Green New Deal, please contact Norm Reynolds at firstname.lastname@example.org