In 2007, the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote a story calling for a “Green New Deal.”
Friedman explained that he no longer believed that there was one silver-bullet program that would solve climate change.
Rather, just as a variety of programs were part of former US president Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal” for economic revitalization in the 1930s, so it would take a variety of investments in environmentally-friendly technologies to help stabilize the climate.
Friedman almost certainly could not have imagined that some day politicians would propose a Green New Deal that might include a universal basic income.
Newly elected US congress member and rising Democratic star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez campaigned for office on an ambitiousclimate-change platform which she also calls a Green New Deal.
The plan has gained attention and supportersover the last month, and is becoming a main talking point among Democrats who are looking for a meaningful agenda for the party over the next decade.
Ocasio-Cortez envisions the federal government leading efforts to eliminate greenhouse-gas emissions by investing in renewable energy infrastructure, improving the efficiency of residential and industrial buildings, and constructing an energy-efficient electricity grid.
To achieve the Green New Deal’s goals, the government would need to hire millions of people. Ocasio-Cortez sees this as an opportunity to transform the economy.
The Green New Deal would include training and education for workers, as well as a federal job-guarantee program.
Further, all investments would be focused on low-income communities.
Presenting climate-change mitigation as a jobs program, rather than an economy killer, may be politically savvy.
As if all that wasn’t ambitious enough, the Green New Deal would also include “basic income programs, universal healthcare programs and any others as the select committee may deem appropriate to promote economic security, labor-market flexibility, and entrepreneurism.”
It is basically everything liberals desire and more.
Supporters defend the need for these welfare programs as ways to alleviate the disruption that would be caused by the elimination of fossil fuel-supported jobs.
With a universal basic income and government-guaranteed health care, losing your oil-industry gig wouldn’t be as bad.
The program would of course be very expensive.
It’s hard to estimate how much it would cost, as the details are still murky. Green Party leader Jill Stein estimated that her version of the Green New Deal, which isless ambitiousthan the one presented by Ocasio-Cortez, would cost $700 billion to $1 trillion annually.
Ocasio-Cortez says hers would be funded by debt spending and tax increases.
In Friedman’s original conception, the government played a much smaller role in the Green New Deal.
He believed the government’s place was not in funding projects, but in seeding research and creating tax incentives andefficiency standards (paywall), and that harnessing the power of the private sector was the key to taking on climate change.
While Ocasio-Cortez believes the private sector has a role to play, she argues that the scale of the project is too big to leave to government-guided market forces.
The Green New Deal has come a long and very expensive way.
It still far cheaper than catastrophic climate change.
Attempts to incorporate a key scientific study into global climate talks in Poland have failed.
The IPCC report on the impacts of a temperature rise of 1.5C, had a significant impact when it was launched last October.
Scientists and many delegates in Poland were shocked and disappointed as the US, Saudi Arabia and Russia objected to this meeting “welcoming” the report.
It was the 2015 climate conference that had commissioned the landmark study.
The report said that the world is now completely off track, heading more towards 3C this century rather than 1.5C.
Keeping to the preferred target would need “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”. If warming was to be kept to 1.5C this century, then emissions of carbon dioxide would have to be reduced by 45% by 2030.
The report, launched in Incheon in South Korea, had an immediate impact winning praise from politicians all over the world.
But negotiators here ran into serious trouble when Saudi Arabia, the US and Russia objected to the conference “welcoming” the document.
Instead they wanted to support a much more lukewarm phrase, that the conference would “take note” of the report.
Saudi Arabia had fought until the last minute in Korea to limit the conclusions of the document. Eventually they gave in. But it now seems that they have brought their objections to Poland.
The dispute dragged on as huddles of negotiators met in corners of the plenary session here, trying to agree a compromise wording.
None was forthcoming.
With no consensus, under UN rules the passage of text had to be dropped.
Many countries expressed frustration and disappointment at the outcome.
Thousands protest in Melbourne Sydney and Cairns
“It’s not about one word or another, it is us being in a position to welcome a report we commissioned in the first place,” said Ruenna Haynes from St Kitts and Nevis.
“If there is anything ludicrous about the discussion its that we can’t welcome the report,” she said to spontaneous applause.
Scientists and campaigners were also extremely disappointed by the outcome.
“We are really angry and find it atrocious that some countries dismiss the messages and the consequences that we are facing, by not accepting what is unequivocal and not acting upon it,” said Yamide Dagnet from the World Resources Institute, and a former climate negotiator for the UK.
Others noted that Saudi Arabia and the US had supported the report when it was launched in October. It appears that the Saudis and the US baulked at the political implications of the UN body putting the IPCC report at its heart.
“Climate science is not a political football,” said Camilla Born, from climate think tank E3G.
“All the worlds governments – Saudi included – agreed the 1.5C report and we deserve the truth. Saudi can’t argue with physics, the climate will keep on changing.”
Many delegates are now hoping that ministers, who arrive on Monday, will try and revive efforts to put this key report at the heart of the conference.
“We hope that the rest of the world will rally and we get a decisive response to the report,” said Yamide Dagnet.
“I sincerely hope that all countries will fight that we don’t leave COP24 having missed a moment of history.”
As opuses documenting the spectacular hypocrisies, vagueries and stupidities of modern day politics go, this piece by Dr Lissa Johnson is quite something. Indeed, it’s possibly the most heavily linked and referenced demolition of modern politics ever published on New Matilda. Sit down before you start reading it. And keep a bucket handy.
With the votes finally counted for the October 20 Wentworth by-election, independent candidate Dr Kerryn Phelps has maintained her lead over Liberal candidate Dave Sharma, riding the crest of the19 percent swingagainst the Liberal Party all the way to Federal Parliament.
Phelps will be sworn in this month, taking ousted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s seat, forcing the Coalition into minority government. It is the first time since the Liberal Party’s inception that Wentworth has parted ways with the Liberals at an election.
Dr. Kerryn Phelps
Although the Coalition’s new powerbrokers are putting on a brave face, it’s got to hurt being thrust into minority status by a formerly loyal electorate. Having staged an internal coup against Turnbull in order to run their own show, it can’t be easy coming to terms with his replacement, Phelps, whose first order of business is gettingchildren off Nauruand tackling climate change.
As the post-Turnbull guard shifts into power-sharing mode, what has their response to the Wentworth by-election revealed about them so far?
How will they fare making nice with crossbenchers?
Has the Wentworth result taught them anything?
On election night, Prime Minister Morrison assured voters that he was all ears. “Tonight is a night where we listen”, he said, “where we learn.”
And so, with his listening ears on, and the magnitude of the swing against him sinking in, at hisconcession speechMorrison spoke in rallying terms about “what we believe” as Liberals. He dished up a slightly re-heated serve of the Abbott Government’s victim-blaming ‘lifters and leaners’ of 2014, stale and cold around the edges.
Morrison invoked a pro-austerity, anti-tax world populated by undeserving ne’er-do-wells and “hard working” Australians who “get up early in the morning” and “have a go”.
What it had to do with Wentworth wasn’t clear.
Wentworth isamong the leastwelfare reliant seats in the country. Its residents, on average, are among the most likely to benefit from Coalition tax policies.
Perhaps the unfolding reality was too much for Morrison to absorb: the strata of society he sought to prop up had turned against him.
So Morrison went instead to a happy Liberal place, pledging to fight for the early risers of Australia (formerly known as ‘lifters’) “til the bell rings. And the bell hasn’t rung Liberals, the bell hasn’t rung. We’ll take this all the way to the next election.”
The following day Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenbergdoubled downon their existing climate change and asylum seeker policies, despite both issues being central to the winning Phelps campaign.
Other senior figures in the Coalition seemed equally mis-attuned to voters’ sentiments. The day after the by-election, former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyceopinedthat Malcolm Turnbull had neglected his “responsibility” to “campaign to save his own seat… And I truly believe… that if he had… we would still have a majority in parliament.”
‘It’s all Malcolm’s fault’ is what the by-election said to Joyce.
Being a professional listener, I can’t help but observe that the Coalition’s listening skills need some work. Others seem to have noticed too.
Aneditorialin the Canberra Times, for instance, concluded that the Coalition would only succeed as a minority government “if they discover an ability to listen to voices other than their own. The Coalition’s current problems are the direct result of their refusal to do that.”
In fairness to the Coalition, perhaps ‘listening 101’ is not a step on politicians’ career ladders these days. Perhaps our leaders could use some tips. So, to help them out, here is a little listening 101.
As any good listener will know, real listening involves hearing not what you want to hear, as our leaders seem prone to do, nor simply the words that are being spoken, but the underlying meanings, themes, feelings and implications. This, in turn, requires putting oneself in the other person’s shoes, which listeners call perspective-taking.
The next level of listening entails reflecting back the themes and underlying meanings that you have gleaned, in order to enhance attunement and check your understanding. We call this reflective listening.
Given the level of mis-attunement to Wentworth voters, to help the Coalition with their perspective-taking skills, here are some messages they might have deciphered from within the Wentworth results. And to help them with their reflective listening, here are some honest reflections* they might have offered in response.
We thought this was a democracy
Although the Financial Reviewblamedsocial media and GetUp!, according toexit pollingthe biggest issue driving voters from the Liberal Party to Kerryn Phelps was that their elected candidate and Prime Minister, Turnbull, had been rolled. Were the Coalition listening attentively and reflectively to these voters, their responses might have included some or all of the below:
“We understand your anger at being forced to get out and vote right now. You’d rather be off enjoying your weekend. Who wouldn’t? You’re only here because the candidate you elected to represent you – and govern the country – has been ousted. By us.
You are probably extra peeved because no good reason was ever really offered for the leadership spill, other than the fact that we didn’t like Turnbull’s style and wanted his job. Plus there was Abbott’s revenge. Which are thin excuses for a coup, granted.
You probably also feel like the whole thing was all about us. Which it was. Maybe you thought governance should be about you.
In fact, you must be fed up with elected Prime Ministers getting rolled by ambitious rivals. Not that Turnbull is innocent, as you know. He did the same thing to Tony Abbott in 2015. Just like Julia Gillard did to Kevin Rudd in 2010 and then Rudd did back to Gillard in 2013. It’s practically the Australian way by now, with no elected Prime Minister serving a full term since 2007.
You may even remember the ABC telling you in 2015 not to get too het up about it all. It’s ‘just the Westminster systemin action’ apparently.
But you do seem fed up. Fair enough. Australia has a good reputation as a democracy. We get great scores on thoseDemocracy Indices. Nine out of 10 even.
And – it can’t be denied – elections are a cornerstone of democracy. You’d be forgiven for thinking that you had the right to choose who leads your country. Even if you’re mistaken, technically.
But Westminster system or not, we recognise that we were probably a little naïve to think that you’d be cool with us changing your electoral minds for you like that. Hell, even America, whose democracy is in tatters, takes the issue of ousting an elected President seriously. It’s only polite when you think about it, even if just to maintain theappearanceof democracy. Otherwise the plutocratic nature of the whole project becomes a little too obvious, and that makes everyone uncomfortable.
Some of you might have noticed that in the US they need years of special investigations, indictments galore, endlessprimetimeandprintpropaganda, intelligence reports, no matter howdubiousoramateurish, and reasons – real andimagined– to try to roll a President. Even then there’s no guarantee. In Australia we treat it like it’s no big deal.
You could be excused for thinking ‘what the fudge?’Americatakes democracy more seriously that we do? Sure, American elites bang on endlessly about democracy. But it’s obvious to any non-elite that this is what psychologists call ‘overcompensation’.
In America they’re barely eventryingat democracy. Here we consider ourselves the real deal. And yetwe’rethe ones whose Prime Ministers get ousted when elites-in-waiting just can’t keep it in their parliamentary portfolio anymore.
You’d be forgiven if you were thinking all of that. Even if you weren’t – even if you’re just mad that we took your candidate away – we get it. You’d prefer to elect your leaders democratically.”
We could have been a lot angrier
“To be honest, it could have been a lot worse. Asothershavepointed out, you weren’t calling for revolution or shouting ‘down with capitalism’ or ‘neoliberalism sucks’ or anything like that.
Although you did vote against us in Wentworth, you chose an establishment candidate with ahistoryof supporting corporate tax cuts and opposing the right to publicly protest. One who preferenced us right-wingers, just in case, climate nihilism, asylum seeker abuse and all.
Of course, Kerryn Phelps has a more progressive stance than us on climate change and asylum seekers, which is another reason many of you voted for her, but she’s not about to fundamentally rock the climate-catastrophe, human-rights abusing predatory-capitalist boat.
So, as ruling elites – which matters much more than which ruling elite party we represent – we’re grateful.
We’re also, believe it or not, grateful that you don’t read theWorld Socialist Website. Not that you’d be interested in mobilising the working class, probably, but on the subject of democracy, you might be interested in reports that pressure from Donald Trump’s administration may have played a role in Turnbull’s ouster.
At the time of the leadership spill, the World Socialist Website (WSW)reportedthat:
‘Among those leading the charge against Turnbull have been figures closely associated with the US-linked military and intelligence forces…. Over the past two years, a succession of key figures in the US ruling elite, including former National Intelligence Director James Clapper, ex-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and US Vice President Mike Pence, have visited Australia to insist that Canberra remain totally committed to Washington’s geostrategic confrontation with China.’
China. Bet you didn’t think you were giving up your Saturday to vote because of China.
The whole thing reads like a case study in plutocracy. How many powerful vested interests does it take to bring down an Australian Prime Minister?
Not that we recommend you read the WSW article or anything, but if you did you’d find out that a few weeks before Turnbull was heaved overboard he ‘gave a speech that would not have pleased the US ruling elite. He vowed his determination to maintain a ‘very deep’ and growing relationship with China.’
Over at the WSW they reckon that that’s when we made our move against Turnbull – when the US was good and mad at him. ‘The move against Turnbull was certainly not opposed in Washington, if not tacitly endorsed,’ they said.
You must admit, timing is everything.
Then, a few weeks later inanother articleabout the ‘survival of prime ministers… being determined by intrigues between billionaires’ the WSW added that ‘Turnbull was regarded as unreliable in Washington because of his reluctance to join provocative US military operations in the South China Sea and his attempts toprotect the profit interestsof those sections of Australian capitalism most reliant on China.’
Typical Turnbull. Thinking he knows best right to the end.
But luckily you don’t read that kind of stuff. If you did, you might have taken umbrage at the possibility of a foreign government deciding you’d voted the wrong way, and helping to correct your mistake for you.
True, the US does thatall the timedirectly and indirectly in places like Venezuela, Nicaragua, Iran, Honduras, Guatemala, Brazil, El Salvador or Haiti, to name a few. But this is Australia. We’re an arm of the US Empire. Or a bicep at least, surely. Not a client state. Are we?
But, look, don’t worry. As long as you don’t read the World Socialist Website you won’t have to think about any of that. You won’t be forced to grapple with Australian politics in imperial context. It’s a downer. (No pun intended).
You won’t have to wonder whether ‘Make America Great Again’ ‘Mexicans are Rapists’ ‘Build a Wall’ Trump had anything to do with the Wentworth by-election. There was enoughwhite supremacist madnessin Canberra as it was.
So just don’t read the World Socialist Website. It’s easier that way. In fact, forget we mentioned it.”
“To be honest, before the by-election we didn’t think very much about the whole democracy angle.
It hadn’t occurred to us that you’d be all that bothered whether it was Morrison or Dutton on Turnbull in power, seeing as how their policies are more or less the same anyway. You must admit, judging by actions rather than words, they’re difficult to distinguish, other than the blatant, obvious racism and far-right excess some of us add to the mix.
Take these two impressive lists onclimate changeandrefugeesfor example. Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison makes for a seamlessly integrated three-headed climate-catastrophe human-rights-abusing beast. A beautiful beast, we might add. But we’re biased.
Plus Turnbull took us further down the path to a police state than even Abbott could manage. Here’s asatirical little videoon the subject. (Police states are better digested laughing than crying, we find).
I mean show me a police state that’s not racist. Turnbull just put a ‘market friendly face’ on it. LikeMorrison puts on us. Market friendliness is essential these days.AndTurnbull presided over the ‘Foreign Interference Legislation’, which criminalises dissent and political organising, with up to 20 years jail for journalism the government deems unacceptable. (No prizes for guessing what kind of journalism police states deem unacceptable. Police states are notoriously sensitive to criticism).
The laws are so repressive they go ‘well beyondmeasures in force in other so-called democracies.’
Granted, the US did have to lean on Turnbull slightly to get him torush the legislationthrough parliament. It was priceless, though. The US interfering in Australian politics to push swift passage of foreign interference legislation. You wouldn’t read about it.
After the legislation was passed, Steve Bannon came to Australia andsang its praises. The laws are all bound up with that whole clash between China and the West that Bannon isitching for. Australia belongs on the ‘front line’ of that clash he reckons.
Anyway, truth be told, we were starting to get a little jealous of Turnbull. He was touted as the ‘moderate’ ‘centrist’ one, and here he was presiding over all the hard-right stuff we had our eyes on. It wasn’t fair. We wanted a piece of that action. We didn’t really think you’d mind all that much.
But we neglected the importance of politeness, clearly. You probably didn’t appreciate us championing awhite nationalist slogan, beloved by a former KKK grand wizard, the alt-right and neo-Nazi groups, just before the by-election. We got a little carried away.
We understand now that most people like their politics seemly and respectful on the surface. Then they can turn a blind eye to the ugliness underneath.
People are busy. They don’t have time to dig deep and inspect the rot at the roots of their society.
We should have realised that you’d find that white pride stuff shameful and repugnant. We should have remembered, for instance, that ruling elites on both sides of the aisle despise Donald Trump for much the same reason.
They happilyrubber stamp,abet,enable,support,ignoreandassisthis most reactionary policies, but they hate that he fails to hide the contemptuous prejudice, racism, cruelty and oppression that those policies represent.
Turnbull, on the other hand, understood the importance of the anodyne façade.As didBarack Obama.
The point is, Obama wrapped everything up in such lofty, expansive progressive language that most people didn’t look beyond his pretty words until it was too late. Which made Obama, according to the Executive Editor of Black Agenda Report, Glen Ford, not the lesser evil but themore effective evil.
What we’re trying to say is that we get confused when we see progressive types being so cool with such over the top violence, authoritarianism, climate sabotage and oppression. We forget about the power of empty progressive words.
Your preferred candidate, Turnbull, while no Obama in the rhetoric department, was at least adept at another kind of anodyne façade – playing the lame duck leader.
It was quite a clever trick really, appearing to be a thwarted progressive Liberal (they don’t exist, believe me), doing nothing, getting nowhere, stymied by the hard right, while advancing a hard right agenda all the time.
I mean apart from the stuff we’ve already mentioned about police states, criminalising dissent, climate change and refugees, look what else we achieved under Turnbull. We ramped uparms salesto despots and dictators, earmarked $200bn for arms manufacturers (we prefer to say ‘the military’), whipped up fear of African gangs tovilify the Sudanese community, tried our best tocut student loan schemesandthe pension, cut weekend penalty rates andwelfare and disability(again), punished welfare recipients with the cruelrobo-debtfiasco, passedregressive tax cutsthat benefit the wealthy, presided overongoing neglectof Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Australians, ignoring the urgentRedfern Statementcalling for an overhaul of Aboriginal affairs, and promised ‘special attention‘ to visas for white South African applicants, while torturing and rejecting black and brown refugees. We could go on.
Same agenda different face. We just rub people’s noses in their oppression harder. We didn’t think you’d mind.
We care about climate change.
“Politeness aside, we understand that although you’re mostly cool with the status quo, you do genuinely care about climate change.
We can’t ignore the polls. (We pretend to, but we don’t).Exit pollstell us that apart from rolling Turnbull, the biggest issue for you Wentworth voters was climate change, and replacing coal with renewable energy.
Which is a bummer for us.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison even takes Coal into the Australian Parliament
It’s not easy propping up coal and sabotaging renewable energy when voters care about their climate.
In the past we tried to hide the fact that97 percent of scientists agreeon climate change being real and human-induced. Our predecessors even stacked the ABC board withclimate deniers, to create fake ‘balance’ and confuse the issue, but the truth seems to have gotten out now.
So it must be difficult for you to put global warming out of your minds, especially as the opportunity to avert climate Armageddon is rapidly narrowing.
You’ve probably heard highlights from the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which, let’s face it, makes it look as though we’re actively trying to eliminate life on Earth.
What are the odds? Just as you snatch power, poised to squeeze every last dollar out of fossil fuels while you still can, the scariest and most strongly worded climate report ever comes out.
They reckon that we only haveuntil 2030to cut carbon emissions almost in half. Otherwise we’ll hit catastrophic climate tipping points andfeedback loops.
Which, even we admit, isn’t long.
That’s only four more election cycles. Makes sense you’d be thinking about it at the polls.
If you’ve been following coverage of the IPCC report you’ve probably heard that these tipping points are expected to kick in when we pass1.5 degrees Celsiusof warming on pre-industrial levels.
Not two degrees like everyone’s been saying.
So, look, we understand that it’s probably a little alarming, seeing as how the world has already warmed by one degree, which only leaves half a degree to go.
On top of which other eminent scientists have gone and said that the IPCC report isconservative, andunderstatesthe enormity of the crisis.
If only those F-ers were Australian citizens and our new police state was in full swing. Then we could whip out that Foreign Interference Legislation and slam them with a charge of reputational damage or something.Lawyers reckonthe Foreign Interference laws are good to go for that sort of thing.
See – we Liberals are lifters. We get up early in the morning to do more than our fair share of global warming.
Given all of that, we’re hoping most of you don’t delve too far into the kinds of things that scientists are saying these days. Like this guy, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, who says, ‘climate change is now reaching theend-game, where very soon humanity must choose between taking unprecedented action, or accepting that it has been left too late and bear the consequences.’
‘Unprecedented action’… ‘end game’. What would he know? He’s just a professor of physics specialising in complex systems and nonlinearity, founding director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (1992-2018), former chair of the German Advisory Council on Global Change and senior climate advisor to the European Union, the German Chancellor and Pope Francis.
‘No precedent’. Again, an amateur. Just a journalist. Quoting the IPCC consensus reached byhundreds of scientific expertsfrom universities all over the world. Amateurs, all of them.
See what we’re up against? It’s not easy campaigning during civilisational end-times, selling apocalypse and omnicide. In the scheme of things we did remarkably well in Wentworth. We got 49 percent of the vote, omnicide and all.
Which is especially impressive considering that renewables are rapidly becomingcheaper than coal. Snake oil salesmen had it easy. This is tough.
So we get that many of you wanted to give our pro-coal ‘business as usual’ agenda a hiding at the by-election.
Even school kids are fed up.Children are going on strikefrom their schools across the country on November 30thto protest our (non) response to the IPCC report. ‘Make coal history’ they say. Little smart alecks.
Do not, we repeat DO NOT encourage your children, or any children, to take part in this climate action.
Once we figure out how to legally expel gay kids from schools we’ll get to work on pro-environmental children.
The worst of it is that you folks in Wentworth and those blasted kids aren’t alone in your attachment to a life-sustaining biosphere. Most Australians would like to preserve life on Earth. (How soft can you get?)\
According to polling, themajority of Australiansare worried about climate change and would like to see us phase out coal and replace it with renewables.
We do understand.
You want climate action.
The trouble is, that makes governing on behalf of fossil fuel giants very difficult.
We were hoping that you wealthy Wentworth voters might at least be too comfortable to care about climate change. But the majority of you are obviously smart enough to realise that your wealth won’t protect you from hurricanes, storms, heatwaves, mass migration, societal breakdown and the global unrest that thePentagon sees coming.
Nor will money protect your children or your children’s children. Unless you’re banking onspace colonisation, which is a gamble.
We realise thatnot all of youin Wentworth are wealthy, but those of you who are might have also begun wondering what will become of yourwaterfront propertieswhen climate change bites.
Once you start imagining your coastlines wracked bystorm surges, floods and erosion– Bondi, Clovelly, Nielsen Park, Redleaf, Double Bay, those gentle oases from the city bustle, where anyone, no matter their income, can bask in some gentle sunshine – you start to realise that the waterfront properties are the least of it.
You probably start feeling a little sad about the imminent loss of such natural beauty: the morning and evening walks along the shore, children playing in the sand, soft breezes, sailboats bobbing in the distance, birds… sunrises… sunsets.
Imagining those tranquil havens as scenes of destruction might rouse a sense of grief in you, or guilt even, for future generations. ‘What are we doing to them?’ you might ask yourself. ‘What kind of world are we leaving behind?’ ‘How can we stop this?’
‘Think of Our Future‘ pleads the placard of one young girl participating in the school climate strike.
No matter how much money you have, or don’t have, you are human. You care about life on Earth, your children, their children and other people’s children. You don’t want to leave a hell hole behind for them.
We get it. You’d like us to do the right thing and address the climate emergency. You saw a chance to register your feelings on the subject and you took it.
So here’s what we’ve decided. To hell with you.
There are profits to be made. Now. Not after some transition process to clean energy, which will require us to turn our brains on, engage with science, and do some genuine problem-solving.
We’ll be out of office by the time the benefits start flowing anyway. What’s in it for us? Climate change might be here and now, but so is coal.
How long do you think we’ve waited to get our hands on this kind of power? Do you think we’re relinquishing it now? Do you think we’re about to leave all that money in the ground? Just because of some stupid by-election? A few votes? The wishes of the majority of the Australian population?
You and your democracy. Didn’t you read thatPrinceton study? Governments don’t govern on behalf of the people any more. They govern on behalf of corporations, and the wealthy elites that own them. Everyone knows that.
Like Adani. That’s who we represent. Our job isn’t to stand up to Adani on behalf of you, it’s to stand up toyouon behalf of Adani.
We’re happy that you’ve had your little moment of democracy. We hope you feel better now. It’s time to go back to your ordinary lives, and we’ll go back to our powerful ones, looking after our powerful mates.
You might prefer politeness, but there’s nothing polite about ending human civilisation.
In fact, sugar-coating it will only seal humanity’s fate, like hiding cyanide in a chocolate drop. So here’s the impolite reality of our response to you and your ‘historic’ swing.
Screw the future. Screw your children and their children’s children. Screwourchildren and their children’s children.
We heard what you’re trying to say. We’re not listening.”
* Disclaimer: The above dialogue is fictional. It is a work of fancy and does not claim to represent the actual intentions or motives of any individuals. It is, however, loosely informed by evidence-based literatures on the psychology ofanti-environmentalandinhumaneclimate and immigration policies.
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During an interview with theAssociated Presson Tuesday, President Trump was asked about climate change.
He responded with a digression about the intensity of hurricanes but fell back on a familiar talking point about the economy, saying that “what I’m not willing to do is sacrifice the economic well-being of our country for something that nobody really knows.”
It echoed comments he made Sunday on60 Minutesabout climate change. “I don’t want to give trillions and trillions of dollars.
I don’t want to lose millions and millions of jobs.
I don’t want to be put at a disadvantage,” he said.
The remarks came shortly afterHurricane Michaeltore through Florida and as an international panel of scientists warned that the world may have as little as 12 years to act to limit global warming to1.5 degrees Celsius.
When pressed on climate change, Trump and other elected Republicans routinely use the economy as a shield to avoid committing to any policies to slow or adapt to climate change.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) toldCNNthat he believes humans contribute to climate change, “but I’m also not going to destroy our economy.” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) made a similar point during adebatewith challenger Beto O’Rourke, saying O’Rourke’s concern about climate change is about “the power to control the economy.”
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) said he hadn’t read the new climate report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, but also agreed that the economy comes before fighting climate change.
“We ought to be talking about the things that we can do and still maintain a strong economy, because we’re not going to be able to address it unless we keep a strong economy,” he toldthe Hill.
All these comments are based on the false premise that fighting climate change will come at the expense of jobs, businesses, and growth.
As the latest IPCC report showed, the changing climate will be punishing for the global economy, while working to keep warming in check will yield immense financial benefits in the long term.
Climate change is already hurting the economy
The planet has already warmed by 1 degree Celsius since the Industrial Revolution, and we’re seeing the consequences now in the form of more frequent and severe heat waves, 8 inches of sea level rise, and more intense rainfall, all of which have cost the United States dearly.
In particular, rising average temperatures have boosted the raw ingredients of extreme weather events, leading them to cause more destruction than they would have otherwise.Hurricane Florence, for example, caused $22 billion in damages. Scientists found the storm dumped 50 percent more rain due to climate change and flooded 11,000 additional homes due to sea level rise.Hurricane Michaelis estimated to have led to $10 billion in destruction.
These storms came after 2017, the costliest year on record fornatural disasters. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and tropical storms, all exacerbated by climate change, cost the US economy at least $306 billion.
And as temperatures rise, so will the tolls. In its latest report, the IPCC estimated that the global economy would take a $54 trillion hit if the world warms by 1.5°C by 2100. That price tag rises $69 trillion if temperatures reach 2°C.
In other words, there’s a huge price tag to doing nothing on climate change.
Future economic growth lies in fighting climate change
On the other hand, increasing sustainability by using more renewable energy, curbing greenhouse gas emissions, and becoming more energy-efficient would save the global economy$26 trillionby 2030.
And those numbers are poised to grow further in the United States:Solar powerhas surpassed natural gas and wind as the largest source of new energy generation.
We’ve also heard rhetoric similar to Trump’s before about previous efforts to protect the environment. The policies of theEnvironmental Protection Agency, for example, have long been criticized as a drain on the economy.
Environmental regulationsdo hurt some sectors while boosting others. However, on balance, they’ve been a huge net benefit to the economy. The EPA’sClean Air Act, for instance, has saved $22 trillion in health care costs and created a$782 billion marketfor environmental goods and services.
Some Republicans do recognize that fighting climate change could benefit the economy. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) has proposed acarbon taxto regulate greenhouse gas emissions. “Those who choose to ignore it will pay a price. We all will ultimately,” Curbelo told theWashington Examiner.
William Nordhaus, a professor of economics at Yale, has been recognized by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for his work – dating back to the 1970s – in understanding and modelling how the global economy and the climate interact.
Nordhaus shares the $1 million Nobel prize with Paul Romer – a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business – who has won for his work demonstrating the fundamental importance of internal factors, such as technological innovation, in driving a nation’s economic growth.
Together, the Nobel Committee says, the two laureates have “designed methods that address some of our time’s most fundamental and pressing issues: long-term sustainable growth in the global economy and the welfare of the global population”.
Nordhaus began his work on climate change in the 1970s, when the evidence of manmade global warming had begun to emerge. He developed a set of simple but dynamic models of the relationship between the global economy and climate. These tools – called ‘integrated assessment models’ – enable us to simulate the consequences for both economy and climate of the decisions, assumptions and policies made and enacted today.
Nordhaus’ work has led him to conclude that the best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate their effects is a globally enforced system of carbon taxes – a course of action is recommended in the IPCC’s report.
Romer’s work, meanwhile, has led him to develop a set of ideas called endogenous growth theory. Traditionally, economists have held that a nation’s economic growth is driven largely by external factors – outside investment, for example. But Romer’s theory holds that the opposite is true; that it is internal – or endogenous – factors that hold the key to a country’s prosperity. This is important because it demonstrates to governments and policymakers that sustainable growth is achievable by directing resources and investment internally towards drivers of technological innovation, such as education and research.
Australia’s Greenhouse Gas emissions have soared since LNP stopped the price on carbon pollution.
While Nordhaus’ work is the most overtly concerned with combatting climate change, Romer’s is also key, because we need technological innovation on our side in the fight against climate change. Asked to name the most important lesson from his during the interview with the Nobel Prize Committee included above, Romer answered: “What happens with technology is within our control.”
“If we collectively set our minds to improving technology,” he says, “we can improve it in a direction that seems to be important to us and at a faster rate… Instead of treating it like the weather, we can treat [technology] as something that we control.”
The contributions of these two economists are “crucial steps forward in addressing central questions about the future of humanity,” the Nobel Committee has said. To move towards a system of sustainable global economic growth, we need to understand the best direction of travel. Romer and Nordhaus have helped to point the way – and their road signs could not be any timelier.
MR ENTSCH: (Leichhardt) (11:32): There’s no doubt about it; the Great Barrier Reef is the greatest living natural wonder on our planet, and I’m fortunate enough to represent a very large portion of that natural wonder, a very significant amount of which the previous speaker was talking about in relation to the impacts of bleaching.
Rather than just having read some of the stuff that you see being released by the nay-sayers,
I actually have a lot of experience on the ground.
A lot of my businesses are heavily reliant on the health of the Barrier Reef.
It doesn’t do anybody any favours, neither us as managers nor businesses that rely on it, when you get this nonsense that’s being continually perpetuated by groups that are out there pushing their own agendas.
They’re creating very, very colourful videos about the fact that the reef is dying, when nothing could be further from the truth.
But they’re doing it, playing to their own audiences.
I tell you now, they would never, ever play those videos up in my electorate, because we know the facts.
(Videos are shown regularly in Cairns showing the damage to the Great Barrier Reef caused by Global Warming)
You’ve got the likes of the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Wilderness Society, the WWF and others pushing these things.
The whole thing looks more like a fundraising campaign, because they’re playing to very gullible audiences in metropolitan areas, most of whom have never, ever seen and do not understand the facts relating to the reef.
But they do it as a very effective fundraiser, as they race out there with their underpants on the outside and capes on, saying, ‘We’re going to save the reef.’
The reef does not require saving.
(67% of coral north of Cairns dead due to coral bleaching)
(Warren Entsch denies reality)
It requires very good management.
We are seen already as the best reef managers in the world, and it’s important that we continue to be the best reef managers in the world.
I say that because I have a real strong interest in the reef, as does my electorate.
More than 64,000 jobs and about $6.4 billion of our economy—a very significant part of our economy—are reliant on a healthy reef.
It’s the biggest economic driver in my electorate; it’s one of the biggest employers in my electorate.
I have to say I get very, very angry when I see these groups out there constantly talking the reef down.
They can be talking about the challenges that we have, certainly.
We talk about coral bleaching—it’s not something we do here in Australia that causes the coral bleaching.
(Local Tour operators in Cairns demand strong climate action)
(REEF TOURISM OPERATORS MAKE HISTORIC CLIMATE CHANGE DECLARATION
Thu 3 May 2018
The Reef tourism industry in Far North Queensland has taken a strong stand on the need to protect the Great Barrier Reef from the impacts of climate change.
The Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators (AMPTO) today signed a formal Declaration demanding strong climate policies to protect the future of the Reef.
The Declaration was signed by AMPTO members at a summit in Cairns hosted jointly with the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS).
“The Reef is still a dynamic, vibrant, awesome place but it is under serious threat from climate change and we need our leaders to put in place strong climate and energy policies to protect its future,” said Col McKenzie, CEO of AMPTO.)
(The people of Cairns are demanding climate action.)
It comes from hot currents that come across the waters from South America.
It’s what happens in China, in India, in the US, in the Northern Hemisphere, that impacts on that.
We should be making noises about it, but we’re doing a hell of a lot of good work here in Australia mitigating those challenges.
We’re not able to stop it, until they start dealing with climate change issues in the Northern Hemisphere, where our large polluters are, but we certainly can help to manage it and show others.
We’re doing that by getting heat-resistant corals.
This is some of the work that’s been done from the $444 billion—close to half a billion—that’s been recently announced.)
I also noticed that there was some criticism regarding the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.
The foundation is a very credible organisation.
It’s highly respected and has had an outstanding history in relation to the handling of government funds.
It’s not going to be spending the $444 million; that money will be disbursed out to those wonderful people that are doing the crown-of-thorns starfish work and a whole range of other credible organisations.
The foundation is basically just holding that money and dispensing it out to others, and it’s certainly more capable to do that than most.
It’s very unfair and unreasonable that it should be criticised—it’s a highly reputable not-for-profit organisation.
I think it makes a lot of sense that it’s able to do that.
I just want to say again that we have to be very, very careful when criticising.
Every time we start criticising, we’re talking it down, and we are then allowing others to make assumptions that what is being published is true; it is not.
We are great reef managers.
People come looking to us for advice from around the world.
A lot of the campaigns out there against the reef are actually campaigns against fossil fuel, and they see the reef as collateral damage.
I applaud the work that we’ve done, and let’s continue to make sure that we do so.
Firefighters from Brea, Calif., inspect and cut fireline on Aug. 1, 2018, as the Ranch Fire burns near Upper Lake, Calif. A day earlier, it and the River Fire totaled more than 74,000 acres. (Stuart W. Palley/For The Washington Post)
A rise of 7 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 4 degrees Celsius, compared with preindustrial levels would be catastrophic, according to scientists.
Many coral reefs would dissolve in increasingly acidic oceans.
Parts of Manhattan and Miami would be underwater without costly coastal defenses.
Extreme heat waves would routinely smother large parts of the globe.
But the administration did not offer this dire forecast as part of an argument to combat climate change.
Just the opposite: The analysis assumes the planet’s fate is already sealed.
The draft statement, issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), was written to justify President Trump’s decision to freeze federal fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks built after 2020.
While the proposal would increase greenhouse gas emissions, the impact statement says, that policy would add just a very small drop to a very big, hot bucket.
“The amazing thing they’re saying is human activities are going to lead to this rise of carbon dioxide that is disastrous for the environment and society. And then they’re saying they’re not going to do anything about it,” said Michael MacCracken, who served as a senior scientist at the U.S. Global Change Research Program from 1993 to 2002.
The document projects that global temperature will rise by nearly 3.5 degrees Celsius above the average temperature between 1986 and 2005 regardless of whether Obama-era tailpipe standards take effect or are frozen for six years, as the Trump administration has proposed.
The global average temperature rose more than 0.5 degrees Celsius between 1880, the start of industrialization, and 1986, so the analysis assumes a roughly 4 degree Celsius or 7 degree Fahrenheit increase from preindustrial levels.
The world would have to make deep cuts in carbon emissions to avoid this drastic warming,the analysis states. And that “would require substantial increases in technology innovation and adoption compared to today’s levels and would require the economy and the vehicle fleet to move away from the use of fossil fuels, which is not currently technologically feasible or economically feasible.”
The White House did not respond to requests for comment.
World leaders have pledged to keep the world from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius compared with preindustrial levels, and agreed to try to keep the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. But the current greenhouse gas cuts pledged under the 2015 Paris climate agreement are not steep enough to meet either goal.
Scientists predict a 4 degree Celsius rise by the century’s end if countries take no meaningful actions to curb their carbon output.
Australia’s Greenhouse gas Emissions soar since Abbott axed the Carbon Price.
Trump has vowed to exit the Paris accord and called climate change a hoax.
In the past two months, the White House has pushed to dismantle nearly half a dozen major rules aimed at reducing greenhouse gases, deregulatory moves intended to save companies hundreds of millions of dollars.
Administration estimates acknowledge that the policies would release far more greenhouse gas emissions from America’s energy and transportation sectors than otherwise would have been allowed.
David Pettit, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council who testified against Trump’s freeze of fuel efficiency standards this week in Fresno, Calif., said his organization is prepared to use the administration’s own numbers to challenge their regulatory rollbacks.
He noted that the NHTSA document projects that if the world takes no action to curb emissions, current atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide would rise from 410 parts per million to 789 ppm by 2100.
“I was shocked when I saw it,” Pettit said in a phone interview. “These are their numbers.
They aren’t our numbers.”
Conservatives who condemned Obama’s climate initiatives as regulatory overreach have defended the Trump administration’s approach, calling it a more reasonable course.
Obama’s climate policies were costly to industry and yet “mostly symbolic,” because they would have made barely a dent in global carbon dioxide emissions, said Heritage Foundation research fellow Nick Loris, adding: “Frivolous is a good way to describe it.”
NHTSA commissioned ICF International Inc., a consulting firm based in Fairfax, Va., to help prepare the impact statement. An agency spokeswoman said the Environmental Protection Agency “and NHTSA welcome comments on all aspects of the environmental analysis” but declined to provide additional information about the agency’s long-term temperature forecast.
Federal agencies typically do not include century-long climate projections in their environmental impact statements.
Instead, they tend to assess a regulation’s impact during the life of the program — the years a coal plant would run, for example, or the amount of time certain vehicles would be on the road.
Using the no-action scenario “is a textbook example of how to lie with statistics,” said MIT Sloan School of Management professor John Sterman. “First, the administration proposes vehicle efficiency policies that would do almost nothing [to fight climate change].
Then [the administration] makes their impact seem even smaller by comparing their proposals to what would happen if the entire world does nothing.”
This week, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres warned leaders gathered in New York, “If we do not change course in the next two years, we risk runaway climate change. . . . Our future is at stake.”
Federal and independent research — including projections included in last month’s analysis of the revised fuel-efficiency standards — echoes that theme. The environmental impact statement cites “evidence of climate-induced changes,” such as more frequent droughts, floods, severe storms and heat waves, and estimates that seas could rise nearly three feet globally by 2100 if the world does not decrease its carbon output.
Two articles published in the journal Science since late July — both co-authored by federal scientists — predicted that the global landscape could be transformed “without major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions” and declared that soaring temperatures worldwide bore humans’ “fingerprint.”
“With this administration, it’s almost as if this science is happening in another galaxy,” said Rachel Cleetus, policy director and lead economist for the Union of Concerned Scientists’ climate and energy program. “That feedback isn’t informing the policy.”
Administration officials say they take federal scientific findings into account when crafting energy policy — along with their interpretation of the law and President Trump’s agenda. The EPA’s acting administrator, Andrew Wheeler, has been among the Trump officials who have noted that U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants have fallen over time.
But the debate comes after a troubling summer of devastating wildfires, record-breaking heat and a catastrophic hurricane — each of which, federal scientists say, signals a warming world.
Some Democratic elected officials, such as Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, said Americans are starting to recognize these events as evidence of climate change. On Feb. 25, Inslee met privately with several Cabinet officials, including then-EPA chief Scott Pruitt, and Western state governors. Inslee accused them of engaging in “morally reprehensible” behavior that threatened his children and grandchildren, according to four meeting participants, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to provide details of the private conversation.
In an interview, Inslee said that the ash from wildfires that covered Washington residents’ car hoods this summer, and the acrid smoke that filled their air, has made more voters of both parties grasp the real-world implications of climate change.
“There is anger in my state about the administration’s failure to protect us,” he said. “When you taste it on your tongue, it’s a reality.”
A woman looks at rising floodwaters from the garage of a home in Soddy-Daisy, Tenn., on Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018. (Doug Strickland/Chattanooga Times Free Pass/Associated Press)
Juliet Eilperin is The Washington Post’s senior national affairs correspondent, covering how the new administration is transforming a range of U.S. policies and the federal government itself. She is the author of two books — one on sharks and another on Congress, not to be confused with each other — and has worked for The Post since 1998.
Brady Dennis is a national reporter for The Washington Post, focusing on the environment and public health issues. He previously spent years covering the nation’s economy. Dennis was a finalist for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for a series of explanatory stories about the global financial crisis.
Chris Mooney covers climate change, energy, and the environment. He has reported from the 2015 Paris climate negotiations, the Northwest Passage, and the Greenland ice sheet, among other locations, and has written four books about science, politics and climate change.
This year the average concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere has hit its highest level in 800,000 years.
Yet without urgent efforts to reduce emissions, concentrations, and the damage caused by climate change, this concentration will continue to grow.
One of the sectors where CO2 emissions continue to rise is transport.
Recent analysis of the carbon budget suggests that petrol and diesel car sales will have to end by 2030 in order to counter this trend.
We all understand the implications of driving, in terms of CO2 and other emissions, and many of us are acting to do something to reduce the extent of our impacts.
So why is this not translating into a reduction in emissions?
Electric Buses Shenzhen China
The reasons are many, varied, and complex:
• The move to heavier, and therefore less fuel efficient cars, as the ‘high-end’ car market becomes increasingly dominant;
• There may be implications of a shift away from diesel to petrol engines as consumers respond to air quality issues. Diesel combustion emits more material that affects air quality, while petrol emits higher levels of CO2;
• We continue to invest heavily in roads, while neglecting other modes of transport, stimulating more car travel. And this doesn’t even include air travel – another growth area for carbon emissions.
Travel patterns are changing.
On the motorway network there is significant traffic growth. And the baby boomers who are entering retirement now have higher car ownership levels than previous cohorts and drive more.
But in major cities, traffic levels have reduced and more people reach the centre by public transport.
Young people are learning to drive later and are making fewer trips by car.
Young men (17-29 years) are making 44 per cent fewer trips, and young women 26 per cent fewer trips, by car than they were in 1992-94.
These trends suggest that, through our continued investment in a huge roads programme, we are providing for travel demand that future generations may not generate.
Worse, we risk locking in the most damaging aspects of travel demand by continually developing the road network.
Some of the problems associated with investing in roads were spelled out recently in a report published by the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, based on research by Sustrans, UWE and Nef.
The report considers specifically whether there may be alternatives to the £1.4bn proposal for a new stretch of M4 around Cardiff and Newport.
It discusses the extent to which the proposal would exacerbate societal and environmental challenges, including the impacts that run counter to the needs of future generations.
The fact that emissions from transport in Wales have only decreased by 3 per cent since 1990 emphasises the need to think differently about transport provision. Apart from anything else, the development is unlikely to be effective in alleviating congestion. Much better options are offered, including improved provision for walking and cycling.
Lifestyle changes key to the decarbonisation of the transport system
A Decarbonising Transport in Wales report, published by the Institute of Welsh Affairs, argues that “it is only by changing its relationship with the automobile that Wales can hope to meet its environmental targets”. The report acknowledges that transport in Wales is dominated by roads, and that most emissions emanate from the private car.
But the current reliance on technical solutions, primarily electrification of the private vehicle fleet, will not do enough to reduce carbon emissions quickly enough.
The report considers options for reducing car use and mitigating its negative effects, including greater application of 20mph speed limits, a review of parking policy and consideration of ways of increasing the costs of car use to bring it closer in line with the costs of public transport.
The report also considers how travel mode choice can be influenced by “changing the relationship with the car, stripping away its role as a status symbol”, possibly by moving away from private ownership to a pay per use model. It also suggests that electric vehicles are only an adequate solution in some settings, such as rural areas.
Similarly, another recent paper, which modelled pathways to lower carbon emissions in Scotland, argues that energy consumption and pollutant emissions from transport are greatly influenced by lifestyle choices and socio-cultural factors.
Policies to change travel demand patterns can be implemented sooner, and will impact more significantly, to achieve emissions reduction.
Both of the papers are unequivocal about the role that walking and cycling needs to play in achieving decarbonisation of the transport system.
If the UK is to make its contribution to worldwide efforts to stave off the very worst effects of climate change, we need to act fast on UK transport policy, and to urgently rebalance transport investment patterns. We need to prioritise demand management and behaviour change measures above our reliance on technological fixes, and to cease investment in transport solutions that serve an historic and damaging paradigm.
Dr Andy Cope is director of insight at transport campaign group Sustrans.
We must challenge the corporations that urge us to live in a throwaway society rather than seeking ‘greener’ ways of maintaining the status quo
Illustration: Ben Jennings
Do you believe in miracles?
If so, please form an orderly queue. Plenty of people imagine we can carry on as we are, as long as we substitute one material for another.
Last month, a request to Starbucks and Costa to replace their plastic coffee cups with cups made from corn starch was retweeted 60,000 times, before it was deleted.
Those who supported this call failed to ask themselves where the corn starch would come from, how much land would be needed to grow it, or how much food production it would displace.
They overlooked the damage this cultivation would inflict: growing corn (maize) is notorious for causing soil erosion, and often requires heavy doses of pesticides and fertilisers.
The problem is not just plastic: it is mass disposability.
Or, to put it another way, the problem is pursuing, on the one planet known to harbour life, a four-planet lifestyle.
Regardless of what we consume, the sheer volume of consumption is overwhelming the Earth’s living systems.
Don’t get me wrong. Our greed for plastic is a major environmental blight, and the campaigns to limit its use are well motivated and sometimes effective. But we cannot address our environmental crisis by swapping one overused resource for another. When I challenged that call, some people asked me, “So what should we use instead?”
The right question is, “How should we live?” But systemic thinking is an endangered species.
Part of the problem is the source of the plastic campaigns: David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II series. The first six episodes had strong, coherent narratives but the seventh, which sought to explain the threats facing the wonderful creatures the series revealed, darted from one issue to another.
We were told we could “do something” about the destruction of ocean life.
We were not told what.
There was no explanation of why the problems are happening and what forces are responsible, or how they can be engaged.
Amid the general incoherence, one contributor stated: “It comes down, I think, to us each taking responsibility for the personal choices in our everyday lives.
That’s all any of us can be expected to do.” This perfectly represents the mistaken belief that a better form of consumerism will save the planet.
The problems we face are structural: a political system captured by commercial interests, and an economic system that seeks endless growth.
Of course we should try to minimise our own impacts, but we cannot confront these forces merely by “taking responsibility” for what we consume.
Unfortunately, these are issues that the BBC in general and David Attenborough in particular avoid.
I admire Attenborough in many ways, but I am no fan of his environmentalism.
For many years, it was almost undetectable.
When he did at last speak out, he avoided challenging power – either speaking in vague terms or focusing on problems for which powerful interests are not responsible.
This tendency may explain Blue Planet’s skirting of the obvious issues.
The most obvious is the fishing industry, which turns the astonishing life forms the rest of the series depicted into seafood.
Throughout the oceans, this industry, driven by our appetites and protected by governments, is causing cascading ecological collapse.
Even marine plastic is in large part a fishing issue.
It turns out that 46% of the Great Pacific garbage patch – which has come to symbolise our throwaway society – is composed of discarded nets, and much of the rest consists of other kinds of fishing gear.
From this misdirection arise a thousand perversities.
One prominent environmentalist posted a picture of the king prawns she had bought, celebrating the fact that she had persuaded the supermarket to put them in her own container rather than a plastic bag, and linking this to the protection of the seas. But buying prawns causes many times more damage to marine life than any plastic in which they are wrapped.
We are kept remarkably ignorant of such issues. As consumers, we are confused, bamboozled and almost powerless – and corporate power has gone to great lengths to persuade us to see ourselves this way.
The BBC’s approach to environmental issues is highly partisan, siding with a system that has sought to transfer responsibility for structural forces to individual shoppers.
Yet it is only as citizens taking political action that we can promote meaningful change.
The answer to the question “How should we live?” is: “Simply.” But living simply is highly complicated.
In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, the government massacred the Simple Lifers.
This is generally unnecessary: today they can safely be marginalised, insulted and dismissed. The ideology of consumption is so prevalent that it has become invisible: it is the plastic soup in which we swim.
One-planet living means not only seeking to reduce our own consumption, but also mobilising against the system that promotes the great tide of junk.
This means fighting corporate power, changing political outcomes and challenging the growth-based, world-consuming system we call capitalism.
As last month’s Hothouse Earth paper, which warned of the danger of flipping the planet into a new, irreversible climatic state, concluded: “Incremental linear changes … are not enough to stabilise the Earth system.
Widespread, rapid and fundamental transformations will likely be required to reduce the risk of crossing the threshold.”
Disposable coffee cups made from new materials are not just a non-solution: they are a perpetuation of the problem. Defending the planet means changing the world.