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Platforms for a Green New Deal

Platforms for a Green New Deal

Two new books in review

Does the Green New Deal assume a faith in “green growth”? Does the Green New Deal make promises that go far beyond what our societies can afford? Will the Green New Deal saddle ordinary taxpayers with huge tax bills? Can the Green New Deal provide quick solutions to both environmental overshoot and economic inequality?

These questions have been posed by people from across the spectrum – but of course proponents of a Green New Deal may not agree on all of the goals, let alone an implementation plan. So it’s good to see two concise manifestos – one British, one American – released by Verso in November.

The Case for the Green New Deal (by Ann Pettifor), and A Planet to Win: Why We Need a Green New Deal (by Kate Aronoff, Alyssa Battistoni, Daniel Aldana Cohen and Thea Riofrancos) each clock in at a little under 200 pages, and both books are written in accessible prose for a general audience.

Surprisingly, there is remarkably little overlap in coverage and it’s well worth reading both volumes.

The Case for a Green New Deal takes a much deeper dive into monetary policy. A Planet To Win devotes many pages to explaining how a socially just and environmentally wise society can provide a healthy, prosperous, even luxurious lifestyle for all citizens, once we understand that luxury does not consist of ever-more-conspicuous consumption.

The two books wind to their destinations along different paths but they share some very important principles.

Covers of The Case For The Green New Deal and A Planet To Win

First, both books make clear that a Green New Deal must not shirk a head-on confrontation with the power of corporate finance.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Dammed Good Question about the Green New Deal

Dammed Good Question about the Green New Deal

Hydroelectric power from dams might be the thorniest question that proponents of the Green New Deal (GND) have to grapple with. Providing more energy than solar and wind combined, dams could well become the backup for energy if it proves impossible to get off of fossil fuels fast enough. 

An August 2019 forum on the GND included representatives from the Sunrise Movement, Renew Missouri and three of us in the Green Party. Rev. Elston McCowan asked, “What does the Green New Deal say about rivers and dams?” I said “That’s a dammed good question” and went into some of the issues below. Howie Hawkins and Dario Hunter, both candidates for the Green Party presidential nomination, told of their participation in local efforts to block dam construction. But trying to defeat a single dam begs the question of what policy a political organization has toward them. [1]

GND proposals from the Democratic Party, like those of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, ignore both nuclear power and dams. Yet dams have ominous implications for the world’s rivers. 

Rivers and lakes are an integral part of human existence, with virtually all major inland cities being located next to one of them. They provide water for drinking, bathing, food, and medicine. Their sustenance is not just for humans but for untold numbers of tiny organisms, insects, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals. Rivers integrate plant and animal life forms and connect human communities to each other. 

As capitalism grew, rivers transported huge quantities of lumber from clear cuts, oil from under the ground and coal ripped from mountains. Rivers have been used for trash disposal, as if carrying it somewhere else would make it vanish.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

A Mining Explosion: The Dirty Little Secret Of The Green Revolution

A Mining Explosion: The Dirty Little Secret Of The Green Revolution

Mining Explosion

Leftwing darling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s proposed Green New Deal, despite its flimsy 14 pages total, is nothing if not all-encompassing and vaulting in its ambition. The bill was also crucial to Ocasio-Cortez’s rapid ascent to acronym status and anointing as the queen of green.

Thanks to her How Dare You tour, 16-year old Greta Thunberg is now the undisputed leader of the growing ranks of school-bunking climate crisis warriors all over the world. 

The Greta show arrived in MINING.COM’s hometown of Vancouver last week to take Make-Love-Not-CO2 youths (and second-life hippies) on yet another march and bridge-blockade. The footslogging Greta groupies are beginning to resemble the disastrous 1212 children’s crusade – with higher ground now doing service for holy land.

Much of the response to AOC and Thunberg (who seem to get on like a house on fire if the Guardian is to be believed) on the right has been mocking and dismissive, accusing the pair of swapping hamburgers for pie in the sky.

This is a mistake. 

Red turns green

Some estimates put the green economy in the US at $1.3 trillion in annual revenue already – that’s 7 percent of GDP – with a workforce of 9.5m Americans.  

Within the Green New Deal is a goal of “meeting 100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources”.  AOC has no deadline of course, but no doubt Greta would want that for the whole world before she hits drinking age.

A seminal paper by Bernstein’s European mining and metals team led by Paul Gait outlines just how fundamental a restructure of the global industrial economy is necessary to bring this – or even a fraction of this – about. 

And all of it to the great benefit of mining.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Energy vs DNA

Energy vs DNA

Rembrandt van Rijn Landscape With the Rest on the Flight into Egypt 1647

Hmm, energy. Is it a good idea I be drawn back into the subject? We used to do so much on the topic, Nicole Foss and I, in the first years of The Automatic Earth, and before that at the brilliant Oil Drum, where we had all those equally brilliant oil professionals to guide us on. So why revisit it? Well, for one thing, because a friend asked.

And for another because things -may have – changed over the past 15 years or so. Not that I think the peak oil idea, which is that we reached the peak in 2005 or so, changed. Yeah, unconventional oil, shale, fracking etc., came about, but that has nothing to do with peak oil. Just look at the EROEI (energy return) you get from shale. You go from 100:1 to, if you’re lucky, 5:1. You can’t build a complex society on that.

It’s not an accident that shale oil firms are going broke all over; even ultra low interest rates can’t save them. But all that still doesn’t come close to scratching the surface of our energy -or oil, for that matter.- conundrum.

I’ve never understood what the idea behind the Extinction Rebellion is. Or, you know, that they know what they’re talking about. Do they know the physics?

The general idea, yeah, but not how they aim to reach their goals. Far as I can tell, it’s about less CO2 -and methane, supposedly- emissions, but I don’t get how they want to achieve that. I’ve read some but not all of their theories, and it’s not obvious. It feels like they want less of various things, only to replace them with something else. Like they think once oil is gone, you can put wind and solar in its staid, and off we go. Tell me how wrong I am. Please do.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

‘Planet of the Humans,’ Possibly Most Bracing Environmental Documentary Ever Made, Premieres at Traverse City Film Festival

‘Planet of the Humans,’ Possibly Most Bracing Environmental Documentary Ever Made, Premieres at Traverse City Film Festival

Director Jeff Gibbs argues we’re heading toward ‘total human apocalypse’ and green energy is ‘not going to save us, it’s actually going to kill us faster’

Picture
An image from “Planet of the Humans,” directed by Jeff Gibbs. Photo courtesy Traverse City Film Festival

Films about environmental issues have long been a staple of the documentary form, a genre that in recent years alone has brought us Before the FloodChasing IceChasing Coral and, of course, An Inconvenient Truth. But those documentaries arguably pale in importance to Planet of the Humans, which just held its world premiere at the Traverse City Film Festival. 

The film directed by Jeff Gibbs, produced by Gibbs and Ozzie Zehner and executive produced by Michael Moore, makes the deeply disturbing case that unless we reverse course, the human species faces ruin.

“The ultimate problem is that there are too many people consuming too much and we don’t even have a word or a name for what this total human apocalypse is called,” Gibbs told me during an interview in Traverse City. “What is the word for a single species that’s overrun an entire planet and is causing mayhem in every direction?”

There is nothing you will ever have in your life that’s not an extraction from the planet earth. And so we’ve all lost touch with that.
​–Planet of the Humans director Jeff Gibbs to Nonfictionfilm.com

Gibbs, an environmentalist, film producer and composer who has worked on several of Moore’s documentaries, describes himself as “worried sick” about climate change. But unlike others who focus solely on the danger presented by global warming, Gibbs sees climate change as symptomatic of a larger problem – overpopulation and consumption of Earth’s resources.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Green New Deal and Accursed Wealth

The Green New Deal and Accursed Wealth

Pulp mills, Longview, Washington. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Accursed Wealth! O’er bounding human laws,
Of every evil thou remains’t the cause:
Victims of want, those wretches such as me,
Too truly lay their wretchedness to thee:
Thou art the bar that keeps from being fed,
And thine our loss of labour and of bread.

Al Gore missed this memo, written at some time between 1809 and 1813, by the poet John Clare in Norhamptonshire, England. However, in his latest op-ed, It’s Not too Late – The climate crisis is the battle of our time and we can win, in the New York Times, September 22, 2019, the former Vice President helpfully notes that the fastest-growing occupation in the United States is solar installer and the second fastest- growing is wind turbine service technician. The loss of Clare’s world is un-remediated. The loss of our world, apparently, is salved by the growth of mostly low-wage ‘green-tech’ jobs. Clare, at least, identifies the cause of his loss – Accursed Wealth, or, as we might call it today, capitalism.

Gore, in his best, ever youthful, Gee-Wiz journalese proclaims that, “…we are in the early stages of a sustainable revolution that will achieve the magnitude of the Industrial Revolution and the speed of the digital revolution, made possible by new digital tools”. John Clare’s erstwhile bucolic freedom had been proscribed by the British parliament’s Enclosure Acts early in the nineteenth century, under which he lost his rights to the common lands that were seized for the benefit of proto-capitalist land-owners newly cognizant of the wealth generated by grazing sheep. Wool, like cotton, was a fiber fundamental to the modern capitalist ethos whereby the acquisition of wealth transcended the interests of both humanity and the natural world.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Central Bankers Go Green… Why?

Central Bankers Go Green… Why?

I was told many depressing things as a child.

Watching World Vision infomercials educating the west to the want and misery suffered by millions of children in the third world, I wasn’t alone in asking adults “why”? When I enjoyed all the comforts of food security, electricity and running water, why were these other children living in poverty? I know that I was not the only bewildered child to receive the shallow response that I did from family and teachers when I was told that this “simply is the way it is”. At best, we privileged few in the 1st world could hope that $1/day would alleviate their pain, but really there was no great solution.

Later in life, as my closest friends found themselves enmeshed in university political science and economic programs, the innocent curiosity that recognized injustice for what it was not only died under the weight of materialist theories of human nature which their parents paid good money to feed them, but upon leaving school, those same friends actually became witting accomplices in that very system which their youthful hearts recognized as wrong so many years earlier. Since humanity was intrinsically selfish and our economic system so immutable, the best we could hope for was success in life and enjoy being on the receiving end of destiny.

Again, I know that I’m not alone in this experience, as tens of millions of citizens took to the streets all around the world on September 27 to march for the earth, repulsed by corrupt consumerism and celebrating the advent of a Green New Deal.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Trump Praises US Energy Independence After Saudi Attack: “We Don’t Need Middle Eastern Oil”

Trump Praises US Energy Independence After Saudi Attack: “We Don’t Need Middle Eastern Oil”

With international oil prices soaring following this weekend’s attack in Saudi Arabia, which has indefinitely crippled as much as half of its oil-production capacity, President Trump sent a tweet Monday morning to try and reassure markets that the US is now energy independent and doesn’t need crude from the Middle East in what looks like an attempt to send prices lower.

“Because we have done so well with Energy over the last few years (thank you, Mr. President!), we are a net Energy Exporter, & now the Number One Energy Producer in the World. We don’t need Middle Eastern Oil & Gas, & in fact have very few tankers there, but will help our Allies!


Because we have done so well with Energy over the last few years (thank you, Mr. President!), we are a net Energy Exporter, & now the Number One Energy Producer in the World. We don’t need Middle Eastern Oil & Gas, & in fact have very few tankers there, but will help our Allies!


The takeaway from the tweet is that Trump’s threatening posture toward Iran, which Washington has blamed from the attack, is simply an example of the US standing up for Saudi Arabia since its a critical regional ally. The US’s energy supplies are not being threatened.

Trump has a point about his policies helping to bolster the US energy industry. Democrats, particularly those who have embraced AOC’s ‘Green New Deal’ are much more hostile to the US energy industry. Among the candidates seeking the 2020 nomination, Elizabeth Warren has promised to shut down US shale drilling on her first day as president, something that would irreparably damage the US energy industry and kill any hopes of continued energy independence.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

False hopes for a Green New Deal

False hopes for a Green New Deal

If the ‘Green New Deal’ is our best answer to the climate crisis, then we have no answer to the climate crisis.

Image: Julian Stratenschulte/DPA/PA Images

In recent months the ‘Green New Deal’ has given hope to many on the Left as a promising solution to climate breakdown. Having been championed by the Sunrise Movement and figures such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders in the US, excitement for the Green New Deal has spread to the UK with the launch of the ‘Labour for a Green New Deal’ campaign.

Successive local Labour Party branches have passed motions in support of the programme, and the UK Labour Party itself has launched consultations for a ‘Green Industrial Revolution.’ Recently, the progressive think-tank Common Wealth published a ‘road map’ for implementing sweeping reforms for a greener and fairer economy, providing the most detailed description yet of what a Green New Deal might look like.

The Green New Deal promises everything. Its advocates anticipate a green industrial revolution led by workers, forging a power-grid run on renewables, a new and luxurious electrified transport system and affordable homes retrofitted for energy-efficiency. Our economy will be one of ethics and environmental stewardship, producing only what is socially-useful, with low-carbon lifestyles for all and with investors investing for sustainable ends. We will see employment for all, workers on shorter hours enjoying high-paid green jobs and a democratised workplace. Equally as important, the UK will enact this great renewable transition without perpetuating colonial resource extraction abroad. It all sounds too good to be true.

That’s because it is. Basic enquiry into the details of the Green New Deal reveals a failure to confront the political and economic realities leading to climate breakdown.

Capitalism’s dilemma

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Toward Climate-Catalyzed Social Transformation?

Toward Climate-Catalyzed Social Transformation?

Applying the work of Erik Olin Wright to emergent climate change movements helps us to understand current trajectories and possible pathways for transformation.

In the past weeks, Extinction Rebellion has continued to make news headlines with acts of protest in LondonBostonNew York and other cities across the globe. In London, thousands of activists blocked roads and bridges and over 1,000 were arrested. These actions are a part of Extinction Rebellion’s ongoing strategy to disrupt the economy and pressure governments to meet their demands to address climate change.

In addition, the youth movement Fridays for Future continues to hold school strikes with an estimated 1.6 million participants across the globe on March 15. In the United States, the Sunrise Movement has just launched a tour to promote the Green New Deal, a possibly transformative resolution that targets both inequality and greenhouse gas emissions.

These movements are unprecedented, growing, and are unlikely to go away any time soon. In addition, meeting the demands of these movements would require significant social and economic changes through a radical political program.

Given the momentum of these movements, are we on the verge of a possible climate-catalyzed social transformation? And if so, what strategies for transformation will be most effective?

To interpret the recent rise of these climate change movements, we draw from the late Erik Olin Wright whose work illustrates a deep understanding of social transformation.

In his book Envisioning Real Utopias, Wright outlined a detailed theory of social transformation with four main components. First, identify the forces of social reproduction that impede positive social change. Second, find gaps and contradictions that can be politicized to open the door for change. Third, understand and build a trajectory of change: history tells us that transformation occurs when unintended social consequences combine with purposeful social movements.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How to Build the Green New Deal? Cities and States May Already Have Answers

How to Build the Green New Deal? Cities and States May Already Have Answers

There’s much to learn from local efforts — and good reasons why they’ll need to be part of the process, experts say. But can states do it on their own?

Over the past several months, legislators in Washington have engaged in heated conversations about the Green New Deal, the potential plan to help the United States to cool the planet by quickly and equitably curbing greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning to cleaner energy sources.

The hotly debated idea has both vocal supporters and detractors. But even for those who champion the mission, there’s still a lot to figure out about how it would be developed and implemented.

The good news is that any effort to bring the Green New Deal to fruition wouldn’t need to start from scratch. Proponents can, and should, look to states and cities for help and inspiration, says Caitlin McCoy, a fellow at Harvard Law School who specializes in in climate, clean air and energy. McCoy just authored a new policy paper that shows areas where state and local governments have been leading and how understanding their progress is crucial to crafting any new sweeping federal legislation.

“States are an experimental testing ground for policies that could one day be adopted at a federal level,” she says. Green New Deal backers, she adds, “would be wise to do an accounting of what’s happening at a state and local level and see where they might be able to plug federal policies and programs into existing architecture and frameworks. And any big federal policy to operationalize the principles of the Green New Deal would necessarily need to build on state action, because a lot of the areas that the deal seems to be seeking to reach are areas of traditional state and local control.”

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A War Reporter Covers “The End of Ice”–And It Will Change the Way You Think About Climate Catastrophe

2Photos: Getty Images Animation: The Intercept

A WAR REPORTER COVERS “THE END OF ICE” — AND IT WILL CHANGE THE WAY YOU THINK ABOUT CLIMATE CATASTROPHE

FOCUSING ON BREATH and gratitude, Dahr Jamail’s latest book, “The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption,” stitches together personal introspection and gut-wrenching interviews with leading climate experts. The rapidly receding glaciers of Denali National Park, home to the highest peak in North America, inspired the book’s title. “Seven years of climbing in Alaska had provided me with a front-row seat from where I could witness the dramatic impact of human-caused climate disruption,” Jamail writes.

With vividly descriptive storytelling, Jamail pushes further north into the Arctic Circle where warming is occurring at double speed. He surveys rapid changes in the Pribilof Islands, where indigenous communities have had to contend with die-offs affecting seabirds, fur seals, fish, and more — a collapsing food web. The story continues in the fragile Great Barrier Reef, utterly ravaged by the warming ocean. South Florida is faring no better: Jamail finds that 2.46 million of the state’s acreage will be submerged within his lifetime. Experts are aghast everywhere Jamail visits. In the Amazon, rich in biodiversity, the consequences are especially enormous.

“The End of Ice” readers won’t find calls for technology-based solutions, politicians, mitigating emissions, or the Green New Deal to save us.

Describing the current state of the planet, Jamail likens it to someone in hospice care. The global mean temperature is already 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Not half a decade ago, leading climate scientist James Hansen warned that that one degree would usher in a crisis of sea level rise, melting Arctic ice, and extreme weather. He concluded that the goal of limiting global warming to only 2 degrees was “very dangerous.”

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The US Chamber of Commerce’s “New” Take on Climate Change

The US Chamber of Commerce’s “New” Take on Climate Change

Picture

The climate is changing, and humans are contributing to these changes. We believe that there is much common ground on which all sides of this discussion could come together to address climate change with policies that are practical, flexible, predictable, and durable.
                                                                                      — The US Chamber of Commerce

The US Chamber of Commerce, through its Global Energy Institute (GEI), recently announced the launch of a major new climate initiative called the American Energy: Cleaner, Strongercampaign. It’s admitted purpose is to “counter the Green New Deal (GND) with an energy innovation agenda…to persuade the public and Congressthat technology is better than regulation in addressing climate change.” (emphasis added).

In taking a swipe at the GND, the Chamber has handed its progressive Democratic authors and supporters a key victory—certainly something it had not intended to do.

Whatever the Green New Deal is or isn’t, the idea of it has accomplished what was thought Impossible just months ago–the admission by traditionally conservative deniers that climate change is real and needs to be acted upon now. The Chamber’s announcement boldly states inaction is not an option. The actions to be taken, however, remain matters of dogmatic ideological debate.

On its face, the Chamber’s call to action is a far cry from its 2017 policy priorities. Today climate change is on the minds of voters because it is on the lips of every Democrat in Congress, as well as those vying for the party’s presidential nomination. The Chamber’s newly announced campaign is an effort to remain relevant.


Not every Democrat has embraced the GND. All, however, have acknowledged that climate policy is one of the Party’s top three priorities going into the 2020 elections.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Why All the Uproar Over the Green New Deal?

Why All the Uproar Over the Green New Deal?

Pulp mill, Longview, Washington. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Same ol’ same ol’ battle: The more things change, the more they stay the same

On August 21, 2009, The Wall Street Journal reported that “…many scientists say deep emissions cuts are necessary … to prevent … dangerous consequences of global warming,” and also reported that,  “Getting from here to there would require a massive economic shift.”

There’s likely been no better summary of the Green New Deal’s basic rationale. 

In just a few words, the Journal succinctly stated a dangerous trend of rising emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels, identified the scale of action necessary to putting a lid on the danger, and did that 10 years before the Sunrise Movement caught the attention of newly elected Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 

The details on either the science or economic side of the responses to the Green New Deal can be dazzling, and we’ve seen a virtual explosion of debate across topics that will be discussed in the following pages. 

But, then as now, the heart of the massive economic shift deemed necessary by the evidence from science is a shift away from financing fossil fuels, with an accompanying shift to financing of renewables. Any such shift of “massive” scale was always going to rock some politically influential boats, so an offensive aimed at defeating it was revved up full bore. At bottom, it has long been and still is a competitive scramble for money.

Before the Green New Deal: The Old Battle Informs the New

In fact, an attack against renewables was kicked into gear years ago, and the current anti-Green New Deal brouhaha  is just a rehash of an old campaign to defend the capital and capitalists aligned around combustion of coal, oil, and natural gas. 

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Let’s get ‘creaturely’: A new worldview can help us face ecological crises

Let’s get ‘creaturely’: A new worldview can help us face ecological crises

No farmer has ever gone out to the barn to start the day and discovered that a baby tractor had been born overnight. For farmers who work with horses, the birth of a foal would not be surprising.

That observation may seem silly, but it highlights an important contrast: Machines cannot reproduce or maintain themselves. Creatures can.

The tractor comes out of the industrial mind, while the horse is creaturely. The tractor is the product of an energy-intensive human-designed system, while the horse is the product of an information-intensive biological process that emerges from earth and sun.

The implications of this difference are rarely acknowledged in the dominant culture, but we believe they are crucial to explore, especially with new political space opened up by the Green New Deal for discussing ecological sustainability and economic justice.

In the short term, humanity needs to devise policies that respond in meaningful ways to today’s multiple, cascading ecological crises (including, but not limited to, rapid climate disruption), which present risks now greatly accelerated and intensified well beyond previous predictions. If that seems alarmist, we recommend “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice” for details.

To put uncomfortable realities bluntly: In ecological terms, things are bad, getting worse faster than anticipated, leaving humanity with increasingly limited options. Everyone agrees that there are no quick and easy fixes, but we want to push further: Do not expect any truly sustainable fixes to emerge from the industrial mind.

That’s why we believe it’s crucial to discuss not only policy but the need for a new worldview, one that can expand our imaginations. The distressing realities of our moment in history need not be the end of our story, if humanity can transcend the industrial and get creaturely.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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