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Meet the World’s First Carbon-Neutral Soccer Club

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 14/09/2021 - 6:00pm in

The initial reaction among soccer fans to the vegan menu at the stadium food stand was outrage. “Some said they wouldn’t eat anything,” club chairman Dale Vince, 59, remembers with a laugh. 

Instead of hot dogs and cheeseburgers, attendees of Forest Green Rovers games in Gloucestershire, UK, found themselves confronted with a meatless menu of shiitake burgers, katsu pickled vegetables and vegan Q-pie. “It’s a bit unusual,” the trim entrepreneur admits, “but I say, you only come to games once every two weeks, you might as well try something you haven’t tried before.” 

The Forest Green Rovers are an anomaly in the world of European football, a sport not typically known for its progressive bona fides. Though its moniker was actually inspired by the neighborhood of its origin — a tiny village in Gloucestershire — the club, founded in 1889, could hardly have been more aptly named. FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, recently recognized the Forest Green Rovers as the greenest soccer club in the world. The United Nations has certified the FGR as the world’s first carbon-neutral football club. It is also the first and only vegan pro soccer club on the planet. 

“Every day we all make decisions about how we power our homes, how we travel, what we eat and how we choose to spend our money,” says Vince. “If we go in a different direction, we can get a different outcome.”

Algae and oat milk

FGR’s stadium, “The New Lawn,” is powered with 100 percent renewable energy from the solar panels on its roof and windmills on a nearby hill. A solar-powered robot mows the lawn. The field itself is managed entirely without artificial fertilizer — the groundskeeper sprinkles Scottish sea algae and rips out weeds by hand, making it far greener than your typical pesticide-soaked soccer pitch. 

Photo courtesy of Forest Green Rovers

“Of course, the stereotype is that soccer fans wouldn’t be receptive to this at all, but this made it all the more compelling to me,” says Vince via Zoom from his fortress-like home in Stroud, walking distance from the stadium. “People told me I’d be killing the club, and nobody would come. I thought to myself, that means we’d be taking our message, our work in sustainability, to a new audience, one that’s relatively untouched by this kind of stuff, the world of soccer fans. Soccer gives us a fantastic platform to promote sustainability.”

Vince gets a kick out of discussing his innovations with fans at the stadium, such as the practice of recycling cooking oil from the vegan kitchen into biofuel. He remembers meeting a “crestfallen fan” who couldn’t believe there was no milk to put in his tea. “I explained to him how they take the baby cows away shortly after birth and he was completely shocked. He’d never heard that before. I said, hey, we have oat milk, soy milk, rice milk, try it!” 

It’s not just the fans who forgo meat — a vegan nutrition coach advises the players on building muscles with nut butters and tofu. And though some tabloids gleefully posted paparazzi pictures of players biting into fried chicken in their free time,  many of them have embraced the vegan diet. “I feel way more energy,” FGR midfielder Dan Sweeney says, “and recovery time is faster.” They’re in good company: Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton, U.S. soccer star Alex Morgan and tennis star Venus Williams have all achieved athletic superstardom on plant-based diets. 

“The club was in trouble”

Vince first arrived in Stroud in the 1990s as a new-age hippie living in an old army van. The son of a truck driver, he had dropped out of school at 15. He used a small windmill on top of his van to power his habitat, and liked the area so much that he eventually built a bigger windmill on the hill. Today, his renewable energy company Ecotricity is one of Stroud’s biggest employers with 700 workers. 

 

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Initially, when the Green Rovers were seeking financial help in 2010, “the club was in trouble and needed rescuing.” Vince, a soccer fan, “wanted to help out a local soccer club that was 120 years old and an important part of my community.” But at their first meeting, the long-term vegan was horrified by the amount of meat lasagna served. “That made me part of the meat trade, so I asked them to change it on the spot.” They did. “Then I bumped into all kinds of things I couldn’t tolerate.” Vince set out to change them one by one, “to build a new kind of soccer club.”

Two years ago, the club joined the United Nations’ Climate Neutral Now program, which involves three steps: “Measure our carbon footprint, reduce it as far as we can and offset the residual,” Vince explains. He built the cost for the carbon offset into the ticket price, about $1 per ticket. “It’s a way we get to talk to fans about an issue that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.” About 250 sports organizations around the world have now signed up for the UN program. “They represent every sport that you could possibly name, and there’s an awful lot of momentum there,” Vince says. “Between us, we can reach billions of people.” He believes his club will reach carbon neutrality without offsetting by next year.

 

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A post shared by Forest Green Rovers (@fgrfc_official)

To get there, he established eco-management and audit scheme (EMAS) accreditation, the gold standard of environmental management. He encourages ride-sharing and outfitted the stadium with electric car charging facilities so fans can travel to games sustainably. Even the fizz in the carbonated drinks is funneled directly from the CO2-capturing facility on the stadium roof, a new venture from Vince who also uses the CO2 to make carbon-negative diamonds. “It fits perfectly with our message that living a green life isn’t about giving stuff up. Whether it’s burgers, cars, soccer, or even diamonds, it’s about doing it in a different way.”

The players wear neon green jerseys manufactured from discarded coffee grounds and recycled plastic. “When I learned that most soccer shirts were made from plastic, I was shocked,” he says. “Apart from the sustainability issue, it’s all kinds of wrong to wear plastic to play soccer.” The new shirts “perform much better,” he has found, and this is a point he stresses repeatedly about becoming the vanguard of eco-consciousness in sports. “Our food has to taste better, and our field has to be better than your average field,” he says. “When you go green and offer an alternative to the conventional, you have to be better. Otherwise people say, yeah, I get that it’s green, but…” 

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It’s working. The Green Rover’s catering service, the Little Green Devils, has won numerous awards for its vegan pies and is serving 3,000 school meals outside the stadium every day. FIFA and several soccer clubs have sent representatives to learn how they, too, can move their stadiums and kitchens toward carbon neutrality. The next step: the world’s first stadium built entirely from recycled wood, designed by the late award-winning architect Zaha Hadid, which Vince is currently seeking the permits to build.

Even the players have improved. Since switching to vegan food and other climate-friendly routines, the club has started winning and was promoted to League Two in 2017. The number of visitors has quadrupled, the amount of food sold at the stadium has quintupled, and the club now has 100 fan clubs in 20 countries. “In the last year, we had six billion social media impressions,” Vince says. The club has just added a women’s team which will play under the same roof, and Vince hired a woman to lead the club’s Academy.

Vince believes that he not only created a new kind of soccer club, but “a new kind of soccer fan. These people bond with the club because of our stance on the environment.”

His prediction for what comes next? “I think we get to League One this season.”

The post Meet the World’s First Carbon-Neutral Soccer Club appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

The $3.5 Trillion Bill Corporate America is Terrified OfRight...

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 14/09/2021 - 8:32am in

The $3.5 Trillion Bill Corporate America is Terrified OfRight now, Democrats are working to pass a $3.5 trillion package that will provide long overdue help for working Americans.

The final bill hasn’t yet been determined, so we don’t know the exact dollar amounts for all its policies. We’ll probably find that out in late September or early October. For now, the Democrats’ budget resolution frames what’s in the bill.  

First, on families:

The bill would make permanent key benefits for working families, including the expanded child tax credit in the pandemic relief plan that sends families up to $300 per child each month but is now set to expire in December, and is estimated to cut child poverty by half

It would also establish universal child care, for which low- and middle-income households would pay no more than 7 percent of their incomes. 

And provide a national program of paid leave — worth up to $4,000 a month — for workers who take time off because they are ill or caring for a relative.

Next, on education:

The bill would reduce educational inequality by establishing universal pre-K for all 3- and 4-year-olds, benefiting an estimated 5 million children, and providing tuition-free community college – essentially expanding free public education from 12 years to 16 years. 

It will also invest in historically Black colleges and universities and increase the maximum amount of Pell grants for students from lower-income families. 

On health care:

The bill expands Medicare to include dental, vision, and hearing benefits and lowers the eligibility age. It also expands Medicaid to cover people living in the 12 states that have not yet expanded Medicaid, and makes critical investments to improve healthcare for people of color. 

The big question is how far it will go to reduce prescription drug prices by, for example, allowing Medicare to negotiate prices with pharmaceutical companies. That could reduce Medicare and Medicaid spending, and free up more money for other parts of the bill. But Big Pharma is dead-set against this.

Big corporations and the rich picking up the tab:

In another step toward fairness, all of these are to be financed by higher taxes on the rich and big corporations. 

The bill would also increase the Internal Revenue Service’s funding so the agency can properly audit wealthy tax cheats, who fail to report about a fifth of their income every year, thereby costing the government $105 billion annually. 

In addition, the bill tackles the climate crisis, which also especially burdens lower-income Americans: 

There are a range of solutions – subsidizing the use of solar, wind, nuclear and other forms of clean energy while financially penalizing the use of dirty energy like coal; helping families pay for electric cars and energy-efficient homes. 

The bill might include something known as a carbon border adjustment tax — a tax on imports whose production was carbon-intensive, like many from China.

The bill would also establish a Civilian Climate Corps, and invest in communities that bear the brunt of the climate crisis.

And the bill helps American workers:

It will hopefully contain much of the PRO Act, the toughest labor law reform in a generation. 

Finally, the bill includes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
This is all about making America fairer. 

Remember: we won’t know the exact details of the bill for at least a month, but these are the main areas that it will focus on. The big challenge will be ensuring Senate Democrats remain united to get it passed. All of us will need to fight like hell.

Don’t listen to spending hawks who claim it’s too expensive or too radical. For far too long, our government has ignored the needs of everyday Americans, catering instead to the demands of corporations and the super-rich. No more. 

It’s time to get this landmark bill passed and build a fairer America.

The National Insurance increase shows that levelling up has been consigned to the Conservative bonfire of easy promises

Boris Johnson playing Connect 4 with an elderly lady and a nurse whilst visit Westport Care Home in East London 7/9/21Picture by Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street. Creative Commons 2.0 license

A country ruled by criminals needs two revolutions, one small and one big: The small revolution is to overthrow the criminal government, the big revolution is to radically undo the damage these criminals have inflicted on the country!

Mehmet Murat Ildan, Contemporary Turkish playwright, novelist, and thinker

 

This week, Boris Johnson announced that his government would not ‘duck the tough decisions needed to get NHS patients the treatment they need’, or ‘to fix our broken social care system’. After all the fanfare and promises, from an already morally bankrupt government, the reality is somewhat different. The proposed solution to increase National Insurance will not only do nothing to resolve the growing crisis in social care, or create a fairer system for social care provision, it will also create further burdens on an economy already creaking at the seams.

When Johnson refers to a ‘broken’ health and social care system, he is ignoring the elephant in the room. Who broke it? The actions of successive Conservative governments are to blame, through a decade of cuts that have deliberately starved the public sector of adequate funding, along with decades of allowing a private profit-seeking sector to benefit from public money, at the expense of those needing health or social care services. It did so as a result of its fixation with fiscal discipline and market-driven economic dogma.

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the folly of austerity, the toxic and harmful obsession with private sector involvement in the delivery of public services, and the consequences of the lack of strategic planning for such events, which have resulted in the NHS and social care struggling to function effectively during this crisis and led to unnecessary suffering and deaths.

Adding to the already existing shortage of nurses (over 40,000) and other health workers, insufficient ICU facilities, ventilators, beds and PPE, were the warning indicators that something was seriously wrong, as hospitals burst at the seams with very sick patients needing treatment. As a result, we are now facing a growing backlog of patients awaiting diagnosis or treatment (or who have even died waiting), with experts warning of the future consequences on staff already suffering from burnout, stress, and exhaustion. It is humanly unsustainable.

Social care services have not been immune from the same economic illiteracy. The warning signs preceded the pandemic. Social care is in meltdown now, and the proposal to increase National Insurance will not only fail to enable the fairer payment system for social care promised by the government, but it will also do little to alleviate the immediate problems caused by government policies.

Government officials have been clear that most of the money raised by the new tax will be spent on the NHS in the first three years, on the assumption that demand for state-funded care will increase from 2026, as people reach the spending cap. These proposals make no attempt to deal with an already failing underfunded system, and social care providers and charities have already indicated that the extra resources would not be sufficient to improve standards.

The problems faced by social care have been longstanding, exacerbated over decades by a mishmash of reforms by governments unwilling to grasp the nettle, as a likely result of the uncomfortable, but false, question of affordability and how it would be paid for. As a result, under an unfair means-tested social care system, which has for decades been served by private profit-seeking companies and charities relying on state funding to function, social care services have increasingly been impacted by years of funding cuts affecting local council budgets, putting increasing pressures on care standards, wages and employment terms and conditions, as private providers struggle to make their businesses profitable.

This is just pushing the problem yet again down the line, when social care can already no longer meet the needs of those requiring support. Recently published figures showed that nearly 300,000 people are on local authority waiting lists for adult social care, a situation which has arisen as a result of funding pressures and delayed assessments. Figures also reveal a chronic shortage of care workers which has meant that those requiring a home care package have had no option but to accept a ‘temporary’ placement in residential facilities.

The government’s decision to increase National Insurance, a regressive tax that will affect the poorest, not the richest, will lead to many of those already poorly paid workers losing substantial income, as figures now show. Coupled with the looming cuts to the universal credit uplift of £20 a week and rising energy and food prices, it will add more unnecessary pain and suffering to people’s lives. A study published this week by the Health Foundation has shown that the UC cut will hit areas with the worst health hardest and is likely to widen inequality in health and wellbeing, running counter to the government’s promised levelling-up commitment.

Analysis by Policy in Practice noted that by April 2022, the combination of the new Health and Social Care Levy and the removal of the uplift to Universal Credit would mean that carers would be £1035 per year worse off, despite the planned (but scarcely generous) increase to the National Living Wage. Its Director Deven Ghelani said: ‘The unfairness of paying for social care through a rise in national insurance, whilst cutting support for the lowest earners at the same time, means those that kept us going through the pandemic are the ones hardest hit.’

It isn’t any wonder that the media reported this week that many were already choosing to leave social care and find work elsewhere. When Amazon becomes a better alternative to working in social care and playing a vital role in society, then we should question our societal values. When we are told that affordability is key to public service provision, the cruel consequence must be that, down the line, people must suffer higher taxes to balance the budget. How can that even be a consideration for a government which is a currency issuer and has the power of the public purse?

Astonishingly, even the free-market Adam Smith Institute called these plans ‘morally bankrupt’, saying that the government was asking ‘poorer workers to bail out millionaire property owners.’ They also criticised the plan as a ‘kick in the teeth for all the young working people of this country who have already been hard done by the pandemic.’

Whilst the solution is simple, ditching the for-profit motive and replacing it with an adequately funded, publicly paid for, managed, and delivered social care system, getting politicians to agree is quite another matter. Obsessing over how it will be paid for, we have two extremes of economic nonsense being touted in the news and on social media. Both sides of the political spectrum are dedicated to raising taxes to pay for health and social care. The Tories, as these plans show, through punishing already poor people, and Labour by taxing the rich to raise revenue.

Quite rightly, one should tax the rich for reasons of equity and to strip away the power and influence their wealth brings them, but this week some left-wing progressive MPs have flogged the ‘taxing the rich’ to pay for social care narrative to death on social media. James Meadway, a former advisor to John McDonnell, also got in on the act saying that Labour should, ‘seize the opportunity to make the alternative funding case’. A wealth tax and other changes to tax arrangements would fit the bill, he suggested. At the same time, as his party came under pressure to set out a ‘costed plan’, the leader of the Labour Party, Keir Starmer, suggested that Labour would consider taxing wealth even more heavily to raise funds.

How depressingly predictable that the question of how you are going to pay for it is the standard response to funding public services, but the same question is never asked for bailing out banks or going to war.

Yes, of course, we want to see a more equitable society, but playing to Mrs Thatcher’s ‘There is no such thing as public money. There is only taxpayers’ money,’ assertion is a highly damaging tactic. When those supposedly on the progressive left associate themselves with an acolyte of the arch neoliberals Hayek and Friedman, it is scarcely an advert for confidence in them. Although the fact that such views are still underpinning policies and spending is not surprising, given the entrenchment of such narratives in political discourse. Playing to the understanding of one’s audience works every time.

What we need now, desperately, is an opposition which is prepared to put citizens before the profits of private companies and for politicians to reject the gibberish that the belief that taxes fund spending represents. It is hardly progressive to reinforce in the public mind the false household budget narratives of government spending; that tax rises will be necessary to fix what actually has been a deliberately broken health and social care system, or that they could be needed to keep the public accounts straight, as per Sunak’s coming ‘hard choices’ in the October Spending Review.

The insistence that there is no alternative to tax rises to pay for social care is both macroeconomically unsound and cruel to those who are already struggling to keep their heads above water. The consequences of higher taxes in these still uncertain times will be very hard on some of the poorest and most vulnerable in our society, and will do nothing to support the economy, businesses or the working population and their families, as the UC uplift is terminated, and energy and other costs rise. There still remains the looming potential crisis of rising unemployment as furlough ends, and even if there are sectors crying out for workers, there will likely be a mismatch in terms of skills requirements to fill new posts, and that will take time to correct.

In this respect, the government has put all its eggs into the free-market basket, expecting it to come up trumps, and it has failed, unsurprisingly. This government and decades of previous ones have trusted in the market to deliver. The invisible hand of the market, whatever that mythical beast is, has done no such thing. The private sector is a profit-seeking juggernaut which puts its own interests over public purpose. And therein lies the heart of the problem. Government has put fiscal discipline above people’s lives and allowed the private sector to run amok, in an unforgivable free-for-all bonanza of deregulation and profit-seeking.

The question is never, ‘is there enough money’ or ‘how will we pay for it?’ The question is do we have the real resources to deliver a better health and social care service, and if not, what are the solutions? That is the role of the government to plan and deliver through its spending and taxation policies. The government should be us, but now democracy is made a mockery, as government and corporations become one and the same thing, serving not the interests of the people or indeed the planet, but their own rapacious greed.

The price of a hands-off approach has been and will continue to be a heavy one. Government, as an elected body, should have a responsibility to serve its citizens to ensure fair and equitable wealth distribution, to create the vital public and social infrastructure upon which the economy depends, to plan for the future whether in a post Brexit era, for future pandemics, or indeed for a just green transition to deal with the climate emergency. Words and actions, however, like oil and water, don’t mix in Conservative terms. It has done none of those things, and now we have seen how easy it was for Conservative MPs in the Red Wall, who were originally objecting to the NI tax rise, to dutifully line up behind their macroeconomically challenged leaders to vote for more pain and suffering. Levelling up has been consigned to the Conservative bonfire of easy promises, and the people yet again duped into acceptance that there will be no alternative to tax rises, either to fund social care or balance the public accounts.

The failure of government hinges on a lie used to justify austerity. The lie of monetary scarcity. Over decades, despite the rhetoric and promises, the issue of social care has been swept under the carpet, and now the system is barely functioning. It will not be fixed by increasing taxes of any sort. It can only be fixed by a government with the political will to do so. Shamefully, successive governments have made a political choice not to fund it adequately. They invited the private sector in, as if social care or the NHS should be beholden to the god of business efficiency and profit, not public service for human well-being. The real cost has been lives, disaffected, poorly paid staff who are on the edge financially and physically.

We should be shouting it out loud. We have a government that chose this path. A government that chose to let social care collapse for the lie of fiscal discipline. What a terrible price we and our loved ones are paying. It didn’t and doesn’t have to be like this.

There are two potential outcomes: Either that we carry on with ‘business as usual’, as the work and pensions minister Baroness Stedman-Scott put it earlier this week to the House of Lords, referring to the removal of the UC uplift, or something else.

We could imagine a world where monetary reality informs government policies and spending decisions. Where government puts its citizens first. A world in which we could have a functioning public and social infrastructure, funded, managed and delivered publicly. An economy, underpinned by full employment and a Job Guarantee, that works for everyone, not just for an excessively wealthy elite that uses its power and influence to dominate public policy. A society where real resources and wealth are distributed more fairly, and a just transition to a green agenda to address the climate crisis looming close behind. Just imagine! The way may be rocky and uncertain, but if we don’t try, we will never know.

 

 

 

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The post The National Insurance increase shows that levelling up has been consigned to the Conservative bonfire of easy promises appeared first on The Gower Initiative for Modern Money Studies.

Book Review: The Power of Narrative: Climate Skepticism and the Deconstruction of Science by Raul P. Lejano and Shondel J. Nero

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 11/09/2021 - 10:26pm in

In The Power of Narrative: Climate Skepticism and the Deconstruction of Science, Raul P. Lejano and Shondel J. Nero offer a narrative analysis of climate skepticism, exploring its emergence and transformations as well as its position in the ‘post-truth’ era. This book will help readers to critically understand the social and political construction of public narratives surrounding climate change as … Continued

A Near-Future Novel for Our Gorgeous and Beleaguered Present

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 11/09/2021 - 6:00am in

Woolsey Fire, California. Photo credit: Jay Pinette / Shutterstock _____ Upon the publication of her new novel, Something New Under...

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Only the World's Workers Can Save Us from a Capitalist Cataclysm

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 10/09/2021 - 9:10pm in

Save the Planet - Destroy Capitalism!

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 10/09/2021 - 8:48pm in

image/jpeg iconclimate-change.jpg

In July hundreds of lives were lost in heat domes over western Canada and the US, and floods in Germany and China. Wildfires raged out of control from California to Greece, Turkey and Siberia. These disasters are clearly the result of global warming disrupting weather patterns. If emissions of greenhouse gases continue on the present path, these events will seem like a vicar’s tea party in comparison to what is to come. Millions upon millions will die.

read more

Fresh audio product

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 10/09/2021 - 7:12am in

Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link):

September 9, 2021 Clyde Barrow on how Texas, a diverse, urbanized, sophisticated state, is run by a bunch of reactionary white would-be cowboys • Anatol Lieven, author of this article, on the US–China rivalry and the meaning of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan

Introducing the Forgoing Flights for America the Beautiful Act

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 03/09/2021 - 3:31am in
by Brian Czech

The first commandment of serious policy reform is: “Thou shalt not propose sweeping legislation without the drafting thereof.” So, if we’re going to get serious about banning flights, we better produce the legislative goods. In doing so, we strive to obey the second commandment as well: “Thou shalt not propose infeasible legislation.”

Photo of the US Capitol Building where congress votes on bills such as Forgoing Flights for America the Beautiful Act.

“Oh Beautiful, for Spacious Skies.” Ideally with fewer contrails. (Image: CC BY-NC 2.0, Credit: ajagendorf25)

To be feasible, the Forgoing Flights for America the Beautiful Act (FFAB) must be presented as a logical sequence of reforms. The full ban, then, is like climbing a ladder. Each step significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and makes the next step more accessible and compelling. Climbing all the way to the top puts us on a rooftop of accomplishment, from which we can see clear and spacious skies, helping to make America beautiful again.

Now back on the ground where we currently stand, we have to acknowledge that the 117th Congress won’t be banning flights anytime soon. However, that doesn’t mean we should sit on our hands, staring up at the confounding contrails instead of drafting and circulating the legislation that would go a long way toward defusing an existential threat. The entire bill doesn’t have to be passed in one fell swoop, either. Stand-alone, step-wise bills could conceivably be passed by an improved iteration of Congress in the foreseeable future.

Perhaps the most important step is the first one. Let’s take it…

AN ACT

To significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by swiftly and substantially reducing jet-propelled air traffic.

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE; TABLE OF CONTENTS.

            (a) SHORT TITLE.—This act may be cited as the “Forgoing Flights for America the Beautiful Act.”

            (b) TABLE OF CONTENTS.—

Sec. 1. Short title; table of contents.

Sec. 2. Findings and declarations.

Sec. 3. Definitions.

Sec. 4. Phased cessation of air transportation.

Sec. 5. Airport conversion.

Sec. 6. Enforcement and penalties.

Sec. 7. Financial relief of primary affected parties.

Sec. 8. Military air operations.

SEC. 2. FINDINGS AND DECLARATIONS.

            (a) FINDINGS.  Congress finds that—

                        (1) Climate change is a dire threat to the environment and the economy.

                        (2) Climate change is caused in large part by the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from human economic activities.

                        (3) The transportation sector is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

                        (4) Commercial air transportation of passengers is one of the primary sources of emissions in the transportation sector.

                        (5) Flights of jet aircraft are rarely essential and seldom important for the health, safety, and security of citizens.

                        (6) Short flights are especially inefficient, causing higher greenhouse gas emissions per unit of transportation than long             flights.

                        (7) Alternative modes of transportation emit fewer greenhouse gases and in other ways are less responsible for climate             change.

                        (8) Far more flights are taken in the United States than in all other nations.

                        (9) The severity, ubiquity, and permanence of climate change outweighs the benefits of air transportation, which tend             to be short-lived and limited to a subset of the population.

                        (10) Other nations and the international community have taken steps to reduce air transportation for purposes of                         mitigating climate change.

                        (11) Failing to act on climate change is ultimately a threat to the Nation’s diplomatic standing and security.

                        (12) Reductions of greenhouse gas emissions must be swift and substantial to obviate the most catastrophic damages             of climate change.

            (b) DECLARATIONS. Congress declares that—

                        (1) It is the policy of the United States to embark upon a rapid and substantial reduction of air transportation.

                        (2) Air transportation services shall remain available for emergency, defense, and other national security requirements.

                        (3) The Department of Transportation shall assist State and regional planning authorities in shifting transportation             activities from the airways to ground-based public transportation modalities, most notably passenger train and bus lines.

                        (4) Airports de-commissioned as a result of this Act will be restored to natural conditions or used for sustainability             research purposes.

                        (5) An Air Industry Relief Fund shall be established for partial mitigation of financial losses from the forgoing of flights.

SEC. 3. DEFINITIONS.

            In this Act—

                        (1) “Air transportation” means the carrying of goods or passengers in either private jets or jet-propelled aircraft                         operated by commercial airlines for non-military purposes.

                        (2) “Airline” means any incorporated firm, domestic or foreign, conducting air transportation services in the United             States and its territories.

                        (3) “Airport authority” means an entity authorized by States and the United States to host air transportation services             and related activities including flight preparations, aircraft shuttling and storage, take-offs, landings, and air traffic control.

                        (4) “Current” means during the twelve months prior to enactment.

                        (5) “Enactment” means the signing of the Forgoing Flights for America the Beautiful Act by the President.

                        (6) “Flight” means a single instance of air transportation comprising one take-off, one landing, and one standard route             from the airport of take-off to the airport of landing.

                                    (A) “Government flight” means a flight booked for official government civil purposes.

                                    (B) “Long flight” means a flight of greater than two hours between takeoff and landing.

                                    (C) “Short flight” means a flight of two hours or less between takeoff and landing.

                        (7) “Military air operations” means all flying of aircraft by or for the Department of Defense.

                        (8) “Private jet” means a jet-propelled aircraft owned by an individual, small business, corporation, or other non-airline             entity and operated for non-military purposes.

                        (9) “Sustainability research station” is a land unit converted from an airport and managed by the Geological Survey for             studies and experiments pertaining to ecological and agricultural sustainability.

SEC. 4. PHASED CESSATION OF AIR TRANSPORTATION.

            (a) AIRLINES AND AIRPORT AUTHORITIES.—

                        (1) An airline shall not develop, offer, or sell air transportation services to departure and arrival locations in the United             States not currently served by the airline.

                        (2) A domestic airline shall not expand its fleet of jet aircraft beyond the current number owned by the airline.

                        (3) A domestic airline shall not expand its operation of jet aircraft beyond the current number operated by the airline.

                        (4) An airport authority shall not expand its capacity for air transportation, flights, or airlines not currently operating at             its airport(s).

                        (5) Each airline shall perform the air transportation services currently paid for by passengers.

                        (6) Air transportation services additional to those currently paid for may be sold by an airline only within the capacity             of the airline to provide such services in accordance with paragraphs (2) and (3) this subsection.

                        (7) The offering, sale, and operation of short flights originating or concluding in the United States shall be phased out             within two years.

                        (8) The offering, sale, and operation of long flights originating or concluding in the United States shall be phased out             within four years.

                        (9) Each airline shall develop a Forgoing Flights Plan that must be submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration for             approval within six months of enactment, and distributed to shareholders within 12 months of enactment, and which shall             include:

                                    (A) a summary of this Act as provided by the Federal Aviation Administration.

                                    (B) a schedule for phasing out short flights, specifying last dates of service to specific airports.

                                    (C) a schedule for phasing out long flights, specifying last dates of service to specific airports.

            (b) PRIVATE JETS.—

                        (1) The manufacture of private jets in the United States or by domestic firms operating overseas is prohibited, effective             immediately, except that the manufacture of partly assembled private jets may be completed for a period of six months                         following enactment.

                        (2) The sale of private jets shall be prohibited beginning one year after enactment.

                        (3) A private jet may log no more than 20,000 miles during the first year after enactment, no more than 10,000 miles             during the second year after enactment, and no more than 5,000 miles during the third year after enactment.

                        (4) Private jet flights shall be prohibited after three years following enactment.

            (c) PASSENGERS.—

                        (1) Each passenger is prohibited from taking more than 24 flights during the first year after enactment, with the                         exception of passengers who had more than 24 flights purchased prior to enactment, who are prohibited instead from                         purchasing additional flights in said year.

                        (2) Each passenger is prohibited from taking more than twelve flights during the second year after enactment.

                        (3) Each passenger is prohibited from taking more than six flights during the third and fourth years after enactment.

                        (4) Beginning four years following enactment, individuals are prohibited from booking or purchasing air transportation             services.

          (d) GOVERNMENT FLIGHTS.—

                        (1) Government flights are hereby prohibited with the following exceptions:

                                    (A) Emergency flights.

                                    (B) Flights currently booked.

                                    (C) Flights deemed essential to the mission of the agency.

                        (2) Except for emergency flights and flights currently booked, a government flight must first be approved by the                         director or administrator of the agency.

            (e) FLIGHTS WITH ONE ENDPOINT.—

                        In addition to flight restrictions described elsewhere in this Act, flights that land at the airport of departure are strictly             prohibited.

SEC. 5. AIRPORT CONVERSION.

            (a) CONVERSION OPTIONS.—

                        (1) Following the cessation of private and civil jet aircraft operations pursuant to Section 4 of this Act, each airport shall             be converted into one of the following:

                                    (A) State park, managed by the park authority of the State with jurisdiction.

                                    (B) Wildlife refuge, managed by the State agency with wildlife management jurisdiction in collaboration with the                         Fish and Wildlife Service, in the latter case for purposes of migratory species management, threatened and endangered                         species conservation, anadromous fisheries management, marine mammal conservation, or a combination of those                         activities coming under Federal wildlife jurisdiction.

                                    (C) Sustainability Experiment Station, managed by the Geological Survey in collaboration with the Agricultural                         Research Service.

                                    (D) Aircraft Experiment Station, managed by the Federal Aviation Administration in collaboration with the                                     National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

                        (2) Conversion options for an airport shall be studied and compared by the airport authority, in consultation with local             and regional representatives of the agencies identified in subsection (a), paragraph (1) of this section.

                        (3) Within two years of enactment, each airport authority will deliver to the relevant Governor and State legislature a             Report of Airport Conversion Options, which shall include a recommendation for a preferred conversion option, with second             and third options also identified.

                        (4) In consultation with Statehouse leadership, the relevant Governor will decide which conversion option to select.

            (b) AIRPORT CONVERSION PLAN.—

                        (1) The airport conversion option selected by the Governor shall be developed by the corresponding authority: that is,             State park authority, State wildlife management authority, Geological Survey, or Federal Aviation Administration, as                         identified in subsection (a), paragraph (1) of this section, and in collaboration with other parties identified therein as                         appropriate.

                        (2) Within three and a half years of enactment, the corresponding authority as described in paragraph (1) of this                         subsection shall deliver a draft Airport Conversion Plan to the Governor.

                        (3) At a minimum, a draft Airport Conversion Plan shall include:

                                    (A) The name of the new land unit (park, refuge, etc.).

                                    (B) The mission of the new unit.

                                    (C) Identification of official leadership.

                                    (D) Management goals and objectives for the unit.

                                    (E) Description of management practices.

                                    (F) A five-year budget estimate with line items.

                                    (G) Realty procedures for appropriate title-holding.

                        (4) Within three months after receiving a draft Airport Conversion Plan from a proper authority, the Governor shall             either adopt the plan or edit it in consultation with the proper authority and other key stakeholders.

                        (5) No later than four years after enactment, the Governor will release and publicize the final Airport Conversion Plan.

            (c) CONVERSION OF AIRPORT.—

                        (1) Airport conversion pursuant to a final Airport Conversion Plan shall commence immediately following the fourth             year after enactment.

                        (2) Entrance and boundary signs shall be posted during the first month of conversion, identifying the new land unit for the public.

                        (3) Runways, hangars and other airport infrastructure may either be proactively removed or passively left to the forces             of nature, depending upon the mission and goals of the unit as well as available funding.

                        (4) Each sustainability experiment station shall be managed in accordance with a Sustainability Experiment Station             Plan, to be prepared by the Geological Survey and approved by its Director within two years of airport de-commissioning.             The Sustainability Experiment Station Plan will be updated by the Director every five years.

            (d) Sustainability Experiment Stations.—

                        (1) A sustainability experiment station is a land unit converted from an airport and managed by the Geological Survey             for the purpose of studying the sustainability of ecosystems and the feasibility of land management practices to assist with             ecological and economic sustainability.

                        (2) A sustainability experiment station may be used for studies and experiments pertaining to forestry, wildlife and             fisheries, range management, hydrology, fire, weather and climate, carbon sequestration, phenology, pollination, organic             crop production, and other ecological, agricultural, and natural resource issues.

                        (3) Sustainability experiment stations concerned with agricultural practices may operate with substantial input from             and collaboration with the Agriculture Research Service.

            (e) AIRCRAFT Experiment Stations.—

                        (1) An aircraft experiment station is a land unit converted from an airport and managed by the Federal Aviation                         Administration for the purpose of studying and developing more sustainable flight operations, airport infrastructure,                         and aircraft, especially aircraft that emit less greenhouse gases than current jet aircraft.

                        (2) Each aircraft experiment station will host offices or laboratories of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric                         Administration, scientists from which will assist with and in some cases oversee experimental design, research, and                         statistical analysis.

                        (3) Each aircraft experiment station shall be managed in accordance with an Aircraft Experiment Station Plan, to                         be prepared by the Federal Aviation Administration and approved by its Administrator within three years of airport de-                        commissioning. The Aircraft Experiment Station Plan will be updated by the Administrator every five years.

SEC. 6. VIOLATIONS, ENFORCEMENT, AND PENALTIES.

            (a) Airlines AND AIRPORTS.—

                        (1) Airlines in violation of section (4), subsection (b) of this Act will be subject to criminal penalties of up to one million             dollars ($1,000,000) per offense and sentences of up to two years in prison as imposed and prosecuted, respectively, by the             Federal Aviation Administration.

                        (2) Airport authorities in violation of section (4), subsection (b), paragraph (4) of this Act will be subject to criminal             penalties of up to five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000) per offense and sentences of up to one year in prison as imposed             and prosecuted, respectively, by the Federal Aviation Administration.

            (b) Private Jets.—

                        (1) Manufacturers and sellers of private jets in violation of section (4), subsection (b) of this Act will be subject to                         criminal penalties of up to two hundred thousand dollars ($200,000) per offense and sentences of up to two years in prison             as imposed and prosecuted, respectively, by the Federal Aviation Administration.

                        (2) Private jet owners and operators in violation of section (4), subsection (b) of this Act will be subject to civil penalties             of up to fifty thousand dollars ($50,000) per offense as imposed by the Transportation Security Administration.

            (c) PASSENGERS.—

                        (1) Passengers in violation of section (4), subsection (c) of this Act will be subject to civil penalties of up to fifteen                         thousand dollars ($15,000) per offense as imposed by the Transportation Security Administration.

SEC. 7. FINANCIAL RELIEF OF PRIMARY AFFECTED PARTIES.

            (a) ESTABLISHMENT OF RELIEF FUND.—

                        (1) An Air Industry Relief Fund is hereby established for purposes of delivering limited financial relief to certain parties             affected by this Act.

                        (2) The Relief Fund shall comprise a re-appropriation of the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, which shall be dissolved             upon said re-appropriation.

                        (3) The Relief Fund shall be held by the Treasury.

                        (4) Relief Fund distributions shall be managed by the Federal Aviation Administration’s Deputy Administrator for                         Financial Services, who shall upon enactment:

                                    (A) Develop an application process for Relief Fund distributions, including application instructions consistent                         with but additional to subsection (b), paragraph (3) of this section.

                                    (B) Distribute application instructions to the eligible parties identified in subsection (b), paragraph (1) of this                         section.

                                    (C) Publish the application instructions in the Federal Register within 18 months of enactment.

                        (5) Relief Fund distributions shall not be used for employee or executive bonuses or other benefits beyond salaries and             wages.

                        (6) The duration of the Relief Fund shall be ten years, commencing two years after enactment.

            (b) ELIGIBILITY OF AFFECTED PARTIES.—

                        (1) Affected parties eligible for Relief Fund distributions shall include:

                                    (A) Airlines

                                    (B) Airports

                                    (C) Airline employees

                                    (D) Private jet owners

                        (2) Affected parties currently in bankruptcy proceedings are not eligible for Relief Fund distributions.

                        (3) An affected airline or airport may apply for Relief Fund distributions to the Federal Aviation Administration                         consistent with instructions and with a detailed description of:

                                    (A) Financial position including:

                                                (i) Assets and income

                                                (ii) Debts and obligations

                                                (iii) Shareholder equity

                                    (B) Financial effects of this Act including:

                                                (i) Loss of revenue

                                                (ii) Devaluation of fixed capital

                                                (iii) Interest payments on unmet obligations

                                                (iv) Penalties assessed due to unmet obligations

                        (4) An affected employee may apply for Relief Fund distributions to the Federal Aviation Administration, consistent with             instructions and with a detailed description of:

                                    (A) The period of time the employee has been financially affected by this Act.

                                    (B) Salary and wages received by the airline or airport for the five years preceding enactment.

                                    (C) Salary and wages, from any sources, during the period of time the employee has been affected by this Act.

                        (5) A private jet owner may apply for Relief Fund distributions to the Federal Aviation Administration, consistent with             instructions and with a detailed description of the devaluation of the private jet or jets owned, subject to the following                         limitations:

                                    (A) A maximum of one private jet may be considered for purposes of Relief Fund distributions.

                                    (B) A maximum of one half the devaluation of a jet identified pursuant to subparagraph (A) of this paragraph may                         be distributed from the Relief Fund.

            (c) BANKRUPTCY.––

                        (1) An airline or airport unable to meet its financial obligations may file for bankruptcy pursuant to Chapter 7 or                         Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code.

                        (2) Proceeds from the liquidation of assets shall be distributed among shareholders.

                        (3) During bankruptcy proceedings, any Relief Fund distributions successfully requested by an airline or airport shall be             distributed in the following order until exhausted:

                                    (A) Airline or airport employees, not including executive officers, to whom salaries and wages are owed.

                                    (B) Municipalities to which rents, taxes, and fees are owed.

                                    (C) Creditors to whom interest is owed.

                                    (D) Executive officers to whom salaries are owed, at salary levels no higher than at the time of enactment.

SEC. 8. MILITARY AIR OPERATIONS.—

            Within two years of enactment, the Secretary of Defense shall submit to Congress a plan to lower greenhouse gas emissions from military air operations by at least fifty percent (50%).

The post Introducing the Forgoing Flights for America the Beautiful Act appeared first on Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.


Climate Change, Mr Morrison, and Theology

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 02/09/2021 - 3:01am in

Mr Morrison has a problem. By now, someone in his government’s environment portfolio will have read the IPCC’s Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis, Summary for Policymakers report. The message from this United Nations scientific panel about climate change is very simple: business as usual will doom us all. Mr Morrison must have some sense that this is a significant problem, as one would imagine that the 2019–20 bushfire season is pretty well seared into his political memory. But the end of the world as we know it in twenty years’ time (if we don’t act now) does not define Mr Morrison’s problem. Mr Morrison’s first and only political problem is defined by how he understands the art of the possible in the present—by how he reads political necessity now.

The bottom line of contemporary political power is that Mr Morrison’s party’s ability to form government depends on his electoral success. He will succeed as PM if he reads us correctly and gives us what he believes we want. He will fail as a politician if his government loses power on his watch because he doesn’t at least promise what the electorate wants.

Representative politics is always at risk of devolving into the art of feeding and pleasing the crowd. Our modern understanding of parliamentary sovereignty means that political authority comes from no other source than the will of the people, in the present, as determined by numbers in a representative process. So Mr Morrison as the servant of political authority defined only by electoral success, has no other role than going in whatever direction the majority wind blows, right now. It is a beautifully simple arrangement that liberates pragmatic politics from all the stress of trying to determine matters of metaphysical justice and moral legitimacy.

After what Nick Greiner called the rise of the ‘post-ideological age’ in the 1990s, Australian democracy seems to have lost sight of the high moral and metaphysical categories that used to define the broadly humanist and softly Christian categories of justice, truth and foresight that made democratic politics an imperfectly good system of power in twentieth-century Australia. Nowadays political success is defined by, well, success, and success alone (i.e. being in power). As a very contemporary politician, Mr Morrison’s first and only problem is reading (and perhaps writing) us correctly enough to hold on to power. In this context the IPCC report represents a secondary storyline problem that must in some manner be read into the winning electoral narrative that the Australian people need to hear from their leader (who is following the people). This renarration of jarring storylines can be a complicated problem to solve. But, coming from the marketing world, Mr Morrison is a formidable expert at solving just such problems. If he stays on the main storylines of his political brand—safety, prosperity and national pride—all other stories can be subordinated and retooled to harmonise with the winning narrative.

Swinging away from Mr Morrison’s mastery of pragmatic metrics, his expert skills in PR techniques, and his cool facility in operating the machinery of majoritarian success, let us play with an interesting hypothesis concerning that other intriguing aspect of our prime minister: his deep religious convictions.

As a thought experiment, let us imagine that Mr Morrison reads the IPCC report, he prays about it, and another miracle happens: God speaks to him and says, ‘The Pope is right about all this environmental business, Scott. You need to ditch fossil fuels right now, and switch to renewables’. Let us imagine that Mr Morrison is converted in his deep inner convictions and becomes, overnight, a climate-change-mitigation zealot (… the Pope has done this, as has the Patriarch of the Orthodox world, as has the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, so this is quite a real possibility for high-powered Christians of deep conviction).

Mr Morrison, as we all know, is a man of strong religious convictions, but he is also a man who is adept at isolating his personal convictions from the necessities of political success. For example, as a Christian, Mr Morrison is no doubt deeply committed to the Sermon on the Mount—committed, that is, within the proper domain of religious feelings and personal morality. As the former minister for immigration, excluding the alien and the outcast and indefinitely consigning them to offshore detention was his public responsibility, so that Australians could feel ‘safe’ behind our secure and sovereign borders. This important job, which he did so well as to show his obvious prime-ministerial potential, may seem to contradict his personal Christian commitments. Not so. For Mr Morrison upholds the necessary iron wall between public pragmatics and personal faith that our secular political domain requires. So I can imagine Mr Morrison explaining to God that even though his humble servant is now sincerely converted into an eco-theology environmental advocate, it is all very well for the Pope to tell Roman Catholics that they should all embrace environmentally proactive religious convictions, but the Pope is not a political leader.

Clearly, as a politician Mr Morrison has never aspired to be a religious leader; he has always been a public figure acting within a firmly secular domain, who also happens to be a Christian of deep faith in the sanctity of his own private beliefs and personal morality. So, imagine our converted Mr Morrison now has a strong religious conviction that Australia really should pursue the costly climate-change-mitigation action required to hold global warming at its current, already dangerously overheated level. That would require very serious and immediate action to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy. But as a politician Mr Morrison often has to uphold democratically authorised stances that he himself does not agree with (such as same-sex marriage, perhaps), and even though God Himself (in our hypothetical scenario) may have spoken to Mr Morrison, this does not mean our PM can simply decide to push the Australian people in a direction that conforms with his own religious convictions.

And so we return to Mr Morrison’s first problem. Deeply personally converted though he may be, Mr Morrison would simply not be able to act on his inner environmental convictions. The pragmatics of politics mean that he has to keep powerful mining-and-energy-sector interests happy in order to keep economic normality—already seriously stressed by COVID—viable, and the Coalition has branded itself electorally as a party that provides security for the mining and energy sector. And pragmatically, Mr Morrison is no doubt very aware that the mining sector alone contributes substantially more to our economy and our government coffers than manufacturing and agriculture combined, even if the mining sector doesn’t employ many people.

Under former prime minister Kevin Rudd the Australian Labor Party tried to introduce a carbon tax, and the Coalition very successfully played fear and greed politics with the electorate (gleefully aided by the Murdoch press) and got rid of the ALP. (Internal leadership implosions didn’t help the ALP either.) But the current Coalition run in office started with a rejection of Kevin Rudd’s moral imperative about addressing climate change. So it has been  demonstrated at the ballot box that the electorate has decisively said ‘no’ to an environment tax, the Australian people expects our government to provide security to the mining and energy sector, and the voting public will not take costly steps to radically change our ways in order to save the planet for our children. This is the kind of objective metrics of power that Mr Morrison pays very close attention to. So even if he personally wanted to take strong and sweeping action to slow climate change, politically we—the electorate—won’t allow him to do this.

The picture is more complicated than the one I have drawn above, for sure. But it is more complicated in a very surprising direction, which only becomes visible when you start looking at theology.

Dropping the PM’s hypothetical environmental-conversion idea, the fact is that Mr Morrison and we the electorate largely share the same theological outlook when it comes to science and natural exploitation.

At the outset of what we now call the scientific revolution, Francis Bacon was throwing out Aristotle and embracing a firmly useful approach to science, motivated by the theology of his day. Adam was considered to have a divine mandate to subdue and rule the earth, proper scientific knowledge gave us power over nature, and the point of our power was the enhancement of human utility, thus recovering the rightful lordship over nature that we had lost in the fall. Further, the increase of knowledge and global travel was a sure sign, to Bacon, that the Lord was soon to return, and we could help usher in the Kingdom of God through our advances in science and technology.

Mr Morrison probably assumes a broadly Baconian theology of creation, science and technology. But, though we as a collective are considerably less religious than Mr Morrison, we  share that same basic theology when it comes to natural exploitation and the use of science to create utopia on earth. And why not? For it is this theology that has made the West the masters of the planet and given us all the wonderful benefits of the scientific age. We have a secularised Baconian theology. Here, for  secular agnostic/atheists and Christian dominion creationists alike, the natural world exists for no other purpose that for us to rule and use. No doubt, to the Baconian Christian we are stewards set over the earth by God, but our rulership is also an expression of our own sovereign freedoms so beloved of the spirit of free enterprise. Adam Smith’s eighteenth-century classical economics comes out of the same dominion- and freedom-concerned theological backstory as does Francis Bacon. Continuous with the modern Western technological and financial ideology of power, Mr Morrison, the (I presume) Jainist CEO of the Adani coal mine, and the majority of largely irreligious Australians are theologically on much the same page when it comes to attitudes to natural exploitation and personal wealth accumulation. Our actions and attitudes reveal our theology far more than our religion and personal beliefs do.

In making the above claim I am drawing a distinction that you may not be familiar with: between theology as a deeply embedded cultural outlook and theology as a personal religious commitment . The Lynn White thesis made this distinction in 1967 in relation to the West’s attitude to the environment. The field of eco-theology that sprang up as a result of White’s work understands the distinction between theology and religion very well, as does modern religious studies, but this is still poorly understood outside academic circles that work with ‘religion’. Let me unpack this distinction quickly.

‘Religion’, as we now use the term, is a pretty recent invention, arising at much the same time as the modern approach to science entered Western history. Science in the seventeenth century arose out of Christian theology, and nearly all the great fathers of modern science were amateur theologians. But the modern Western notion of ‘religion’ finally solidified in the late nineteenth century. What we now mean by ‘religion’ is the idea that some people have deeply personal and private belief convictions about a supreme supernatural being, also tend to perform religious rituals in special religious places, and in some cases adhere to a particular set of doctrinal stories and personal morality rules. Crucially, these religious matters are explicitly separate from the public and secular domain of work, factual knowledge, and legal and civic life. Religious beliefs are optional and subjective personal convictions, and the very recent idea of religious liberty allows people to have whatever personal belief convictions they like. In contrast, our public knowledge and actions function in the domain of objective science, and are governed by public law.

Intriguingly, for most people of faith in the world today, the manner in which secular Western modernity assumes that religion must stay strictly within the discrete and private domain of personal belief is entirely foreign to them. So they are not religious in our modern Western sense, or at least they are not exponents of what we see as safe and sensible (albeit probably delusional) religion. And while one form of the Christian faith—evangelical Protestantism—is decidedly modern in its nature, all the older forms of Christian faith are not really religious in this modern, personal-domain-defined sense either. So ‘religion’ has a distinctive meaning in the context of secular Western modernity, and it well describes a striking socio-cultural signature of Western modernity unique to Western secularism: a discretely public and secular sphere is held to be totally autonomous from a discretely private and religious sphere. But this type of religion does not describe religion itself. And indeed, religion itself is highly context textured. This is why academics who work in the sociology, history and study of religion do not try to make universal category definitions about what religion is. But theology is a bit different.

When it comes to commonly shared cultural attitudes to the physical, the spiritual and the social world, most of what we ‘know’ we receive in our mother’s milk, as it were, rather than heroically decide for ourselves. As sociologists understand quite well, there are primal mythic and philosophical outlooks that define a culture’s basic common reality understandings, and the word Aristotle used for these first principles is ‘theology’. I won’t give you a lesson on Aristotle and theology here, but in the West it is unavoidably the case that various shades of Christian theology are the deep shapers of Western culture’s primary common reality outlook.

So it is not theologically insignificant that Mr Morrison is an evangelical Christian, and that secular business interests heavily invested in natural-resource exploitation are pretty well on the same page as Mr Morrison about climate change, and that the majority of Australians who live within the norms of the modern technological age also share the same basic sense of natural-resource-exploitation entitlement. Indeed, it is pretty hard for the average adult in any context to imagine an entirely different sort of relationship between technology, natural resources, and individual and corporate power than the one they have grown up with. As the sociologist Bruno Latour has pointed out, politics, power, economic normality and theology are all deeply integrated in our life-world (however much we might like to imagine that they are separate domains).

Lynn White is right: we won’t avert ecological disaster unless we are prepared to take a close look at our culturally assumed theological reflexes about what nature is and what our human powers are entitled to do with nature. This is something Pope Francis has taken very seriously to heart.

Among university educated and somewhat progressive Australians, there is a sense of urgent need that our government should take immediate and far-reaching climate-change-mitigation measures. This is a minority stance in the Australian electorate (and, of course, many university-educated people do not fit on the progressive spectrum). For this reason, soft progressives (on this issue) like myself cannot look down on Mr Morrison for his Baconian theology and his sense of electoral constraint, because his feelings in this area are largely shared by the majority of Australians. Mr Morrison’s instincts about the assumed environmental tendencies of the electorate are not wrong. Reflecting on our prime minister’s antics with a lump of coal in Parliament House, it is clear that his environmental assumptions presuppose an overt dominion-over-nature theology, of one piece with the outlook of Francis Bacon. But we all have this theology—even if unconsciously and irreligiously—if we are modern Western people, and even if we like to think we are progressive.

If we didn’t already know it, the IPCC report shows us that anthropogenic climate change is deeply in play, now. We seem powerless to make sensible decisions about our future that move outside of the necessities of immediate political viability. This is frightening on two fronts. If we stick with electoral necessities that track the ballast of assumed Australian attitudes about nature, we will produce a horrifying future scenario for generations to come. If we can’t solve these sorts of problems politically, then executive power will eventually impose harsh and unbending solutions on us. Ironically, our theology is giving us a devil’s choice. Perhaps we need to think more seriously about both our theology of nature and our theology of power.

When it comes to reworking our modern and Western theology of nature—a tacitly Christian and seventeenth-century theology—listening to contemporary eco-theologians like Pope Francis is an obvious place to start (read Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ if you want to try this). But we need to rethink our theology of power as well.

As regards our theology of power, it was a post-evangelical English jurist of the late nineteenth century, A. V. Dicey, who strongly promoted the notion of firmly secularised parliamentary sovereignty in England, and hence in the Commonwealth. Dicey firmly rejected older metaphysical and theological categories of political authority in favour of a ‘black box’ parliamentary constructivism where, provided proper procedures are followed, parliament can simply ‘make up’ any law it likes and that law becomes valid and just by definition. This is a profound shift away from the older notion that the will of the people as expressed through democratic political processes reaches (always imperfectly) towards Justice and Goodness. This new doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty held that there is no metaphysical horizon of justice beyond parliament, so parliament simply makes up justice and goodness by following a majoritarian representative procedure.

But if, after Dicey, parliamentary sovereignty locates political authority only in the will of the majority, then—as Plato pointed out a long time ago—we are always going to be at risk of bad leadership (i.e. no leadership at all). This is because a simply majoritarian mentality finds self-interested greed and irrational collective fear the easiest tools of power. Indeed, channelling these subrational herd powers is the only sure passage to democratic victory for the power pragmatist totally committed to riding the winnable majoritarian will of the people. And as marketing psychologists well understand, mass communication works best as a tool of crowd manipulation at a subrational, fear- and greed-priming level. Distorting information and appealing to leverageable prejudices to gain mass-appeal support is simply how effective mass-media power normally works.

When the Australian constitution was built, it was a compromise design incorporating aspects of the new idea of parliamentary sovereignty that had taken hold of English politics in the late nineteenth century, with the older concept of sovereignty as an imperfect yet divinely mediated ruling authority. To protect the people from merely majoritarian rule, certain checks and balances were built into the constitution such that the will of the majority was not the only principle of governing power. Here, older concepts of political and juridical authority are at play. The crown itself—the final symbol of political authority in Australian law and government—is an intrinsically theological idea: on the very top of the English crown is a cross. The idea here is that earthly political authority, however imperfectly mediated, is of divine origin. This is also the final symbol of justice in our legal system.

The principle here—which, again, one does not need to be ‘religious’ to respect—is that justice and authority are not merely a function of procedural or executive power but are in the final analysis transcendent and spiritual in nature. A leader who is firstly accountable to Justice and the Common Good is not going to be merely defined by the necessities of electoral victory. Such a leader can actually lead the people, rather than simply harnessing the lowest-common-denominator (i.e. majoritarian) energies of the crowd. The energies of the crowd can be dangerously anti-civic, as they are easily defined by the ‘animal spirits’ of the market: the bulls of greed and the bears of fear. Such animal spirits can also turn in a straightforwardly anti-human and demonic direction given enough instability and insecurity, as we saw in Nazi Germany. And forget not that Germany was a pinnacle of intellectual and artistic European culture in the early twentieth century. The crowd can be easily turned, under the right conditions, and become intrinsically opposed to Justice and the Common Good. Saving democracy as a high and moral ideal means ensuring that the will of the people remains humane and political and does not devolve into an irrational collective monster governed by powerful sub-human and anti-human spirits.

We are, alas, now seriously theologically ignorant as a people. We do not think about the high concerns of intrinsic meaning and transcendent values when we think about nature and politics any more. We like to think that being pragmatic and ‘realistic’ is all very grown up and sophisticated, but actually it plays us into the irrational and demagogue-vulnerable dynamics of mob rule.

Theology…who would have thought that our theology of nature might be the cause of the end of Western modernity as we know it? Who would have thought that our theology of power might make us unable to break out of the sub-political and deeply irrational crowd dynamics of fear and greed? It looks like Mr Morrison’s problem is our problem. So what are we going to do about it?


Empire of the Dead: The Fossil Fuel Order and the clean-energy rebellion

David Ritter, Jun 2021

The reality is that none of our cherished futures are possible if the burning of coal, oil and gas remains business as usual; the fond horizon will be a bitter mirage for as long as the Fossil Fuel Order stands.

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