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Here’s What Students Think Biden Needs to Do in His First 100 Days

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 22/01/2021 - 7:18am in

From reimagining the Postal Service to combating climate change to reforming OIRA, students across the country told us what they think Biden’s top priority should be. Continue reading

The post Here’s What Students Think Biden Needs to Do in His First 100 Days appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

Climate Groups Begin Vying for Power in the Biden Era as Pressure for Unity Fades

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 22/01/2021 - 5:54am in

The BlueGreen Alliance, a coalition of six labor unions and six national environmental groups, is gearing up for a significant staff expansion heading into the Biden administration, recently advertising for 11 new positions, including the 15-year-old group’s first field organizers and federal campaign manager. The staffing up, said Jason Walsh, executive director of the alliance, is a reflection of funders recognizing “the moment we’re in, both in terms of the scale of the crisis and the opportunity with the new Congress and a new president” — and also a signal that policy differences in the Democratic climate coalition will emerge in clearer focus over the next few months.

As pressure for unity from the presidential campaign season fades and President Joe Biden begins enacting his climate vision, there will be more competition among climate groups for influencing policy, a preview of which emerged in September over a House energy bill that ultimately garnered 18 Democratic dissenting votes. The Biden campaign sought to align itself closely with unions on the trail, making BlueGreen a valued ally, though some of its other efforts to court environmental justice groups highlight policy differences that the new administration will have to navigate.

The BlueGreen Alliance, which emphasizes equity and the needs of working people in the U.S.’s response to climate change, rejects what it calls the “false choice” between economic security and a viable planet, according to an eight-page policy platform released in 2019.

While BlueGreen’s focus on public investment, good jobs, and justice shares much in common with the federal Green New Deal resolution introduced in February 2019, their “Solidarity for Climate Action” report is in tension with those in the environmental movement who call for a more rapid transition away from oil, coal, and natural gas. BlueGreen says that the ultimate goal should be to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, but not necessarily end the fossil fuel industry itself, with its tens of thousands of high-paying jobs.

“We’re focused on what we can build together, not on shutting down projects or facilities,” said Walsh. “We’re focused on what unites labor and environment … [and] we’ll need that unity, we have literally no votes to spare.”

And the BlueGreen Alliance, which endorsed Biden for president — its first endorsement of a candidate for public office — is well-positioned among Democratic leaders to push its platform. “Based on our efforts and the efforts of our allies, there’s something of an emerging consensus among Democratic policymakers of the central importance of getting to net-zero by 2050 in a way that supports and creates lots of high-quality, accessible union jobs in the process,” Walsh said.

The alliance — which includes large national green groups like the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council and labor unions like the Service Employees International Union, the American Federation of Teachers, and the United Steelworkers — also calls for measures like restoring forests and wildlands, cracking down on employee misclassification, making it easier to unionize, winning universal high-speed internet, and investing in deindustrialized areas. Walsh declined to say who exactly was financing BlueGreen’s new positions but said it received some significant support recently from “old and some new” philanthropies, including the Hewlett Foundation.

BlueGreen will notably not weigh in on pipeline project debates, and it has no position on fracking. Walsh told The Intercept that as outlined in the “Solidarity for Climate Action” report, the coalition endorses “low-and-no carbon” electricity production, which could potentially include nuclear energy and natural gas.

“If Biden and Harris are truly committed to environmental justice, that means they have to be proactively figuring out how to close down fossil fuel infrastructure,” countered Erich Pica, the president of Friends of the Earth, a progressive climate group. Pica critiqued the BlueGreen Alliance’s 2019 report for not being aggressive enough in calling out fossil fuels. The Green New Deal resolution also did not make mention of fossil fuels, which Pica also objected to.

“With Democrats in control, it’s time for an honest discussion about whether fossil fuels can be a part of the solution and about whether we should be propping up a dying industry that’s screwing over its workers,” said Collin Rees, a senior campaigner at Oil Change International, which also opposes the expansion of the fossil fuel industry.

Anthony Rogers-Wright, of the Climate Justice Alliance, a national coalition of environmental justice groups, said that while members of the group “probably agree on 85-90 percent” of things with the BlueGreen Alliance, there are some fundamental differences. Rogers-Wright said that he was not expecting the big scale-up of BlueGreen’s staff, but he’s not surprised either. “I have much respect for them, and we work with them, but there also still does exist a massive wealth gap of historically white-led environmental organizations compared to grassroot organizations, and that’s being manifested here as well.”

A truck carts coal ash as emissions rise from a smoke stack at the Conesville Power Plant in Conesville, Ohio, U.S., on April 18, 2020.

A truck carts coal ash as emissions rise from a smokestack at the Conesville Power Plant in Conesville, Ohio, on April 18, 2020.

Photo: Dane Rhys/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Groups across the Democratic spectrum agree that the Biden campaign and his transition team have done a notably good job of listening to and engaging with different perspectives. The expectation is that some deeper fissures will come to light when it comes time to actually roll out climate policy, especially around the future of carbon capture technology, nuclear energy, and natural gas.

Many left-wing climate groups have taken a hard-line stance against carbon capture, which traps emissions before they’re released or sucks them from the atmosphere; they see it as a way to prolong dependence on fossil fuels and make it more difficult to reduce carbon emissions overall. While the Green New Deal resolution was ambiguous on carbon capture, during the 2020 presidential primary, Sen. Bernie Sanders came out against it, echoing left-wing climate groups that call it a “false solution.”

Carbon capture, backed by BlueGreen, is endorsed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which said in 2018 that it was likely necessary to hit global climate targets. The International Energy Agency has also recently warned that it would be “virtually impossible” to reach net-zero without carbon capture tech. Advocates note that renewable energy alternatives like wind and solar are not viable solutions for reducing carbon emissions in the industrial sector, where nearly a quarter of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions come from.

In September, the House passed a nearly 900-page clean energy package with bipartisan support, including from the majority of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and nearly all the Green New Deal resolution co-sponsors. But, after a coalition of progressive climate groups, including the Sunrise Movement, Friends of the Earth, and the Climate Justice Alliance, protested the bill’s support for carbon capture, 18 Democrats, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Ayanna Pressley, voted against it. Progressives saw a victory in their ability to peel off dissenters and say they are prepared to do so again under a Biden administration.

“We didn’t stop [the bill], but we had 18 votes, and that could stop any legislation with Nancy Pelosi’s smaller majority,” Rees told The Intercept. “I think when we were able to make that case to lawmakers about whether they see a continuing role for the fossil fuel industry, to lay that choice out, a lot of people made the right choice. And we’ll continue to grow that anti-fossil fuel margin.”

The BlueGreen Alliance did not take a position on September’s energy bill. “All of our decision-making is consensus-based, and the House energy bill moved too quickly for us to do the due diligence with all our partners,” Walsh explained.

While many left-wing climate groups see their upper hand on environmental justice issues, those same groups struggle to connect with the labor movement, despite their rhetoric around centering workers and jobs.

Many unions are skeptical that phrases like “a just transition” will amount to anything more than a hollow slogan. Moreover, unions supportive of carbon capture technology include not just those working in the energy industry, but also those in health care, education, and communications. And there’s real overlap between Green New Deal partners and BlueGreen; both the SEIU and the AFT, BlueGreen coalition members, passed resolutions in support of the Green New Deal, and the League of Conservation Voters, also a BlueGreen member, was another early endorser of the resolution.

BlueGreen Alliance leaders think the expectation that they call for ending the fossil fuel industry even prior to having any sort of real alternative in place is unrealistic and reflects something of an insincere commitment from left-wing groups to working with organized labor.

Pica acknowledged that BlueGreen is helpful and “one of the few places having formal conservations with labor” in the environmental movement. He said climate groups “have to have some real conversations with the labor movement and workers that will be most adversely affected [by the energy transition], and we have to treat those workers as holistically, to ensure they’re guided through a transition that is grounded in keeping those communities whole.”

Rees agreed that “unions need to be part of the conversation” and acknowledged past opposition to unionization by renewable energy companies and the low wages of many jobs heralded as preferable alternatives to fossil fuel employment. “[Unions] are 100 percent correct when they say they’re not comparable jobs, and I think we absolutely need to get real about what those transition programs are,” he said. “I completely agree with oil and gas people, and climate groups are not happy either about what’s been offered on the transition side.”

Demonstrators from several environmental groups including Extinction Rebellion and Sunrise Movement demand broad action at a youth-led climate strike near City Hall on December 6, 2019 in New York City.

Demonstrators from several environmental groups, including Extinction Rebellion and the Sunrise Movement, demand broad action at a youth-led climate strike near City Hall on Dec. 6, 2019, in New York.

Photo: Scott Heins/Getty Images

For now, the Biden administration is walking a tightrope, looking to please all sides for as long as possible.

Biden’s $2 trillion climate plan released in July called for accelerating the development and deployment of carbon capture technology, and on his presidential transition website, he mentions a commitment to innovating “negative emissions technologies” — an umbrella term for carbon capture. His Department of Energy transition team includes Brad Markell, the executive director for the AFL-CIO Industrial Union Council and a strong advocate for carbon capture technology, and Noah Deich, the executive director for Carbon180, a group focused on carbon removal tech.

Biden’s team has also appointed individuals who left-wing critics of carbon capture concede are exciting and encouraging, including Rep. Deb Haaland to lead the Department of the Interior, Michael Regan to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, and Brenda Mallory to chair the Council on Environmental Quality. Last week, the Biden team announced six more climate appointments, including Maggie Thomas, who advised both Elizabeth Warren and Jay Inslee’s presidential campaigns, and Cecilia Martinez, who will direct environmental justice initiatives and comes from the Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy.

For now, the Biden administration is walking a tightrope, looking to please all sides for as long as possible.

“It’s not perfect, but we were quite happy in the end with how the final team shaped up,” said Rees, and noted that left-wing groups helped defeat the nomination of former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, in part by highlighting his ties to the fossil fuel industry. Moniz founded a think tank at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology after leaving the Obama administration and works there with his former Department of Energy adviser, David Foster, who was also the founding executive director of the BlueGreen Alliance.

Reese, Pica, and Rogers-Wright all told The Intercept that the Biden campaign and transition team have been in strong communication with them. Pica went so far as to say Biden’s team is “one of the most open and transparent campaigns that I’ve worked with over the last 20 years.” He said he feels “cautiously optimistic” and that its members have “done a pretty good job” on personnel picks.

For now, some left-wing climate groups concede that even if the Biden team has close relations with the BlueGreen Alliance and the alliance plans to flex its power more in the coming months, the Biden team has also shown its willingness to be more aggressive against fossil fuel companies in ways that BlueGreen would not.

During the primary, Biden said the government should “go after” the fossil fuel industry to hold it accountable for climate change, “just like we did the drug companies, just like we did the tobacco companies.” He’s also avoided the “all-of-the-above” energy rhetoric of the Obama administration, called for a ban on new fossil fuel permitting on public lands, and on Wednesday issued an executive order rescinding the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.

“That’s all a testament to how far the movement has come,” said Rees. “Because for all the things that Joe Biden is, he’s not a radical politician.”

The post Climate Groups Begin Vying for Power in the Biden Era as Pressure for Unity Fades appeared first on The Intercept.

Population Growth: The Ironic Vexer

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 22/01/2021 - 5:20am in
By Brian Czech

In a world of vexing issues—and our topic this week is certainly that—population growth might just be the most ironic. That’s because it should be among the simplest of issues; almost trifling in its mathematics. Yet opinions about it are beset with political, economic, and even some technical controversy.

For steady staters it seems perfectly clear: Population must be stabilized for the sake of societal well-being and even mere sustainability. On this, steady staters are aligned with ecologists, anthropologists, and most folks grounded in the natural sciences. Steady staters are more than just academic observers, though. Population stabilization is a central policy goal in advancing the steady state economy. It must be pursued through public education, fiscal policy, sustainable immigration, and international diplomacy.

Unfortunately, for many other groups, population growth is like the elephant in the room at an 800-pound gorilla convention. Most environmental organizations, despite dealing with one controversy after another, won’t touch population with a 10-foot pole. Conventional economists and politicians think little about limits to growth and almost invariably promote population growth. Even the Degrowth movement in Europe tends to dismiss population as an issue for colonialist hypocrites to wring their hands over.

Let’s consider a few of these controversies and complications that cloud the issue of population growth. Then we’ll identify some starting points for population policy congruent with a steady state economy. But first we’ll take another crack, as so many others have, at demonstrating the raw untenability of population growth using a few eye-popping calculations.

Lilies, Rice, and Warm Bodies Stacked Up at the Fed

So much has been written about the power of exponential growth, yet it never seems to sink into the brain of the body politic. We’ve all heard about lilies on the pond and rice on the checkerboard. Maybe we need to put it in simple terms of humans on the planet.

Crowd

No limit to population growth? (Image: CC0, Credit: Hans)

If our global population of 7.8 billion grew at 1 percent per year—a tenth of a percentage point slower than the current rate—we’d have 21 billion people on the planet a century from now. Yes, that’s 21 billion at 2121. (Any numerologists out there?)

Some folks don’t think very far ahead, but a century is hardly eons. We have quite a few folks on this side of the grass who remember Black Tuesday, the Bolshevik revolution, and Babe Ruth. Ask any of these old-timers and they’ll tell you: 2121 will be here before you know it.

Now can you imagine the traffic, horn-blowing, and garbage with almost three times the current crowding? And of course, these are mere inconveniences compared to the existential threats of global heating, resource wars, and pandemics. Yet if you think 21 billion sounds bad, consider that a thousand years from now, in the year 3021, we’d have 163 trillion. We better hope they’re all wearing deodorant, because that’s about 1.1 warm bodies per square meter of dry land! 

You don’t need a population dynamics course to come up with these calculations. Anybody can find the simple formula and tinker with projections using an online population calculator.

So much for blunt math. Now let’s try a thought experiment. If, as the no-limits folks assure us, we can accommodate a perpetually growing population with space-saving technology such as agroponics, genetic engineering, and nanobubbles, surely we could use that exact same technology to accommodate our current numbers in smaller areas. For example, we (7.8 billion humans) could all reside in North America.

But why stop there? Why not have everyone confined to Washington, DC? In fact, we could all move into some headquarters of this or that where the current occupants think there’s no limit. Maybe at the Federal Reserve or the Cato Institute. Not that we’d want to be there, stacked up like shrimps at Bubba Gump’s. But then, why would we want 163 trillion humans on Earth, either? Or 21 billion? Or even 8 billion? (The latter is slated for 2023.)

Yes, to think there is no limit to population growth is patently and provably absurd. All it takes is a modicum of math and a glimpse of geometry. Yet here we are, squeezing into the proverbial Bubba Gump’s with that 1.1 percent growth rate. So, what’s going on in the minds of those economists, politicians, environmental organizations, and degrowthers who refuse to call for stable population?

Population Growth in Conventional Economic Growth Theory

It is crucial for steady staters, population activists, and environmentalists to understand how conventional economists think about population growth. The “second team” of sustainability—anthropologists, engineers, and perhaps public health professionals—should understand likewise. Most would already know that economists are very pro-growth, at least GDP growth. But most of these same rational thinkers probably also assume that economists aren’t necessarily pro-population growth. Most would probably surmise that economists are for GDP growth with a stable population. That way, everyone would have more—a higher per capita consumption—while the hand-wringing over population growth would cease. Surely our GDP-promoting economists would be for that, right?

Wrong! As I described at length on the Steady Stater, the most shocking idea to come out of conventional economics is this: Not only does it take a growing population to increase GDP, but it takes a growing population to increase…(brace yourself)…GDP per capita!

Yes, you read that right. Mainstream economists believe it takes a growing human population not only to grow the economy but to grow the economy per person. In other words, not only can a growing per capita consumption be reconciled with population growth—it requires population growth. So, if you want your grandkids to have a bigger piece of the pie, you better hope the world provides more mouths to feed!

Julian Simon explained this counterintuitive notion—his self-christened “Grand Theory”—in The Ultimate Resource (1981). He said in a nutshell that, yes, environmental problems crop up as the population grows, but so does the number of brains to solve those problems. These brains would ultimately trump resource shortages every time. In fact, there’d be enough brainpower left over to solve any kind of environmental problem. It was a simplistic, shoddy, and sloppily derived hypothesis (as I documented at length in Shoveling Fuel for a Runaway Train), but pro-growth interests loved it and spread it far and wide.

Paul Romer

Paul Romer: Everyone makes mistakes. (Image: CC0, Credit: Doerrb)

The bigger problem came along when Paul Romer, in so many other ways a brilliant scholar, adopted the same basic logic in his “endogenous growth theory” thirteen years later. That’s what set him on a path to fame among economists, economic journalists, and of course the pro-growth think tanks. His Nobel Prize (which wasn’t a Nobel prize per se, but that’s another story) served to legitimatize whatever he had postulated.

Compared with the unfounded optimism (or salesmanship) of Simon’s “theory,” Romer’s growth calculus was much more complex, and I doubt he actually thought GDP or GDP/capita could grow forever. But based on his writings, neither did he think limits to growth were relevant at this point in history. That’s approximately the next-biggest mistake for big-picture thinking in the 21st century.

Fake News, Conspiracy Theories, and the Southern Poverty Law Center

Population activists range all along the spectrums of innocence, ethics, and intent. Many are ecologists concerned with protecting biodiversity. Others are humanists concerned with posterity’s prospects. Still others are card-carrying white supremacists who hate non-white immigrants. We should be grateful, then, that organizations have formed to root out intolerance and rub out the stains of slavery and racism. Unfortunately, guilt by association is an ever-present threat.

Enter the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). They and like-minded groups have smeared the names of population stability advocates, often with the broad brush of guilt by association. Such smearing is a travesty for numerous individuals and organizations, and more importantly a huge barrier to population stabilization. It spreads like wildfire, too.

A good example starts with the late John Tanton, who simultaneously drew the praise of population activists and the perdition of the SPLC. Tanton was a philanthropic saint for population organizations and a race-baiting sinner to the SPLC network. I’m not here to play God one way or the other, but I do declare that the very first Google result I checked pursuant to this matter contained an obvious error. I immediately found the SPLC page that states (as of 1/20/21), “President Dan stein [sic] (left) and fair (sic; should be “FAIR”) founder John Tanton have both suggested that america [sic] is better off under ‘Anglo-Saxon dominance.’” Yet I believe the photo on the left—indeed the only photo on the page—is of Tanton, not Stein. Either that or Stein is a helluva doppelganger.

In other words, the SPLC’s sloppily written page contained a reckless misidentification of a person the page was chiefly concerned with—a dead person no less.

I have no reason to doubt that the SPLC was borne out of the excellent intentions of “fighting hate, teaching tolerance, and seeking justice.” That doesn’t mean they’re good at it, though. If they’re recklessly fomenting a movement that ends up hamstringing other crucial missions—such as the sustainability of the human race—then they’re not so good after all. It’s ironic, too, because while they’re busy fighting hate, teaching tolerance, and seeking justice, they sure seem hateful and intolerant of population activists, unjustly painting them with the guilt-by-association brush.

And so it was that on Sunday, August 23, 2020, I received an email from an entity calling itself “End Environmental Racism.” This otherwise anonymous entity stated, “It has come to our attention that you have accepted funding from an organization that also funds systemic racist organizations. We, together with the League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club, and other environmental organizations, see an “urgent need to dismantle systemic racism within our own organization and the environmental movement” (Sierra Club). Many environmental groups have refused funding from organizations linked to racism.” It goes on to identify the “racist organizations” as “a cluster of organizations that the Southern Poverty Law Institute [sic] regards as hate groups, and that have been founded by activist John Tanton.”

I’m not going to identify the “cluster of organizations” or the funder, because gossip is a plague worse than COVID (according to Pope Francis). It destroys people left and right. What I will say is that the funder is one of the few organizations with the fortitude and clarity to go straight at the root cause of biodiversity loss, global heating, and the ecological footprint at large. Just as the funder is rare in that regard, so are the organizations to be funded. Indeed, the Sierra Club is not one of them, nor are any of the big environmental NGOs. With their corporate boards, they won’t say a thing about limits to growth; it’s left to organizations like CASSE to do the heavy lifting.

Meanwhile, neither the funder nor CASSE can help it if other organizations (focused on immigration for example) end up having some racist followers. Yet the August 23 email ended with, “We would like to know your concerns about receiving funding from an organization being linked to racism.”

“Linked to racism?” Libel much? And what does that mean, “being linked?” Who’s assessing what constitutes a link—the SPLC?

Who’s next to be “linked” to racism, CASSE itself? That seems to be the implication of the vaguely threatening email. Yet linking CASSE to racism would be like linking Aunt Gertie to obstruction of justice if she accepted grant money from the Environmental Protection Agency, because the EPA happened to originate under Richard Nixon. Like Nixon, John Tanton is deceased and his actions on Earth go way back in time. Meanwhile, population organizations, boards, and staff have come and gone.

Robert E. Lee

Anyone “linked” to Robert E. Lee via Pizzagate? (Image: https://steadystate.org/dating-sites-without-fake-profiles/, Credit: pink dating app)

So, what’s next, linking us with Robert E. Lee? Via funding sources, the ghost of John Tanton, and the sri lanka dating womens?

No, what CASSE is firmly linked to is its mission and its position on economic growth, which calls for population stabilization. The SPLC and the anonymous emailer ought to have better things to do than harassing fighters for the common good like CASSE.

But since they brought it up, who’s funding the SPLC, anyway? The Koch Brothers? Cato Institute? Heritage Foundation? Any number of pro-growth operators would love to see the demise of limits-to-growth organizations. They must be “linked” in some way.

Other Detractors from Population Stabilization

Aside from neoclassical economics and the Southern Poverty Law Center, several other groups put a damper on population stabilization politics. One such group could be called Anti-Abortion Christianity. That includes the Catholic Church but also a far-right complex of God and Guns.

Pardon the awful metaphor, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater here. It’s easy to empathize with the Catholic teaching on abortion (especially outside of extreme contexts such as rape and incest). We face accelerating threats to the integrity of human life and the reproduction thereof: genetic engineering, in vitro fertilization, cloning, CRISPR, cryonics, etc. Protecting life in the womb is looking quaint and quixotic in the face of such assaults on naturalness.

The problem is, of course, that the anti-abortion stance tends to morph into politics against family planning in general. Yet, with a pope advising that we don’t have to breed “like rabbits” and calling for “responsible parenthood,” I don’t think Anti-Abortion Christianity is the biggest challenge today. Thank goodness, “God and Guns” won’t get far either. My vote would be for neoclassical economics, Wall Street, or Dark Money.

Another group, and more surprisingly at first glance, is the Degrowth movement in Europe. This group is far from united on goals and policies, but many degrowthers seem to be against the immigration reforms that would be necessary to stabilize populations in European countries. In such countries (as well as the USA), the “native” birthrate is at or below the replacement rate, and population growth results primarily from high rates of immigration; 90 percent in the case of the USA.

The degrowthers’ case against immigration reform stems from a concern for social justice. Degrowthers realize that European nations have a history of colonization, of taking slaves and resources over vast regions of the world. In some ways, colonization continues, if we include corporations among the colonizing powers. For degrowthers, it only exacerbates the injustice when emigrants from colonized regions are locked out of the colonizing countries where they might find greener pastures.

Population Stabilization and Steady Statesmanship

Steady staters can empathize with the degrowthers, and in fact just about all the groups noted above (not including white supremacists or Dark Money.) However, we start with the principles of steady-state economics, which means we deal with three major issues: sustainability, justice, and efficiency. We seek an efficient allocation of resources toward a socially just distribution of wealth, in an aggregate amount that fits on the planet.

The order is important, too. No other goals are feasible for long—by definition—without sustainability. So, while others may prioritize social justice (such as the SPLC and many degrowthers) and others prioritize efficient allocation (such as most economists), we prioritize “sustainable scale.” That means a stabilized population and economy at a sustainable size; ideally at an optimal size.

To stabilize population, we need buy-in from the public and policymakers. That starts with public education. How can we expect any policies toward population stability without it? Articles like this and blogs such as the Steady State Herald can help, but of course, we need sweeping coverage in primary and secondary schools as well as colleges and universities. Nuggets about lilies and rice grains work for starters, but public education must build up to sustainability concepts such as the ecological footprint and carrying capacity.

At post-graduate levels, where education blends into policy formulation, how exactly should our message be presented? A good strategy for steady staters is to “lead” with the need to stabilize the economy as measured with GDP. That way we don’t run immediately into the undiscriminating teeth of Anti-Abortion Christianity. When population does come up—as of course it must—we can quickly point out that it’s not angels on the head of a pin we’re talking about. Rather, we’re interested in population growth only because real, warm-blooded humans consume and have an ecological footprint that affects every other human (present and future) with a right to life. But we lead with GDP—and constantly go back to a focus on GDP—because GDP growth is a very secular issue and not at all taboo. It’s constantly on the airwaves, televisions, and internet.

Yet when limits to GDP and the devastating effects of GDP are firmly established in political dialog, population comes back into the spotlight, right next to per capita consumption. Agreement builds that population cannot be left to chance, passion, or an attitude of “outgrowing” other groups.

Once we achieve that level of understanding, we can get down to the brass tacks of population policy. The brass tacks are fiscal policy reforms. The two that immediately come to mind in the USA are the earned income tax credit (EITC) and the child tax credit (CTC). Reforming the EITC to provide more eligibility for childless workers and less credit for multi-child couples (especially wealthy couples) is a clear and viable starting point. So is reducing or even eliminating the CTC, especially for those with higher incomes (and therefore heavier ecological footprints). These are low-hanging fruits; they’re already-existing tools in the tax code. They simply need to be re-tooled toward population stabilization rather than population growth.

Policy reforms beyond these low-hanging fruits are a matter of policy entrepreneurship. Fiscal policy—the budgets and tax codes of federal, state, and local governments—is the working environment of the population policy entrepreneur. Fiscal policy is especially relevant to “native” population growth, stemming from the reproduction of current citizens.

white supremacist

Not a steady statesman. (Image: CC BY-SA 2.0, Credit: Robert Thivierge)

Immigration, on the other hand, requires more than just fiscal policy. It requires statesmanship; steady statesmanship in this case.

If population growth is the elephant in the room at an 800-pound gorilla convention, then immigration is the black sheep in a room full of elephants at the gorilla convention. In order to get the discussion going with a dispassionate and apolitical tone, pure math is the place to start. A steady state economy requires a population growth rate of zero—do the math—and if the immigration rate tips the balance into a positive growth rate, reform is required.

That said, once again the ordering of goals is crucial. The ordering of policy goals is what separates steady staters from “non-growth at all costs” population activists as well as diversity-hating white supremacists. Steady staters are convinced that, until the USA (for example) establishes a steady state economy, at least as a policy goal, closing the borders will backfire. Closing the borders while pursuing GDP growth—with American interests extracting rents from Tuvalu to Timbuktu—would make the USA look like a greedy hog. Not only would it be unethical; it would be disastrous for national security.

Imagine instead that the USA announces it is undertaking a transition, pursuant to the Full and Sustainable Employment Act, away from unsustainable growth to a steady state economy. Imagine the president announcing that, as part of this transition, the borders will be gradually tightened until the population is stabilized. Meanwhile, the USA will assist poverty-stricken nations in their own backyards. The Secretary of State clarifies that such assistance will be predicated on goals of population stabilization in those nations as well. The USA will be practicing steady statesmanship, in other words.

Now that would be good for national security, and good for the soul of America.

[Note: This article will be followed up with a Steady Stater episode (1/25/21) featuring Leon Kolankiewicz on population facts, figures, policy and politics.]

Brian Czech

Brian Czech is the Executive Director of the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.

The post Population Growth: The Ironic Vexer appeared first on Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.


Ins and Outs of Congressional Review Act and Climate Change Rules

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 21/01/2021 - 6:59pm in

The Biden administration could use the Congressional Review Act to reverse Trump rulemaking. But it's easier said than done.

Four-Day Work Weeks Are Here to Stay

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 21/01/2021 - 2:51am in

Thank God it’s Thursday

Employee furloughs during Covid-19 have prompted some companies to implement a four-day work week, and in some cases the shift has worked out so well they’re making it permanent while restoring salaries to pre-pandemic levels.

The Guardian tells the story of Target Publishing, a British magazine company that was forced to cut its staff’s pay by 20 percent when the pandemic began. To make up for it, the company reduced the work week by the same amount. In July, when it brought salaries back to pre-pandemic levels, it decided to keep the shorter week in place. “Of course there were teething problems, but we found meetings were much shorter,” said the owner. “And from a mental health point of view, we see huge benefits, and because everyone wants it to work you get an upside in higher profits.”

Crushed by negative news?

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Bigger companies are taking similar measures. Unilevel has instituted a four-day week at its New Zealand offices as a 12-month pilot project, and says it will “trust” its workers to use the time efficiently. Microsoft also reduced work weeks by 20 percent in some factories, and found that worker efficiency rose by 40 percent in response. “Its time has come,” said one economist of the idea. 

Read more at the Guardian

Walkability triomphes

One of the world’s most famous boulevards, the Champs Elysées, will be transformed from a strip of car-clogged asphalt into an “extraordinary garden,” according to the City of Paris. The project was approved last week by Mayor Anne Hidalgo. By 2030, the avenue’s green coverage will be dramatically increased while the amount of space allocated to cars will have decreased by half.

parisA rendering of the planned Champs Elysées transformation. Credit: PCA-Stream

The changes are long overdue. The Champs Elysées has become extremely congested, and these days is crowded primarily by tourists — only 15 percent of its pedestrians are locals. The redesigned street will feature dedicated bike lanes and sweeping plazas landscaped with trees. Sidewalk widths will be doubled and traffic speeds reduced significantly. The move is in line with Hidalgo’s vision for the city, which has already led to a host of traffic calming measures and a network of bike lanes greatly expanded by the pandemic. “It will eventually be possible to walk from the Louvre all the way to the Arc de Triomphe under leafy cover, breathing cleaner air in a green space strewn with benches and water fountains,” reports Bloomberg CityLab.

Read more at Bloomberg CityLab

Access to nature

As Paris expands walking space for humans, San Antonio is doing the same for its wildlife. In December, the city opened the largest wildlife bridge in the United States, a swooping arch of native plants and grasses above a six-lane expressway. Coyotes, deer and raccoons have already started using the 165-foot-wide bridge to safely get to the other side, which is also open to pedestrians, and connects several miles of hiking trails.

bridgeAn illustration showing what the wildlife bridge will look like once its native plants and grasses have matured. Credit: Phil Hardberger Park Conservancy

The first wildlife bridges originated in Europe. They have since grown in popularity throughout the world and are highly effective in helping animals wander and migrate safely. A 2012 project in Wyoming that created two such bridges resulted in an 81 percent decrease in collisions between wildlife and cars. But San Antonio’s bridge, while impressive, may not hold its title for long — Los Angeles is planning one that will span a ten-lane highway and, once complete, will be the largest wildlife bridge in the world.

Read more at Route Fifty

The post Four-Day Work Weeks Are Here to Stay appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Look What I Got!

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/01/2021 - 3:23am in

In New Zealand — the nearly Covid-free country where a lot of us wish we were right now — they have instituted a novel, laughably simple approach to get people to sort their recycling. They put gold stars on the bins of folks who properly sort their cans and bottles. It works — the amount of material able to be recycled has gone up from 48 percent to 80 percent

The effort started when Christchurch was having a problem getting folks to sort their recyclables correctly, forcing the city to send these materials to the landfill. It turns out it’s too expensive to hire people to go through it all and sort it properly, and mixed up material “contaminates” the rest of the batch. It’s a pain in the ass on top of everything else.

The Guardian reported that Ross Trotter, a city council member, had an idea: rather than penalize those who didn’t sort their recyclables, the city would reward those who did — but not with cash. It was decided that the positive incentive would be a gold star stuck on the bins of folks who were doing their sorting correctly. It didn’t really cost the city anything, but it has had the desired effect.

Non-monetary incentives

It turns out Trotter’s idea is not unique — there are other instances of non-monetary incentives working better than cash to induce pro-social behavior.

Strathcona County, the area next to Edmonton, Alberta, does something very similar — and they added another public layer: neighbors can nominate one another for gold stars. Their stars aren’t as pretty as the ones in Christchurch, but it’s working. 

recyclingA recycling bin in Strathcona County, Alberta. Photo courtesy Strathcona County

Erez Yoeli, a research scientist at MIT who studies how altruism works, detailed examples of these types of awards succeeding in 2018 TED Talk. For instance, a power company wanted its customers to conserve electricity, so it sent them letters asking them to sign up for its energy saving program. But the response was not so great. So Yoeli suggested the company post the sign-up sheets in its customers’ building lobbies instead, where everyone could see the names of who had signed up. This tripled the response. 

Another electrical company showed customers on their bills how much electricity their neighbors were conserving, which had the effect of tamping down excess consumption. 

And when a get-out-the-vote organization added this sentence to their outreach materials: “You may be called after the election to discuss your experience at the polls,” voter turnout among recipients increased by 50 percent!

These types of social incentives often work even better than cash incentives. A survey of employees at 34 U.S. organizations, such as Universal Studios and the Postal Service, revealed that employees view monetary rewards simply as compensation — cash for the work they did, not as an incentive to change their behavior. 

This would seem to conflict with classical economics, which says that a rational person would prefer money to a “worthless” gold star. Well, it turns out, just like when a teacher gives out gold stars in kindergarten class, the effect is social — the status of the recipient is elevated in the eyes of the group. Pretty soon, as with many of the New Zealand neighbors, everyone wants one, and strives to be worthy of the “reward.”

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“A common thing is for people to postpone paying their taxes, and if you put a website up with their names, suddenly they’re real quick to pay their taxes,” says Yoeli. He says that people genuinely want to be SEEN as being good upstanding citizens, and if their good (or bad) behavior can be witnessed by others then it has a huge effect. “If you honor blood donors in a local newsletter, then they’re more likely to go back and give blood more often. It’s a pretty robust finding, and we often say it’s the lowest hanging fruit when it comes to motivating pro-social behaviors.”

Of course, there were folks in Christchurch who never managed to sort their recyclables properly — their sorting bins were eventually removed after numerous failures and their stuff automatically went to the landfill. Not everyone cares what other people think. Maybe that’s okay.

Cash perverts values

Over the years, studies have found that monetary rewards alone have only a short-term impact, and can even lead to a lust for more money, an increase in pay dissatisfaction and eventual unhappiness at work. 

I read a book a while back called The Moral Economy by Samuel Bowles. In his behavioral experiments he found that people will, by default, behave in a pro-social way in many cases… and that cash rewards and incentives can actually diminish good behavior, leading people to see themselves and others as solely self interested (ye olde classic rational economic human). In a nutshell, Bowles sees people as having civic virtues, but warns that these can be perverted — in his words, “crowded out” — when their behaviors are made to be transactional. 

He relates an experiment that Daniel Kahneman mentions in Thinking, Fast and Slow. An Israeli daycare center was annoyed by parents who showed up late to pick up their kids. It decided to fine the latecomers. Rather than decreasing tardiness, however, these small fines had the opposite effect — lateness actually increased as folks saw payment of the fines as permission to show up late. 

In an interview with RTBC, Yoeli suggests that public cooperation has enabled the very success of the human race: “There are anthropologists who have documented that this is a key distinguishing feature between humans and other primates and why humans are able to cooperate at such a large scale while other primates can’t.”

I’m not sure I agree that animals are not also cooperative, but I do agree that cooperation is often nudged by social status and public observability, which makes it a mighty lever.

This brings us to the mutual aid theories of Peter Kropotkin, a multi-hyphenate who died in 1921. 

Peter Kropotkin in a photo taken circa 1900. Credit: Wikipedia

His story is long, strange and fascinating. He spent some formative years in Siberia, observing the wildlife and Indigenous People in that harsh environment. He came to the conclusion that there were behavioral and evolutionary forces at work that defied “social darwinism,” the theory that life is a ruthless game of survival of the fittest. Kropotkin observed what he called mutual aid, in which Indigenous People and animals helped one another to survive. They engaged in cooperation rather than competition red in tooth and claw. This led him to believe we have an evolved tendency to work together…an aspect of Darwin’s theory that had been often overlooked.

This informed Kropotkin’s opinion that people don’t need big governments to work together. For these anarchist views he was arrested in Russia and France. (In Russia he escaped from prison with the help of a friend and they went to a fancy restaurant: “They’ll never think to look for me here.”) He eventually spent time in England, becoming a friend of George Bernard Shaw and William Morris. He was not a Marxist — he believed that labor should be viewed as more than a mere commodity. I certainly don’t subscribe to all his views — he’s a bit of a rebellious revolutionary anarchist wild card — but I suspect he might like the gold star approach.

Additional reporting by Eric Krebs

The post Look What I Got! appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Australia still falling behind in marine area protection

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 18/01/2021 - 12:00pm in

Tags 

Environment


Australia still falling behind in marine area protection

Studies have found reasons why having only a quarter of Australia's marine areas classified as fully protected is a problem, writes John Turnbull.

A GLOBAL COALITION of more than 50 countries has this week pledged to protect over 30% of the planet’s lands and seas by the end of this decade. Their reasoning is clear: we need greater protection for nature, to prevent further extinctions and protect the life-sustaining ecosystems crucial to human survival.

The globally recognised tool to safeguard marine biodiversity is to designate a “marine protected area”. But not all protected areas are created equal.

The level of protection these areas provide depends on the activities permitted in their boundaries. For example, in “fully” protected areas, no plants or animals can be removed or harmed. Meanwhile, “partially” protected areas allow various extractive activities to occur, such as fishing and sometimes even mining.

Australia prides itself on having one of the largest marine protected area networks in the world, which includes iconic locations such as the Great Barrier Reef, Jervis Bay in New South Wales, Wilsons Promontory in Victoria and Rottnest Island in Western Australia. But only one-quarter of this network is fully protected.

The remaining three quarters are only partially protected, with vast areas allowing fishing, aquaculture and mining exploration. This is despite industrial-scale extraction of resources going against international guidelines for protected areas.

So why is this a problem? Our two recent research papers show partially protected areas don’t contribute much to wildlife conservation, yet take valuable conservation resources away from fully protected areas, which need them more.

The gap between fully and partially protected areas

Our landmark study looked at marine protected areas in southern Australia. We gathered social and ecological data, including conducting 439 interviews, across five states and 7,000 kilometres of coastline.

We found partially protected areas had no more fish, invertebrates or algae than unprotected areas. Fully protected areas, by comparison, had 30% more fish species and over twice the total weight of fish compared to unprotected areas.

We also found partially protected areas were no more of an attraction to locals and visitors than unprotected areas — they had similar numbers and mixes of users, such as walkers, swimmers, fishers and divers.

On the other hand, fully protected areas were attractive to locals and visitors for their abundant wildlife and level of protection. They had twice as many divers and more than three times as many snorkelers compared to unprotected areas.

What’s more, swimmers, divers and snorkelers said they experience significantly more marine life in fully protected areas, but not partially protected areas.

Defying public expectations

The Australian marine protected area network has been moving further away from public expectations. In a 2020 social study, researchers found Australians are generally confused about what activities are permitted in these areas.

Survey respondents were presented with the full list of activities allowed within partially protected areas and asked to indicate which activities they understood to be permitted or prohibited within marine protected areas in Australia.

Overwhelmingly, they believed marine protected areas offer strict protection to the marine environment, preventing all types of extractive uses, including recreational fishing.

The majority of Australia’s marine protected area network allows for commercial fishing, but few respondents were aware of this. Fewer still were aware large areas permit destructive activities, such as bottom trawling, which can destroy the seabed. The research team also documented many cases where protection has been downgraded, such as the Solitary Islands and Jervis Bay Marine Parks in NSW.

It’s clear Australians expect the marine protected area network to adequately safeguard our unique wildlife. Yet these findings show their views are in stark contrast to the reality of marine environmental protection.

A matter of money

There are costs associated with partially protected areas — they consume conservation resources and occupy space that could otherwise be allocated to more effective protection. In fact, research from 2011 found areas with a mixture of partial and full protection are up to twice as expensive to manage than a simpler fully protected area.

Partially protected areas do have a role in our overall marine network, but they should be used for specific purposes such as enabling traditional management practices, protecting important breeding sites, or acting as buffer zones around fully protected areas.

The recent changes to Australia’s marine reserve network represent an extremely worrying trend, as fully protected areas such as in the Coral Sea and Batemans Bay have been opened up to fishing.

Given the uncertainty surrounding the effectiveness of partially protected areas globally, at a time when we face increasing challenges from climate change and loss of biodiversity, the findings of our two recent Australian studies indicate we should be aiming for more fully protected areas, not less.

If the world is to protect 30% of all lands and seas by the end of this decade, those protected areas need to be monitored closely to ensure they are delivering on their goals and expectations.

 is a marine ecologist and social scientist, specialising in social-ecological systems, stewardship and marine protected areas. This article was originally published by 'The Conversation' under the title '75% of Australia’s marine protected areas are given only ‘partial’ protection. Here’s why that’s a problem'.

Biden is a cause for hope – but only if he embraces the power of the state

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 17/01/2021 - 10:49pm in

Not many weeks change the world. This one will. The end of the Trump era is a reason to celebrate. Evil, because that is what I think Trump represented, can be overcome. If that is not cause enough to raise a glass of whatever you wish, I am really not sure what might be.

That said, Biden has to deliver on his promise. And that is of hope. And if he thinks he can deliver that by being Obama again, he is wrong. Obama was better than what went before him. He was vastly better than what followed him. But he was far from what we wanted.

He bought the debt constraint.

He thought the US, of all nations, was like a household.

He believed inflation might run away.

He did not deliver full employment.

On wages his delivery was so weak he paved the way for Trump.

Infrastructure continued to fail.

Environmental issues were not tackled.

Wall Street won from bail outs. No one else did by nearly as much.

Wealth inequality was increased, even if not to the scale Trump might eventually be seen to have achieved.

Of course the Affordable Care Act was good. But it wasn’t good enough.

Biden can deliver an alternative. We now know the deficit is not a constraint. We know the Republicans believe in massive unfunded spending. We know QE can control debt. We know interest rates can be controlled. We know that deficits do not deliver inflation. In other words, we know the rules of government funding have been rewritten.

QE has real flaws in it. Most especially it increases inequality, and that simply has to be tackled. It is vital that it is. But QE has paved the way for the new understanding we have in macroeconomics.

Remember that when it was introduced QE was called ‘unconventional monetary policy’? Even the Bank of England now think it is conventional. It is here to stay. No one seriously thinks otherwise now. But that means the confused thinking around its conception needs to be revisited.

It was conceived of as monetary policy. And maybe it was. The aim was to control inflation. By reducing official interest rates and creating QE the aim was to force private sector funds into higher risk investment. The goal was to increase real economic activity. The hope was for recovery. And that did not happen.

QE did not deliver as planned because it was not really monetary policy. Actually, it was a hidden mechanism for the delivery of fiscal policy, but that was not appreciated. Or maybe, more accurately, it simply smashed down the false divide between these issues and simply showed that one economy that is in trouble needs integrated thinking to address the issues it faces.

Appreciating that, however, is key to the hope Biden has to deliver. He need not worry about debt, deficits and inflation right now, because he has the tools to control them, and the risks from them are also minimal. But, and that is a massively big ‘but’, he has to appreciate that his task is to create the delivery mechanism that conventional QE - that used to date - has lacked.

There is no invisible hand to deliver what society needs right now. There is, to be blunt, just the hand of Biden controlling the whole mechanism of US government to do that.

So he has to direct where the new investment is going to be. Whether it’s environment, infrastructure, health care, or whatever, the risk that things will not happen with the money his government will create using QE (as surely, it will be created) must not be taken.

So, there needs to be an investment program in the US (deliberate speaking) and it has to be linked to QE funding by offering the incentive to reallocate money from speculation to the public purpose.

Of course, this activity could all be done by the state. But that would still leave the money circulating in the finance system that is currently used for speculation. It is this that is the risk that has to be addressed. This is what green QE does. It redirects that money to public purpose by taking money out of speculation and turning it into the funding for actual, real, tangible capital.

And that is what will provide the hope that change can really be delivered.

Biden is a cause for hope. But he has to deliver.

Oil Industry Reconsiders Donations to Election Deniers — but Has Its Own Big Lie

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 16/01/2021 - 11:00pm in

A parade of oil and gas companies nobly announced this week that they will review their political donations in the wake of last week’s riot in Washington, D.C. — an attempt to distance themselves from the spectacle of election fraud conspiracists and white supremacists attacking the Capitol building and temporarily halting the election certification process.

Marathon Petroleum, Occidental Petroleum, and the employee political action committees for ConocoPhillips and BP temporarily froze their contributions. Exxon Mobil and Chevron are reviewing their donations. Even energy industry association spokespersons for the American Petroleum Institute, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, as well as a leader of the Koch network said the attack on the Capitol will factor into their future giving.

Those who have spent years confronting fossil fuel industry-funded disinformation campaigns, raising alarms about the climate crisis, are unimpressed with the moves. The origin of the storming of the Capitol was a series of lies, and there is no indication that the fossil fuel industry is taking a meaningful stance against high-risk deceit.

“They have been funding disinformation and anti-climate politicians for a very long time.”

In many ways, fossil fuel companies laid the groundwork for the widespread acceptance of lies big enough to cause an existential threat to democracy’s survival — even humanity’s. “Lying has become a habit,” said science historian Naomi Oreskes, whose book with Eric Conway, “Merchants of Doubt,” documents how veterans of the tobacco industry’s misinformation efforts seeded climate denial among the media and lawmakers.

“They have been funding disinformation and anti-climate politicians for a very long time,” she said over email, of the fossil fuel industry. Oreskes said reconsidering political donations for election misinformation is a belated gesture: “A day late and a dollar short. Or, rather, three decades late and hundreds of millions of dollars short.”

Meanwhile, the industry still has not come close to fully divesting from nor making amends for their spread of lethal climate disinformation.

To climate scientist Michael Mann, the fossil fuel groups’ announcements that they will review political giving serves to evade attention from the fact that, during the Trump administration, the oil and gas agenda was supercharged by the racist rhetoric and lies that swayed elections in the direction of their favored candidates. Indeed, never has the fossil fuel industry’s agenda been carried to fruition so completely as it was over the past four years, achieved using what Mann described to The Intercept as “red meat” thrown out for the racist right, including election disinformation.

“It is the fossil fuel industry, the front groups that they fund along with plutocrats like the Koch brothers — these are the groups that have been pulling the strings, that have been throwing out the red meat, that have been instigating this racially motivated, treasonous rebellion by the disaffected base of the Republican Party,” said Mann. “They’re playing with fire, and it’s almost like they don’t really care about democracy.”

 Thousands of Donald Trump supporters storm the United States Capitol building following a "Stop the Steal" rally on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. The protesters stormed the historic building, breaking windows and clashing with police. Trump supporters had gathered in the nation's capital today to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Thousands of Donald Trump supporters storm the Capitol following a “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021.

Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Links To Election Deniers

The fossil fuel companies will presumably be reexamining donations to politicians who supported the “Stop the Steal” movement to overturn election results. Some 139 U.S. representatives and eight senators voted against certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s win, including lawmakers like Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who has received extensive contributions from some of the oil and gas companies now denouncing the Capitol attack. Perhaps they will also reconsider future contributions to President Donald Trump himself, who incited the insurrection and received $14,696,347 from the oil and gas industry for the 2020 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Many more individuals and groups would have to be included in a comprehensive audit of the fossil fuel industry’s involvement in the events leading up to the storming of the Capitol. Among those listed as coalition partners on the March to Save America website, which called on Trump supporters to defend the president, was the Rule of Law Defense Fund, a dark-money group started by the Republican Attorneys General Association.

Fossil fuel companies like Koch Industries and Exxon have donated to the attorneys general association and groups backed by the industry — like the Koch brothers’ Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce and the Edison Electric Institute — have directly contributed to the Rule of Law Defense Fund. The Rule of Law Defense Fund even went so far as to put out robocalls promoting the march, as Documented reported.

Also listed on the march’s website was Turning Point USA, which recently entered into a partnership with the Koch-backed American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC, as the group is known, brings together lobbyists and lawmakers to promote industry friendly legislation at the state level. Turning Point and ALEC are working together to place right-wing students on university boards of regents, according to reporting by the Center for Media and Democracy. Koch-linked groups also helped mobilize this summer’s reopen protests — a movement that significantly overlapped with Stop the Steal.

Meanwhile the Twitter account for the climate denial website Climate Depot tweeted on January 6: “Striking fear in politicians is not a bad thing.” A subsequent tweet said, “Thomas Jefferson: ‘The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” Climate Depot is run by the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, a think tank that the fossil fuel industry has funded in the past. Its Twitter was just one among several climate denier accounts that DeSmog documented supporting the Stop the Steal movement or spreading disinformation in the aftermath of the Capitol attack.

 Environmental activists rally for accountability for fossil fuel companies outside of New York Supreme Court on October 22, 2019 in New York City. Tuesday is the first day of a trial where New York's attorney general is taking on ExxonMobil in a landmark case that accuses the oil corporation of misleading investors about the companys financial risks due to climate change. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Environmental activists rally for accountability for fossil fuel companies outside of the New York Supreme Court in New York City, on Oct. 22, 2019.

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Big Lie of Climate Denial

Mann, the climate scientist, pointed to parallels between the industry’s attempt to distance itself from election misinformation and its recent move to steer away from all-out climate denial. “They’ve done the same thing with climate denialism as it has become untenable to deny that climate change is real and happening,” he said.

The story of the climate lie goes back to the 1980s. In the early part of the decade, a task force of fossil fuel industry representatives was meeting regularly to talk about the emerging climate science they were helping produce. Just as the science was becoming clear, the American Petroleum Institute and companies like Exxon Mobil began pouring money into disinformation. To cast doubt on climate science, the industry lobbied, funded new organizations, published ads, paid for studies, bought scientists who would act as media pundits, and of course lavished millions of dollars on politicians who would advance their cause.

As a young scientist and author of a key study showing that recent high temperatures were aberrations in the historical record, Mann became a target of the industry’s denial machine. Media pundits and politicians attempted to smear his credibility. He received death threats.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., who is among the politicians who have received the highest donations from the fossil fuel industry, went so far as to call for Mann to be investigated as a criminal.

By the mid-aughts, under pressure from scientists, environmentalists, civil society, and shareholders, the industry began to distance itself from denial. But the lies were well rooted by then, in part because of how well they fit into dreams of unfettered capitalism championed by the right. (Oreskes, the science historian, and her co-author Conway have a forthcoming book, “The Magic of the Marketplace: The True History of a False Idea,” which will focus on how ideas about free market fundamentalism helped normalize misinformation.)

Meanwhile, the fossil fuel industry continued to donate money to politicians who purveyed climate lies. A 2019 analysis by the Center for American Progress Action Fund of the outgoing 116th Congress counted 150 Republican members who did not believe that human activity causes climate change. They’d collectively accepted $68 million in donations from the fossil fuel industry.

“They haven’t given up in their effort to block the clean energy transition and keep us addicted to fossil fuels. They just changed their tactics.”

And Trump himself, perhaps fossil fuel firms’ all-time biggest champion, accepted more than $14 million from the oil and gas industry for his reelection campaign. Over the course of his administration, Trump dismantled much of the existing government infrastructure for confronting the climate crisis and promoted outright deniers to positions of power.

Mann’s book, “The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet,” published this week, argues that the industry never truly quit promoting climate disinformation. “They haven’t given up in their effort to block the clean energy transition and keep us addicted to fossil fuels,” he said. “They just changed their tactics to tactics they think they can get away with.” He pointed to fossil fuel industry efforts to derail state-level policies to incentivize renewable energy development, bolster false solutions like geoengineering, spread the idea that the climate problem is about individual lifestyle choices, and promote a sense of doom, that nothing can really be done about the climate crisis — which, Mann argues, is simply untrue.

What should the industry do if it truly wants to make amends for sowing chaos? “That’s easy,” said Oreskes. “Stop funding and fomenting disinformation, stop exploring for new oil, gas and coal reserves, and start working on a new business model that shifts to renewable energy, or something else entirely.”

“I think it is tragic that it took an insurrection for them to rethink their strategy,” she said. “I hope this will prompt a deeper self-examination. An awful lot is at stake here.”

The post Oil Industry Reconsiders Donations to Election Deniers — but Has Its Own Big Lie appeared first on The Intercept.

A future funded by Green QE

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 16/01/2021 - 8:43pm in

This post is by my old friend and Green New Deal colleague, Colin Hines, who is convenor of the Green New Deal Group of which I am also a member. It was originally published by the Green Alliance.

Colin is well aware of modern monetary theory (MMT). He has heard far too much about it from me. But, he believes that the UK political scene is not ready for MMT as yet. There is a great deal of evidence to support that view: there is massive political reticence to embrace it right now, annoying as that is. 

And simultaneously Colin is aware of two issues. The first is the enormity of the climate crisis. The second is the need to answer the question ‘how are we going to pay for the transition that we need?’

A decade ago Colin and I created the idea of green quantitative  easing  to answer that question. I had not heard of MMT at the time. But the proposal can be thought of as applied MMT. It’s not quite the same. But it does address the same issues: it is about permitting deficits to fund essential public services in a way that does not create inflation, and (crucially) it also addresses the need for a mechanism to utilise the money created via central bank reserve account balance increases that neither standard QE or MMT addresses, in my opinion.

Pragmatically, developing QE in this way is likely to garner more political support than suggesting MMT, simply because QE is now known and accepted (unlike 2015, when it caused near hysteria in the Labour leadership election when Jeremy Corbyn used this idea as the basis of his economic appeal, only for John McDonnell to then abandon the idea). Hence, Colin’s blog:

————-

Last year was certainly the ultimate grim “Events dear boy, events” year. On the brighter side, despite Covid having drained discussion away from most other issues, one of the gratifying exceptions was progress on the climate crisis. This was kept in the limelight throughout the year, albeit at an elite scientist, economist, NGO and concerned politician level, the pandemic having cleared the streets of the protestors who had so successfully dominated climate coverage in 2019.

On the less bright side was a return to attempts to soften up of the public for austerity mark two, led by the Chancellor Rishi Sunak. Indeed, this process has already begun with the introduction of social austerity, via the effective cuts in non-medical front line workers pay, and green austerity through the risible £4-8 billion promised for new measures to tackle the enormity of the climate crisis.

Also worrying was an increase in the ‘back to normal’ fantasies, imagining that the economy will bounce back after the nationwide use of the vaccine and hence that emergency spending can be curtailed. This is despite the fact that huge job losses are expected in retailing and some hospitality sectors, not to mention the Brexit hit that may come for manufacturing and financial sector jobs.

To see these threats off will require the opposite of austerity and instead a massive reorientation of the economy towards a ‘jobs in every constituency’ alternative, of face to face social provision and environmental infrastructure.

A new approach is needed to fund recovery

At the risk of falling into the trap of that old joke ‘How do you make God laugh? Tell him your plans for the future’, the way forward is clear. As Covid hopefully subsides throughout 2021, the priority must be to find the massive amount of upfront money to compensate for the adverse social and employment effects of the pandemic, whilst also tackling the climate crisis.

This will include paying for the hundreds of thousands of secure, adequately funded jobs needed to fill the shortfall of doctors, nurses, carers, teachers etc. In addition, there will be a need to tackle rising mental health problems, for extra face to face tuition for pupils adversely affected by school disruptions and personal interaction for the lonely, and to help those, particularly the elderly, excluded from so many services because of an inability to use digital technology.

Then, in the short and medium term, there are the massive financial inducements necessary to provide green jobs in every community. This will involve making all the UK’s 30 million buildings energy efficient, as well as installing the national charging network required for the transition to electric only vehicles and the provision of high speed broadband for all areas.

Building back better without austerity

This trillion pound, decade long programme could predominantly be paid for by adapting the Bank of England’s present quantitative easing programme into a transformative ‘build back better’ initiative, funded by social and green quantitative easing. The advantage of such an approach is that such expenditure doesn’t need to be paid back, and therefore avoids the need for austerity.

The message that opposition parties and activists need to ram home to the chancellor is that what needs addressing are our social and environmental deficits, not the budget deficit. As this approach gains momentum there could also be an increasing role for government borrowing at low interest rates, fairer taxation and the use of private savings.

There are potentially encouraging developments in the US and the EU whereby a similar potential for using quantitative easing may be used to fund climate action. The expertise of Janet Yellen, former chair of the US Federal Reserve and the next Treasury Secretary will be pivotal in securing the huge amounts of upfront money and swift action required. She should be able to persuade the Federal Reserve to contribute substantially to Joe Biden’s $2 trillion climate plan. In the EU there have also been calls to use quantitative easing for its Green Deal plans, expected to need €1 trillion over the next ten years.

Such approaches would act as a positive exemplar for the world and hopefully could convince the UK to put a similar green job funding mechanism at the centre of its contribution to next November’s climate conference in Glasgow.

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