Centrism won’t fix wealth inequality or the climate crisis – so why are progressive politics condescendingly dismissed as unworkable?
US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaking at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. Photograph: Sergio Flores/Reuters
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is an equal-opportunity irritant. The newly elected congresswoman doesn’t just drive Republicans to distraction, she routinely riles establishment Democrats with her refusal to meekly toe the party line. Ocasio-Cortez, to the chagrin of many of her colleagues, has no interest in diluting her views and occupying a “safe” middle ground. If that wasn’t obvious enough already, AOC made her derision for political moderates extremely clear in a speech at South by Southwest on Saturday.
“Moderate is not a stance. It’s just an attitude towards life of, like, ‘meh,’” Ocasio-Cortez told a packed room at the tech-centric festival in Austin, Texas. “We’ve become so cynical, that we view … cynicism as an intellectually superior attitude, and we view ambition as youthful naivety when … the greatest things we have ever accomplished as a society have been ambitious acts of vision. The ‘meh’ is worshipped now. For what?”
On both sides of the Atlantic, the “meh” is worshipped while progressive politics are condescendingly dismissed as unworkable. In Britain, people see Corbynism as an existential threat to Labour; in America, people see the likes of Bernie Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez as an existential threat to the Democratic party. More than ever, it would seem that the greatest enemy of the left isn’t the right, but the centre. MORE
Freda Huson (here speaking to an RCMP officer) is a Witset band councillor and a founder of and spokesperson for the Wet’suwet’en’s Unist’ot’en camp in the Interior of B.C.
I visited the Unist’ot’en camp near Kitimat, B.C., a year ago. The people, led by Chief Freda Huson, are trying to reestablish a sustainable relationship with territory that has enabled them to flourish for millennia. Ever since colonization and settlement, much of that traditional way of life has been lost or seriously constrained. These are modern people with all the accoutrements of the globalized economy.
As is obvious from news photos of the RCMP intrusion, winter at Unist’ot’en camp is cold, which makes it all the more remarkable. It did not spring up in protest against a pipeline; it began in 2010, in a search for a way to return to living on the land year-round.
When we elevate the economy above the atmosphere on our list of priorities, we raise a human construct over the air we breathe—air that brings us climate, weather, and seasons
In fighting to protect the land and water and exert traditional values and priorities, the Unist’ot’en pipeline opposition is at the forefront of a fight for all people in Canada. In November 2018, an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change special report warned that global average temperature has risen by 1° C since the Industrial Revolution. If it increases above another half-degree, we’ll experience climate chaos. MORE
The push against plastic ramped up yesterday with a bill that would require all consumer packaging produced in Canada to be recyclable or compostable.
NDP MP Nathan Cullen tabled the Zero-Waste Packaging Act in Parliament Wednesday, which is aimed at all consumer product packaging with the goal of reducing plastic waste and cutting the cost municipalities pay for landfills.
The bill is based on an idea by Ben Korving, the winner of the Create Your Canada competition held across Northwest British Columbia last summer. It invites people to put forward ideas they think would help make Canada a better place.
“What his legislation does is end the use of single use plastics in Canada, making sure that all plastics we consume as citizens are compostable or truly recyclable,” Cullen told reporters at a press conference.
“We know the facts. Our oceans are filling up with plastics, our landfills too. As much as almost 90 per cent of the plastic we put in our blue boxes end up in landfills.” Cullen noted part of the problem is that there are things people think are recyclable, because they’ve been told they are, when they actually aren’t. MORE
A western Minnesota wind-solar project is among the first of its kind in the country but won’t be the last.
The 2-megawatt wind turbine and 500-kilowatt solar installation share an inverter and grid connection. Credit: Juhl Energy
A trailblazing wind-solar hybrid project in western Minnesota could be a preview of what’s to come as renewable developers look for new ways to bolster projects.
The project, developed and owned by Juhl Energy, is among the first of its kind in the country to pair wind and solar on the same site. A 2-megawatt turbine and 500-kilowatt solar installation share an inverter and grid connection, reducing equipment costs compared to two separate projects. MORE
The San Francisco skyline. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
What happens when a famously left-leaning city dives into the buttoned-down business of electric utilities? San Francisco may soon find out.
City officials are studying the possibility of creating their own utility out of the wreckage of PG&E Corp., the energy giant that filed for bankruptcy in January. The city would buy the company’s local wires—or possibly seize them through eminent domain—to create a utility that would be, well, very San Francisco.
If all goes according to plan, PG&E’s system would serve as the backbone of a full-service municipal utility that San Francisco’s politicians could use to make an all-out push for 100 percent renewable power.
“We need to take advantage of this opportunity, because the crisis of climate change is a crisis,” San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen said during a hearing. “We really need to take it to the next level, and that next level is a complete build out so that we are providing 100 percent renewable energy to all of our customers.”
Achieving 100 percent green power would require more wind and solar farms—which would in turn create more jobs. And San Francisco is all about building and buying local. San Francisco Supervisor Sandra Fewer said a city-run utility would work to kill the city’s long dependence on others for electricity. MORE
When NPR interviewed Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in February about her Green New Deal, she said that her goal was bigger than just passing some new laws. “What I hope we’re able to do is rediscover the power of public imagination,” she said.
Well, we’re unleashing our imagination and exploring a dream, a possible future in which we’re bringing global warming to a halt. It’s a world in which greenhouse emissions have ended.
So — what does this world look like?
Solar panels fill a field in Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur, France. PANORAMIC IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES
Mass Electrification (Batteries Hold The Power)
(Editor’s note: Each story has two sections, the first reflecting the present and the second imagining the world of 2050.)
2019: I went looking for people who’ve mapped out this world without greenhouse emissions. I found them in Silicon Valley.
Sila Kiliccote is an engineer. The back deck of her house, high up in the hills, overlooks Cupertino. Apple’s circular headquarters is hidden in the morning mist. It’s a long way from Istanbul, in Turkey, where she grew up; a great place to conjure up future worlds. MORE
This year marks the first chance to see the impact of modular housing in Vancouver. Some hope to see a slight reduction in the city’s homeless numbers.
With the City of Vancouver’s 10th annual homeless count underway this week, some in the Downtown Eastside see a “glimmer of hope” that this could mark the first time in years that the city sees a significant drop in its homeless tally.
Volunteers were conducting the homeless count in Vancouver shelters Tuesday evening, to be followed by the “street count” starting early Wednesday. Between 2005 and 2018, the overall number of homeless recorded in the annual count — combining both sheltered and unsheltered people — increased 60 per cent, from 1,364 in 2005 to 2,181 last year. Out of the last six homeless counts, the only year-over-year decrease recorded was in 2015, when it dipped about three per cent, before bouncing back the following year.
Vancouver city council wants another 600 units of temporary modular housing in the city, but funding is still needed. The mayor will be writing to the province requesting the money. Photo Dan Toulgoet
It will still be some time before the final tally of this year’s homeless count is known. But based on one early indicator, Union Gospel Mission spokesman Jeremy Hunka holds out some hope that this year might show an improvement — and, he believes, the city’s modular-housing program deserves credit.
The number of people turned away from the mission’s shelter on East Hastings Street this past winter was less than a third of the annual number from each of the previous three winters, Hunka said. MORE