Let’s Imagine Big Ideas

We can learn from the past but need not limit ourselves to it.

Image result for cartoon: big ideas

We live in exciting times. The need to address climate change has provoked a burst of new ideas to successfully solve the climate change riddle, protect the environment on which we all depend, and strengthen democracy. 

Let’s imagine let’s imagine putting the power of ownership into the hands of workers by giving them some control over the corporations where they work. One idea proposed by the New Economics Foundation is to create an “inclusive ownership fund” where workers in corporations with over 250 employees would be mandated to transfer 1% of equity per year to worker-owned trusts. Workers would be given  proportional representation on the Board of Directors

Let’s imagine the right of employees to full ownership of firms. Why not give employees the right of first refusal to buy any business that is up for sale or being abandoned. What if government policy supported worker-owned co-operatives and businesses–businesses that are interested in sustainability and social value in addition to making a profit.

Let’s imagine legislating a financial transaction tax that would apply to short terms financial transactions like stock trades that would discourage speculation and gaming the market. The revenue gathered could be directed to social investments that would enhance life.

Let’s imagine investing in public postal banking using our existing post office infrastructure. This would expand access to banking to all Canadians, replace the usurious pay lenders and the fees and service charges imposed at will by commercial banks.

Let’s imagine developing public investment banks that would allow Canadians a measure of control to invest in socially focused, life-affirming investments. At present, for example, so called ‘environmental funds’ are subject to the investment decisions of remote, anonymous managers who are concerned with profits and investment return above all.

Let’s imagine a Canada where our obscene wealth gap was steadily reduced; where a wealth tax was applied to all families earning over a given amount; where targeted inheritance and gift taxes would apply. With the revenue Canada could fund the necessary social and environmental investments to contain climate disruption.

Let’s imagine a Canada where capital income was taxed at the same rate as labour income. In Canada only 50% of capital gains is taxed. This special treatment results in a loss of billions of dollars of tax revenue that could be used for a host of social programmes: for example, funding comprehensive dental care; funding a just transition for workers displaced by the decline of oil and gas industry; funding a national child-care program; funding the restitution of the tar sands ecocide.

Let’s imagine a Canada where we adopted US Senator Elizabeth Warren’s proposal of a ‘real’ corporate tax based on the profit corporations report in financial statement to their own investors. This would avoid the tax loopholes and deductions now used by transnational corporations to avoid taxation.

These suggestions above are based on the CCPA’s Policy Notes. The fully article is found here: https://bit.ly/2P5D6ds The article concludes:

Canada needs to think big. Let the debate begin. This round-up of burgeoning economic policy ideas is far from comprehensive, and these particular proposals are not the final word. What they do represent is a window on an impressive proliferation of bold, left-wing economic thinking that should inform our discourse and debate in Canada. This debate should include other emerging big ideas like a Green New Deal, four-day work week, universal basic income, universal basic services, land value capture and maximum wages, among many others…We can learn from the past but need not limit ourselves to it.

Why climate change is so hard to tackle: Our stubborn energy system

Illustration of a hand doing a toasting with a barrel of oil
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

To adequately address climate change on the level scientists say we must, the world would need to slash its use of oil, natural gas and coal within 30 years, a Herculean task given our deep dependence.

Driving the news: Democrats on the presidential campaign trail and international leaders preparing for a United Nations summit next month say urgent action is needed, but few actually have viable plans for how and when to cut our fossil-fuel use.

The big picture: In 1987, 81% of our world’s energy consumption came from oil, natural gas and coal. Thirty years later, it is still 81% — despite the incredible increase in wind and solar energy, according to the International Energy Agency.

Fossil fuels’ staying power

Global fossil-fuel companies have built powerful political operations to lobby governments to maintain subsidies and oppose big climate policy.

  • This is starting to change among some oil companies, but it’s an uneven shift, and it’s not (yet) fundamentally changing the system they helped build.

But a lot more is driving fossil fuels’ dominance than just corporate influence on government. Oil, natural gas and coal provide immense benefits to society — even though they also have immense environmental costs.

  • The chemical makeup of the fuels make them especially good at a lot of things, including industrial processes like making plastics. Renewables or other resources cannot easily replace that (even though big brands, like Legos, are trying).
  • “Some sectors, such as transportation and petrochemicals [plastics], almost completely rely on one single fuel, in this case oil,” said Fatih Birol, IEA executive director. Nonetheless, Birol said fossil-fuel consumption subsidies that totaled $400 billion in 2018 are providing an “unfair advantage” to those fuels.

Our dependence on fossil fuels is often likened to that of cigarette smoking, but the analogy doesn’t hold up.

  • Smoking is an unhealthy habit some people choose to engage in, and if they choose, they can try to kick that addiction without changing their life.
  • Fossil fuels are the foundation of our global economy, and it’s nearly impossible to go about our lives without using them in some form.
More addition, less transition

In the world of energy and climate change, people talk about the “energy transition,” the concept that we are moving from fossil fuels to renewable energy. But for now and the next few decades, it’s more of an energy addition.

  • Renewable electricity (which is the primary use for wind and solar) is often being added on top of instead of in lieu of fossil fuels, particularly in Asia’s rapidly growing economies.
  • Our energy system, particularly electricity, is built on multi-billion dollar infrastructure investments designed to last decades. Replacing them is like changing direction on a jetliner, not a jet ski.
  • Because of this dynamic and because our global energy demand keeps rising, our emissions keep growing despite the skyrocketing use of wind and solar energy. MORE

Behind the scenes: What it’s like to be an Ecojustice summer student

Ecojustice summer student Ksenia Orehova (left) and her mentor, lawyer Olivia French. Photo by Emily Chan.

Every summer, Ecojustice offices across Canada open their doors to some of the country’s most promising lawyers-to-be.

This year, Ecojustice summer students attended a review panel on a project that threatens Southern Resident killer whales and wild salmon, got a behind-the-scenes look at the climate reference cases in Ontario and Saskatchewan, and helped shape upcoming cases you can expect to hear more about in the upcoming year.

As we bid our students goodbye and good luck with their studies in their final year of law school, here’s a look at Ecojustice through their eyes:

Kate Meagher (Halifax)

Dalhousie Environmental Law student Kate Meagher spent the summer working in Ecojustice’s Halifax law office. In her free time, Kate is a competitive weightlifter and loves climbing, hiking, and exploring beautiful Nova Scotia.

Reflecting on her experience with Ecojustice, Kate said she was particularly struck by how deeply the lawyers care about their work and clients.

“It was a happy surprise to see how close folks here are with the communities we represent and how we are able to support them outside of just presenting arguments in court,” she said.

“I remember one conversation in particular between Ecojustice lawyers and a community member in Shelbourne (N.S.). The two lawyers were smiling so broadly at the speakerphone. I was struck by how keen they were to help her in her endeavour and by how different that support looked from what I’d come to think of as a lawyer’s job.”

Kate added, “Something I’ve learned is to show compassion to the people we encounter. People are deeply affected by their experiences and are seeking help facing them. Even if their issue is outside of our mandate, it never hurts to provide a kind word.”

Belema Itamunoala (Ottawa)

Belema Itamunoala is Master of Laws candidate at the University of Ottawa. This summer, Belema also worked in the Ecojustice law clinic at the University of Ottawa. In her free time, Belema loves board games, especially Scrabble and chess.

During her time with Ecojustice, Belema said she learned many valuable lessons from her mentor, lawyer Joshua Ginsberg.

“Joshua Ginsberg was such a great mentor! He’s the true definition of a leader. He balanced empathy and politeness with delegation and he always made sure I understood every task assigned to me and assisted if I didn’t. His cheerful nature helped to maintain a good atmosphere for learning.

“Josh involved me in the carbon pricing reference cases in Saskatchewan and Ontario, which helped me build a wealth of knowledge on this topic. Overall, I am thankful for Josh’s mentorship, as it fostered a learning atmosphere for me.” MORE

Cap and Adapt: A Failsafe Approach to the Climate Emergency

Awareness that climate change is the world’s highest-order emergency is growing. Nearly 1,000 governments worldwide – including a few national ones – have made formal climate emergency declarations. Mass demonstrations worldwide by millions of young people and new activist groups like Extinction Rebellion are elevating the climate emergency to the top of the public agenda. In the United States, climate change tops the list of issues that the American public wants Democratic presidential candidates to debate onstage, and some candidates have proposed strong climate programs of a new kind.

In Congress this July, a concurrent resolution for the United States to declare a climate emergency was introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders, Representative Earl Blumenauer, and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and has sixty-eight cosponsors. Among them are all the senators who are major Democratic Presidential candidates.

This national climate emergency resolution “demands a massive-scale mobilization to halt, reverse, and address its consequences and causes.” It states that this requires “a managed phase out of the use of oil, gas, and coal to keep fossil fuels in the ground.” While the resolution addresses the need to control all greenhouse gases, its concept of a managed phase out of fossil fuels goes directly to the root of the largest U.S. contribution to climate breakdown. Seventy-six percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are from fossil fuel combustion.

Here, we propose a policy framework we call Cap and Adapt, to accomplish the resolution’s proposed managed phase out of fossil fuels, and by design to do so at a speed matching the last-minutes-to-midnight urgency of our climate plight. Also, by design, it is inherently failsafe[1] both for meeting any target end-date the final legislation may adopt for the phase out and for ensuring the needs of individuals, families, communities, and the national economy are met.

Let’s “lead the target,” to achieve utmost climate policy

Cap and Adapt – A failsafe climate policy for fossil fuels

The principles behind the Cap and Adapt policy framework are

  • to be fast-acting and inherently failsafe for delivering essentially[2] zero fossil fuel emissions, by whatever end-date a finally legislated policy might require, and;
  • to be fair, equitable and inherently failsafe in meeting the needs of the economy, regions, communities, families and individuals.

The framework itself has three parts, whose justifications and functions we’ll explain later. The first is a cap on fossil fuel extraction and imports that declines on a fixed schedule prescribed in the legislation. The cap has primacy in the framework, because stabilizing (and then reversing) the climate crisis must have primacy in public policy. The other two parts, which help society and the economy adapt to that declining supply of fossil fuels, are an enhanced Green New Deal to facilitate the just and complete transition of the US economy to 100% renewable energy, and a standby program to smoothly and fairly ration national fossil fuel supplies in the event of energy shortages during the transition. MORE

Bernie Sanders’s ‘Green New Deal’: A $16 Trillion Climate Plan

Senator Bernie Sanders’s “Green New Deal” climate policy plan calls for the United States to eliminate fossil fuel use by 2050.
CreditChristopher Lee for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Senator Bernie Sanders on Thursday released a $16.3 trillion blueprint to fight climate change, the latest and most expensive proposal from the field of Democratic presidential candidates aimed at reining in planet-warming greenhouse gases.

Mr. Sanders unveiled his proposal one day after Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, who made climate change the central focus of his campaign, announced he was dropping out of the 2020 race. Mr. Inslee’s absence could create an opening for another presidential aspirant to seize the mantle of “climate candidate.”

Mr. Sanders was an early supporter of the Green New Deal, an ambitious but nonbinding congressional plan for tackling global warming and economic inequality. He is bestowing that same name upon his new plan, which calls for the United States to eliminate fossil fuel use by 2050.

It declares climate change a national emergency; envisions building new solar, wind and geothermal power sources across the country; and commits $200 billion to help poor nations cope with climate change.

Mr. Sanders said in an interview that his proposal would “pay for itself” over 15 years and create 20 million jobs in the process.
“President Trump thinks that climate change is a hoax,” Mr. Sanders said in the interview, laying out the case for his climate plan. “President Trump is dangerously, dangerously wrong. Climate change is an existential threat to the entire country and the entire world and we must be extraordinarily aggressive.”
“I have seven grandchildren, and I’m going to be damned if I’m going to leave them a planet that is unhealthy and uninhabitable,” he added. MORE

The Key to a Sustainable Economy Is 5,000 Years Old

The Key to a Sustainable Economy Is 5,000 Years OldKlaus Wagensonner / Flickr

We are again reaching the point in the business cycle known as “peak debt,” when debts have compounded to the point that their cumulative total cannot be paid. Student debt, credit card debt, auto loans, business debt and sovereign debt are all higher than they have ever been. As economist Michael Hudson writes in his provocative 2018 book, “…and forgive them their debts,” debts that can’t be paid won’t be paid. The question, he says, is how they won’t be paid.

Mainstream economic models leave this problem to “the invisible hand of the market,” assuming trends will self-correct over time. But while the market may indeed correct, it does so at the expense of the debtors, who become progressively poorer as the rich become richer. Borrowers go bankrupt and banks foreclose on the collateral, dispossessing the debtors of their homes and their livelihoods. The houses are bought by the rich at distress prices and are rented back at inflated prices to the debtors, who are then forced into wage peonage to survive. When the banks themselves go bankrupt, the government bails them out. Thus the market corrects, but not without government intervention. That intervention just comes at the end of the cycle to rescue the creditors, whose ability to buy politicians gives them the upper hand. According to free-market apologists, this is a natural cycle akin to the weather, which dates all the way back to the birth of modern economics in ancient Greece and Rome.

Hudson counters that those classical societies are not actually where our financial system began, and that capitalism did not evolve from bartering, as its ideologues assert. Rather, it devolved from a more functional, sophisticated, egalitarian credit system that was sustained for two millennia in ancient Mesopotamia (now parts of Iraq, Turkey, Kuwait and Iran). Money, banking, accounting and modern business enterprise originated not with gold and private trade, but in the public sector of Sumer’s palaces and temples in the third century B.C. Because it involved credit issued by the local government rather than private loans of gold, bad debts could be periodically forgiven rather than compounding until they took the whole system down, a critical feature that allowed for its remarkable longevity.

Was Jesus being violent in the Temple?

Jesus, making a whip of cords, turning over tables, and driving out money changers

…Hudson maintains that when Jesus Christ preached “forgiveness of debts,” he was also talking about economic debt, not just moral transgressions. When he overturned the tables of the money changers, it was because they had turned a house of prayer into “a den of thieves.”    MORE

170 Media Outlets Join Covering Climate Now project.

“Covering Climate Now is a fulfillment of journalism’s most sacred responsibilities”

Image result for cbs: greta thunberg arrival
 In this Aug. 14, 2019 file photo, Climate change activist Greta Thunberg addresses the media during a news conference in Plymouth, England. Thunberg has crossed the Atlantic on a zero-emissions sailboat to attend a conference on global warming. On Wednesday, Aug. 28, before dawn, Thunberg tweeted, “Land!! The lights of Long Island and New York City ahead.” (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Objectivity and truth-telling are no longer the most “sacred” responsibilities of the news media, at least according to the far-left The Nation magazineIt’s now … climate change.

“We see Covering Climate Now as a fulfillment of journalism’s most sacred responsibilities, which are to inform people and foster constructive debate about common challenges and opportunities,” The Nation wrote on Aug. 28.

The NationColumbia Journalism Review (CJR) and The Guardian spearheaded The Covering Climate Now project. On Aug. 28, they announced that 170 news outlets around the world signed on to the agenda-driven effort. They bragged that biased journalism will be delivered to a combined audience of hundreds of millions of people.

The list included a Who’s Who of liberal U.S. media outlets including Bloomberg, CBS News, PBS NewsHour, Newsweek, “eminent specialist publications” NatureScientific American, InsideClimate News, and “distinguished digital publications” HuffPost, Vox, The Intercept and Slate.

Audiences can expect to be bombarded by climate alarmism the week of Sept. 16-23, since all the participating outlets agreed to focus on climate that week — just ahead of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change summit in New York.

Although some aren’t waiting. CBS has already been celebrating the arrival of 16-year-old“climate warrior” Greta Thunberg and promoting her journey by low-emissions yacht, while ignoring the fact that people have to fly to NY to retrieve the boat.

“All that’s required is for each outlet to make a good-faith effort to increase the amount and the visibility of its climate coverage—to make it clear to their audiences that climate change is not just one more story but the overriding story of our time,” The Nation said.

The Covering Climate now project launched in April 2019, when The Nation, CJR and The Guardiancohosted an event to discuss how journalists ought to cover climate change. It included far-left voices including anti-fossil fuels and anti-capitalist author Naomi Klein. MORE

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Tips for reducing your exposure to harmful chemicals indoors

Accumulation of toxic chemicals inhaled, ingested and absorbed through skin every day is called “body burden.”Follow these simple ABCs to unburden yourself, your family and your home.

Woman hugging her baby in a toxic-chemical free homeEven extremely low levels of toxins can impact brain development  in children. Photo: Paul Hanaoka via Upsplash

A is for air fresheners

  • Some manufactured deodorizers mask odour problems, worsen air quality and can be painful, debilitating and isolating for people with environmental sensitivities. Open a window or turn on a fan!

B is for BPA

  • Bisphenol A is an endocrine disruptor found in plastic baby bottles, food storage containers and water bottles, receipts and more. Choose glass or stainless steel.

C is for couch, carpets and curtains

  • These items — and your TV, furniture and electronics — shed toxics every day. Solution: dust!

D is for Dirty Dozen

E is for earth

  • That’s diatomaceous earth (made from crushed fossilized algae)! It’s an eco-friendlier way to control ants.

F is for formaldehyde

  • Formaldehyde is used in clothing and textiles to prevent wrinkles and mildew during shipping. It also increases colour fastness and stain resistance. Wash new clothes BEFORE wearing and avoid “no-iron” shirts.
Home cleaners in reusable containersG is for “green”
cleaners

Learn how to read product labels to shop smarter or make your own.

H is for hair dye

  • Some contain ammonia, petrochemicals, sulfates, phthalates and P-phenylenediamine, which can cause cancer and may be contaminated with brain-toxic heavy metals. Choose safer products or don’t dye at all.

I is for indoor air quality

J is for jojoba oil

  • Make lip balm with jojoba oil to avoid petrolatum, a petrochemical sometimes contaminated with cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

K is for killing germs

L is for liquid dish soap

  • Add a handful of soap nuts (they’re actually a fruit!) to a jar of water. Shake and use the sudsy solution to clean dishes and more.

M is for mosquitoes

A cast iron pan and other ingredients and cooking equipment.N is for non-stick

Cook with cast iron to avoid toxic chemicals like PFOA and PTFE that coat many non-stick frying pans and bakeware.

O is for off-gassing

P is for “parfum”

  • Even “unscented” products may contain ingredients to mask odours from other chemicals. Read labels carefully. Avoid “fragrance” or “parfum,”  which can trigger allergies and asthma.

Q is for quats

  • Found in bathroom cleaners and fabric softeners, quaternary ammonium compounds can induce an allergic response, don’t readily degrade in the environment and are toxic to fish. Choose products that disclose a full list of plant-based ingredients.

R is for responsible

  • Some household products are hazardous waste. Look for the symbols indicating corrosive, explosive, flammable or poison and properly dispose of all HHW — aerosol cans, batteries, old paint, etc. to keep them out of the landfill.

S is for sunscreen

  • Ingredients found in chemical sunscreens — parabens, oxybenzone, benzophenone and camphor derivatives — are killing coral reefs around the world and posing risks to human health. Choose safer options.

T is for triclosan

  • It’s an anti-bacterial agent which may interfere with hormone function, contribute to antibiotic-resistant bacteria AND harm fish and other wildlife. Make your own toothpaste or use castile soap to make cleaning products!
Water flowing down a drain.U is for unclog

Avoid drain cleaners with highly corrosive ingredients that can burn eyes, skin and lungs. Prevent clogs or unclog with baking soda, water and vinegar.

V is for vinegar

  • Use white vinegar to deodorize, cut grease and disinfect against household bacteria like salmonella, E. coli and other “gram-negative” bacteria!

W is for wet cleaning

  • This professional cleaning uses environmentally-friendly, 100 per cent biodegradable soaps and conditioners to remove tough stains and treat “dry clean only” items without harmful solvents.

X is for xeriscaping

  • Use up to 50 per cent less water by landscaping with native plants better adapted to your area. You won’t need pesticides!

Y is for yuck!

Z is for zzzs

  • Rest easy with pillows made from natural rubber (renewable and biodegradable), kapok (flower seeds) or organic cotton and organic wool.

 

Cold comfort: How we cooled ourselves before A/C

Roughly 2.8 billion people live in countries where the daily average temperature is 25 C, which is set to increase as the planet warms.

As a result of cheaper technology and a greater quality of life, more people will have access to air conditioners in the future. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that by 2050, as much as two-thirds of the world’s population could own an air conditioner.

This is both good and bad news. Air conditioning certainly makes people more comfortable during hot spells, but more A/C units put more stress on electricity grids, which in turn contributes to climate change.

While our grids are likely to become greener as we use renewables like solar and wind energy to replace fossil fuels like coal and natural gas, we can also become smarter in how we design buildings.

“From a technical perspective, pretty much anywhere in the world, you can build a building and not need air conditioning,” said John Dulac, an energy consultant with the International Energy Agency. He said it depends “on how you design the building environment and the ventilation in the building.”

Today, many of the office towers and condominiums we see are predominantly glass. This brings in more sunlight and therefore heat, which means a lot of electricity goes into cooling. Right now, a lot of buildings contain “thin walls, poor insulation, a lot of air gaps,” said Dulac. “It’s very hard to keep [buildings] cool.”

Even if we were to do so with greener energy, it would still be a waste of resources.

Dulac points out some older methods that can help us keep cool. For example, typically hot countries like Italy and Greece have used white roofs and lighter-coloured walls to resist the heat.

In the past, homes also had higher ceilings that kept rooms cool. Windows were built with shutters that would keep direct sunlight out, saving the home from the punishing daytime heat in summer.

In the Middle East — no stranger to extreme heat — buildings were constructed based on the typical direction of the wind and available shade. Also, the placement of buildings was important: it was common to have a courtyard that maximized shade during the day and allowed heat to rise, which was in turn replaced by cooler air from surrounding rooms. These buildings didn’t have many windows — just a couple to ensure air flow.

Dulac notes that it’s difficult to retrofit existing buildings around the world with these concepts, especially since most people live in cities, where it’s “cost-prohibitive to do those kinds of designs, and there’s not a knowledge around it.”

But since greater cooling is going to be a necessity, we might consider incorporating some of these older methods to keep us comfortable. SOURCE

Wht the Arctic Is Smouldering

We know the Arctic is melting – but it’s also on fire. And these wildfires could transform the pace, and scope, of global warming in ways that could affect us all.

Image result for arctic smuldering

The Arctic is transforming before our eyes: the ice caps are melting, the tree-line is shifting northwardsstarving polar bears wander into citiesThe region is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet due to climate change, largely due to changes in albedo – the loss of sunlight-reflecting ice and snow, replaced by sunlight-absorbing ocean and soil. This is driving a dangerous positive feedback cycle where heating spirals into more heating.

And, now, the Arctic isn’t only losing its ice. It is being set ablaze.

Gargantuan forest fires in Siberia, which burned for more than three months, created a cloud of soot and ash as large as the countries that make up the entire European Union. More than four million hectares of Siberian taiga forest went up in flames, the Russian military were deployed, people across the region were choked by the smoke, and the cloud spread to Alaska and beyond. Fires have also raged in the boreal forests of Greenland, Alaska and Canada.

These are all the things we have been predicting for decades – Philip Higuera

Though images of blazing infernos in the Arctic Circle might be shocking to many, they come as little surprise to Philip Higuera, a fire ecologist at the University of Montana, in the US, who has been studying blazes in the Arctic for more than 20 years.

“I’m not surprised – these are all the things we have been predicting for decades,” he says.

Higuera and his team predicted in 2016, based on sophisticated computer modeling, that fires in the boreal forests and Arctic tundra would increase by up to four times by 2100.

A key tipping point, he says, is an average July temperature of 13.4C over a 30-year period. Much of the Alaskan tundra has been perilously close to this threshold between 1971 and 2000, making it particularly sensitive to a warming climate. The number of areas near to and exceeding this tipping point are likely to increase as the climate continues to warm in the coming decades, says Higuera.

“Across the circumpolar Arctic, the take-home message is that there are distinct thresholds above which you start to see the tundra burning – it’s like a binary switch,” says Higuera. “This threshold relationship is part of what makes the Arctic so sensitive: areas will stay below this threshold for years, off our radar for fire activity – and then all of a sudden with a change in temperature it will start to burn.” MORE

 

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