From zero to $60: Edmonton parents brace for increases to school bus fees

Extracurricular activities, family’s budget will be impacted, says one mom

Last week’s decision to increase bus fees will impact the families of around 11,000 Edmonton Public School students. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

With school bus fees set to rise by hundreds of dollars in the new year, Tia McAdam says her Edmonton family has some difficult decisions to make.

She has already cut back on her twin daughters’ choir and dance lessons in light of rising school fees. But McAdam says all extracurricular activities could be kiboshed to help pay for a three-fold hike in bus fees, approved last week by Edmonton Public School Board trustees.

“That’s what’s heartbreaking,” she said.

“I hate the fact that they’re doing nothing but homework and housework when they come from school. But, you know, I guess that’s just the political climate right now.”

On Feb. 1, the cost to bus her daughters to Riverbend Junior High on a subsidized Edmonton Transit Service pass will increase from $19 to $60 a month. It takes about an hour for the Grade 7 students to make the seven-kilometre trip on transit.

Trustees approved the increase last Tuesday, in reaction to the Alberta government’s decision to eliminate the School Fee Reduction grant. That program was introduced by the NDP government to help offset the costs of 2017 legislation that prohibited school boards from charging bus fees to families living more than 2.4 kilometres from their designated school.

In February, the monthly cost of a yellow bus for students from kindergarten up to Grade 6 will rise from zero to $33 a month for families living further than 2.4 kilometres. For older students, the monthly fee rises from zero to $60.

Similar fees, also going into effect Feb. 1, were approved Tuesday by the Edmonton Catholic School Division. Under its cost recovery program, the monthly cost of passes for students from kindergarten to grade 6 will be $33.50 per month. The cost for older students will be $56.50 per month.  MORE

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Jason Kenney’s Year Of Attack

Canada’s cities are about to add millions of new residents. They can’t all drive to work

Overall congestion rate across Canada. Vancouver remains the most traffic-congested city in Canada Credit: TomTom Traffic Index

Canada has recently been the fastest growing country in the G7, with a population rising at double the pace of the United States and United Kingdom, and four times that of France and Germany.

According to Statistics Canada’s projections, our country could have 48.8-million people by 2050. And that’s the agency’s “medium” growth projection; under a high-growth scenario, there could soon be 56-million Canadians.

Nearly all of these future residents are going to live in this country’s handful of big cities. That means millions of new urban dwellers – and millions of new commuters.

If we want to raise the quality of life in Canada’s cities, rather than choking on our growth, we will need better planning, so that cities build up more and sprawl out less. As part of that, we need a lot more of the key piece of infrastructure that makes city life possible: mass transit.

There is, unfortunately, a stark contrast between the size of urban Canada’s coming population boom, and the history of delay, denial and underfunding that has marked too many attempts to build badly needed public transit. Our creaking transit systems aren’t up to the demands of the present, let alone the future.

How much bigger are our cities about to become?

Let’s start in British Columbia. The province’s demographers expect that B.C., with 5-million people today, will grow by 1.3-million by 2041. More than three-quarters of those new residents are expected to make their homes in the Lower Mainland, a.k.a. Greater Vancouver.

That’s an extra million people in Canada’s third largest city, in just two decades. It’s the equivalent of the entire population of Prince Edward Island moving to Vancouver, every three years. Before a child born today has graduated university, the Vancouver area will have added nearly as many people as currently live in Saskatchewan.

No, a million more people are not all going to be able to drive to work.

Or consider Alberta. Over the next quarter-century, according to the Alberta Treasury Board’s projections, the province expects to add 2.3-million people – 80 per cent of them in Edmonton, Calgary and the corridor between the two cities. That would mean urban Alberta growing by two Nova Scotias or four Newfoundlands.

In Quebec, the Institut de la statistique projects the province will add 1.1-million people between 2016 and 2041, nearly three-quarters of them in Greater Montreal. The Montreal area already has as many people as Alberta; over two decades, it will add the population of Winnipeg.
And then there’s Toronto. Every day, it becomes more of a global megacity.
Toronto is ranked the 47th worst traffic in the world

According to Ontario’s projections, the Greater Toronto Area will grow from nearly 7-million people to 10.2-million by 2046. Add the horseshoe of growing communities around the GTA, from Niagara to Kitchener-Waterloo to Barrie and, by 2046, what we’ll call the Greater, Greater Toronto Area will have 14.6-million people, up from 10 million today.

That’s an extra 4.6-million residents, more than the population of Alberta, soon to be making their homes within roughly 100 kilometres of the corner of King and Bay streets.

And that’s Ontario’s “medium” growth estimate. There’s also a high-growth scenario. Under that projection, by 2046, the GGTA might have nearly 17-million people. That’s like dropping five Manitobas into the Toronto region, or six Saskatchewans, or one-and-a-half Albertas.

Try to imagine millions of new commuters, all trying to drive to work on the GTA’s already gridlocked highways. It can’t be done.

Canada’s growing population is, in most respects, a success story. The economy will have no trouble creating jobs for all our new citizens, and there’s a good chance the country will end up not just bigger but more dynamic. Boom times and swelling confidence accompanied earlier periods of high population growth, such as during the spike in immigration before the First World War, or the Baby Boom after the Second World War.

But all this growth comes with challenges and downsides. Unless municipalities, provinces and the federal government prepare for our nation’s future as a bigger and more urban country, by planning, funding and actually building public transit, and a lot more of it, the quality of life in Canada’s big cities is at risk.  SOURCE

The Bright Star In A Year of Dire Climate Warnings

The Bright Star In A Year of Dire Climate Warnings. Below2C

The strongest message on Climate in 2019 did not come from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). Nor did it come from climate scientists, or world leaders, or the Pope, or the United Nations. It came from 17-year old Greta Thunberg, Time Magazine’s person of the year for getting the world’s attention on the climate threat.
In the 17 months since Greta Thunberg began her climate strikes (August 2018), she has easily become the most influential climate leader on the planet. She has met with heads of state, addressed world leaders at the United Nations, the World Economic Forum, governments of several countries — the United Kingdom, Ireland, The EU Parliament, the U.S Congress — and inspired millions to join the largest climate demonstration ever on September 20, 2019. Thunberg is synonymous with “climate strike” which was declared word of the year by Collins Dictionary. Her impact on the climate movement is immeasurable.David Roberts (writing in Vox) zeroes in on the primary reason for Greta’s success and appeal. “Thunberg has sidestepped attacks on her motives by almost entirely refraining from endorsing specific political reforms or policies,” writes Roberts. Greta simply says “I can’t really speak up about things like [politics]…no one would take me seriously.”

I want you to listen to the science

Greta wants world leaders to follow the science. Her insistence on this point was illustrated when she submitted the IPCC’s report on limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius in lieu of testifying to the US Congress. Attached was a short letter that said: “I am submitting this report as my testimony because I don’t want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to the scientists. And I want you to unite behind the science. And then I want you to take action.” Greta does not allow her actions to take center stage. She insists that science, not politics, must lead climate policy.

In Intelligencer, David Wallace-Wells writes about Greta’s “extraordinary rise…and her Hail Mary climate movement.” He points out that she’s “the Joan of Arc of climate change, commanding a global army of teenage activists numbering in the millions and waging a rhetorical war against her elders through the unapologetic use of generational shame.”

Greta’s language is impassioned, hot, direct and raw

The following Greta quotes have come to dominate the post-hope climate era we are now living in.

You only speak of green eternal economic growth because you are too scared of being unpopular. You only talk about moving forward with the same bad ideas that got us into this mess, even when the only sensible thing to do is pull the emergency brake. You are not mature enough to tell it like it is. Even that burden you leave to us children…Our civilization is being sacrificed for the opportunity of a very small number of people to continue making enormous amounts of money. — COP 24 climate conference in Poland

The year 2078, I will celebrate my 75th birthday. If I have children, maybe they will spend that day with me. Maybe they will ask me about you. Maybe they will ask why you didn’t do anything while there still was time to act. You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes. — COP 24 climate conference in Poland

Adults keep saying we owe it to the young people to give them hope. But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful; I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act, I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house was on fire, because it is. — World Economic Forum in Davos

I don’t want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to the scientists. And I want you to unite behind the science. And then I want you to take action. — U.S. Congress

Living is a post-hope era

Greta Thunberg has emerged as the new climate guru in a post-hope world. The Paris Agreement promised to keep the warming of the planet well below 2 degrees Celsius and aim for 1.5 degrees. But recent reports show that landmasses have now passed 1.5 degrees and large sections of oceans have as well. As Wallace-Wells writes, “that ship had already sailed” by the time Greta reached New York after her carbon-free crossing of the Atlantic ocean.

Teen girls took over the climate movement. What happens next?

Greta Thunberg takes part in a climate strike in Montreal. September 27, 2019. Photography by The Canadian Press / Paul Chiasson

If you try to picture a climate activist over the past very long year, you will likely summon the image of a young girl. It’s not necessarily the stern Swedish one with pigtails. It could be the bespectacled daughter of one embattled Somali-American representative, the tall Latina from Seattle drenched and yelling at the first Youth Climate March, or a less nationally-known girl you happened to catch at the head of your local climate strike.

Whether you like it or not, the teenage girl has become the symbol of the climate movement. They have demanded to be seen, heard, and heeded, and they’ve at least gotten their way with the first two. There is a reason that Greta Thunberg, founder of the school climate strikes and not yet 17 years old, is Time’s Person of The Year and that Alexandria Villaseñor, the 14-year-old founder of Earth Uprising, spoke at COP25 in Madrid. Quannah Chasing Horse and Nanieezh Peter, 17 and 15, also traveled to Madrid to advocate for climate justice in their homeland of Alaska.

But it’s that third item on their wish list, that pesky “heeded” part, that remains elusive. Thunberg has insisted over and over again that she doesn’t want attention, she wants action. Villaseñor was horrified by the rather spectacular collapse of the international climate summit she crossed an ocean to attend. None of these girls is content with the mere spotlight, and rightfully so — they want leaders to make swift, meaningful overhauls to national economies and infrastructure, and that hasn’t happened.

A high school girl has a uniquely precarious place in American society. She doesn’t have a voice in the political system, but she’s depended upon heavily as a consumer. She gets the message that she should be empowered and confident and generally sans fucks, but the grown women she sees on Instagram are digitally and surgically altering everything from their rib cages to their cheekbones to look like composite Kardashians. She knows how to use social media to be heard, but she can also be tortured by it. And maybe most overwhelmingly of all, she knows that the world she’s going to grow up in is going to be much more chaotic than the one her parents expected, and she had no role in making it that way.

Hava Gordon, a sociologist at Denver University who studies gender and social movements, described a dynamic where teenage girls today are looking at the world they’ve been left and realizing they’re completely ostracized from the power structures that could change it. So they’re using what they can to get noticed, and it’s working pretty well.

“Most teenage activists don’t have the right to vote or run for office just yet,” she said. “So they’re harnessing media and social media in really interesting ways; they’re also finding their institutional leverage with schools and school strikes as well.”

Teenage girls have long been defined by their obsession of the hour — and long been the object of a good deal of American cultural obsession themselves. The current iteration is the VSCO girl, the Instagram-centric trend characterized by ‘90s-revival style and a surprising environmental ethic. Kate Aronoff reported on the VSCO girl’s climate enthusiasm for The Intercept in September and noted:

It’s not as if all VSCO Girls are sleeper climate champions. But as climate organizing has come to involve more and more people, it’s sucking the trends of the day up with it, as those trends in turn reflect the concerns and anxieties of the generation from which they’ve sprouted.

You see all kinds of variation in the way young women use the tools they have to be heard. Alexis Ren, the 23-year-old American Instagram model, has made a recent attempt to awaken the millions of followers devoted to her bikini shots to the destruction of coral reefs in the North Pacific. Meanwhile, Thunberg, who seems much more comfortable in a zip-up hoodie than a high-rise French cut, has certainly become the best-known girl climate activist in the country due in part to her savvy use of Twitter.

Thunberg’s prominence has only been boosted by one Twitter-obsessed president’s snide comments about her, where he characterizes her as a weird, petulant, tantrum-throwing child. (Even the least astute psychologist might be able to identify this as “projection,” but that’s neither here nor there.) And the young girl’s ascent has been accompanied by her very own religious iconography; in October, her face was painted across a building in San Francisco like a cathedral mural. She’s even released a short book of her speeches, a kind of pocket scripture for the modern-day climate disciple.

Thunberg has said she doesn’t want to be the center of attention; she just feels obligated to use her platform to advocate for change. It calls to mind an earlier pioneering environmental activist: Rachel Carson, who was 55 when she published Silent Spring in 1962. In What a Book Can Do: The Publication and Reception of Silent Spring, Priscilla Coit Murphy describes the writer and scientist’s desire to remove herself as a character from the conversation about her landmark journalistic work revealing the impacts of DDT. But despite the enigma Carson fought to maintain, she remained a focus of the press: “Carson herself was a classically appealing protagonist, despite her best efforts to remain private,” writes Murphy. “Much of the news coverage began with a description of her appearance and various qualities: ‘shy,’ ‘petite,’ ‘soft-spoken,’ or less felicitously, ‘spinster,’ or ‘bachelor biologist.’”

Movements of outspoken women have been fascinating to the public at the very least since suffragettes, and that fascination runs the gamut from religious adoration to cruel denigration. And yet many social justice efforts throughout history have been predominantly women-led; the most recent examples are the Black Lives Matter and Fight for $15 movements. Why women? Gordon describes a theory that we’re socialized to mind the home — keep things orderly, functional, and pretty — and that that cultivated instinct carries over to, well, the entire world.

But the suffragettes were doing their thing over a hundred years ago; this is not new! I asked Gordon why the surge of teen girl climate activists seems so novel. She mentioned two things: They’re younger than most women leaders before them, and we continue to be surprised by women who lead social movements because we don’t see that dynamic represented in the halls of power. Just under a quarter of Congressional representatives are women, and just under 30 percent of state-level elected officials are women.

“You can look at a teenage boy activist and think, ‘He’s gonna be president or a senator, this is good practice for him!’” said Gordon. “But the public doesn’t look at young women and girls that way.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a notable exception to the accepted model of legislator: young, female, Latina, internet–fluent, and, of course, unapologetically outspoken. She’s also been a vocal advocate for both young teen climate activists and comprehensive and transformative climate legislation.

But despite the fact that Ocasio-Cortez is now a household name whose likeness can be found riding a unicorn on a coffee mug, she’s still up against a largely old, white, male Congress that’s resistant to the kind of systemic transformation she and millions of young climate activists would love to see.

Girl activists rose to prominence in 2019 and captured the world’s attention. As they grow into women activists — and maybe politicians — over this year and the coming ones, I would love nothing more than to see them capture some of its power.  SOURCE

 

To Fight Climate Change, One City May Ban Heating Homes With Natural Gas

Seeking to do their part to avert climate change, dozens of cities are exploring ways to limit natural gas heating in new homes. One city may also require existing homeowners to make a switch.

After two decades of reducing emissions across the coastal city leaders are proposing to ban natural gas in residential buildings with the hope of curtailing the potent emissions that rise from that industry’s infrastructure.Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

BELLINGHAM, Wash. — As a progressive-minded city nestled where the Cascade mountains reach the sea, Bellingham, Wash., has long been looking to scale back its contribution to climate change. In recent years, city leaders have converted the streetlights to low-power LEDs, provided bikes for city employees and made plans to halt the burning of sewage solids.

But while the efforts so far have lowered the city’s emissions, none have come close to erasing its carbon footprint. Now, Bellingham is looking to do something that no other city has yet attempted: adopt a ban on all residential heating by natural gas.

The ambitious plan set for consideration by the City Council in the coming weeks had already prompted vigorous debate over how much one small city should try to do to avert climate catastrophe, at a time when the federal government was putting less emphasis on halting the trajectory of rising temperatures.

“What we’ve got here is a conversation that is taking place in living rooms, in board rooms, in City Councils around the country,” said Michael Lilliquist, a Bellingham council member. “What is the proportionate threat? What is the proportionate response?”

Natural gas has long been embraced as a cleaner alternative to coal-fired electricity. Years ago, power companies began phasing out coal, and natural gas emerged as the nation’s leading source of electricity. But natural gas offers its own troubling contribution of greenhouse gases — including methane leaks from natural gas infrastructure — and its production has begun to clash with environmental goals that now include not only cleaning up pollution, but also slowing the rise in global temperatures.

In places like the Northwest, which benefits from a robust network of hydro-powered electricity, the move to detach from natural gas may be within reach — but at a cost.

Bellingham has become a growing destination for those looking to escape Seattle’s growth and cost while still wanting a similar base of progressive politics and environmental activism. It is a destination for outdoor enthusiasts who backpack the wilderness of the northern Cascades and kayak along the barnacled shores of the San Juan Islands.

Yet the move to phase out natural gas is not without opponents, even here.

The business community has mobilized to fight the plan and to establish a $1 million campaign to tout natural gas, especially as Seattle, 85 miles south, also begins discussions about its reliance on the fossil fuel.

Michael Lilliquist, a City Council member in Bellingham, Wash.
Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Along with other cities around the world, Bellingham adopted its first climate action plan more than a decade ago. Since then, the city has reported a substantial drop in emissions — eliminating more than two-thirds of the government’s greenhouse gas contributions compared to the year 2000.

Mr. Lilliquist said the city’s plans had put it on a path to carbon neutrality — zero net emissions — by 2050. While those plans may have seemed ambitious at the time, the unfolding global climate crisis has prompted city leaders since then to try to move the timeline up to 2035 or even 2030.

Last year, Berkeley, Calif., became the first city in the country to ban natural gas in newly constructed low-rise residential buildings. Dozens of other cities passed or proposed similar bans, including Seattle, where an increasing number of new homes have adopted electric heat. Proponents there argued that a ban on natural gas in new construction would lower the city’s emissions by an estimated 12 percent over the coming three decades. The City Council had not yet acted on the measure.

Bellingham is talking about going even further: banning natural gas heating not only in new construction but also in existing homes and businesses.

The city’s climate task force explored a number of ambitious targets, including requiring conversions to electric heating when people purchased existing homes, said Dr. Charles Barnhart, a task force member and an assistant professor of environmental sciences at Bellingham’s Western Washington University, which has one of the nation’s oldest environmental colleges. It also explored requiring transitions on all structures as soon as 2030.

In the end, the task force scaled back a bit. Natural gas cooking appliances would still be allowed, but owners of homes and commercial buildings would be required to convert to electric heat-pump technology — or something equivalent — by 2040, with the possibility that the city could accelerate that to 2035. The measure under consideration would require electric heat conversions earlier than that when replacing heating systems.

“This is about going to where we didn’t go before,” Mr. Lilliquist said. “We’ve grabbed the less controversial and low-hanging fruit. This fruit is higher on the tree.”

It is unclear whether the proposal has enough votes to clear the City Council. Mr. Lilliquist said he would first seek a series of meetings to get feedback from the public.
Opponents have questioned the value of focusing on home heating systems instead of other alternatives for reducing emissions.

Todd Myers, who focuses on environmental issues at the conservative Washington Policy Center, said the city could get much more climate improvement by investing in things like planting trees and capturing methane gas at landfills.

“They are saying we are going to bypass all the low-hanging fruit and climb to the very top of the tree,” Mr. Myers said.Ron Colson posing for a portrait outside of his home near Bellingham, Wash.

Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times
Mr. Colson said he had spent about $28,000 to install a forced-air heat pump system in 2018.
Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Bellingham’s task force found that the average cost of installing an electric heat pump system was about $6,200 to $13,100 more than a gas furnace.

Ronald Scott Colson, a financial adviser who lives outside of Bellingham, said he had been converting to electric heat to fulfill his commitment to migrating the planet away from fossil fuels.

Mr. Colson said he had spent about $28,000 to install a forced-air heat pump system in 2018. He is looking to spend about $8,000 to change the heating for his home’s hot water to heat pump technology. With human life on Earth at risk, Mr. Colson said, the globe needs catalysts for significant change.
“You’ve got to have a place where people step up and say, ‘Let’s show the world we can do it,’” Mr. Colson said.

But Mr. Colson also acknowledged that such a conversion might be a heavy burden for those who did not have as much income. Without federal tax credits or other ways to offset the cost for lower-income people, he wondered if a local mandate might have negative impacts.

Mary Kay Robinson, a real-estate agent who works with the local chamber of commerce, said that instead of a natural gas ban, she would like to see the city expand a program that helped people assess their properties for energy efficiency improvements and offered incentives to make needed changes. She said a mandate to convert home heating systems could create housing affordability challenges.

“What does that do other than we get bragging rights, but we’re burdening people who can’t afford this?” Ms. Robinson said.

The energy industry has also stepped up efforts. A Northwest coalition has been organizing a $1 million public-relations campaign to promote the benefits of natural gas, with a focus on its reliability. One graphic produced by businesses including Cascade Natural Gas, the provider in Bellingham, suggested that a full conversion from natural gas to electricity, including solar panels, could cost a typical homeowner as much as $82,750, something Mr. Lilliquist labeled propaganda intended to frighten people.

Still, Mr. Lilliquist said that as council members considered the conversion proposals in the coming weeks, they would have a discussion about incentives or other ways to mitigate costs, which he said would almost surely be less exorbitant than the industry’s claims.

“The real number may be one-tenth that cost, but that’s still a lot of money for most households,” he added.
A view of the city of Bellingham, Wash.
Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

SOURCE

 

Sweden to Investigate Phasing Out Fossil Fuels and Banning Sales of New Gasoline Vehicles

The government of Sweden has launched an inquiry into how to phase out fossil fuels and how to ban the sale of gas-powered cars.

Naomi Klein On Looming Eco-Fascism: ‘We Are Literally And Politically Flammable’

The intellectual godmother of the Green New Deal movement laid out what, exactly, such a plan must entail to be successful.

Image result for naomi klein green new deal

Naomi Klein appears on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman. (YouTube s

California burned. The Amazon burned. Greenland burned. Siberia burned. Indonesia burned. Australia’s ongoing fires look hellish.

Now, last year’s global inferno looks to Naomi Klein, the author and intellectual godmother of the Green New Deal movement, like a lit fuse to a fascist future.

“We’re in a moment where we are literally flammable,” Klein, whose latest book “On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal” was published in September, said on a recent afternoon. “But we are also politically flammable.”

In 2019, some factions of the global far-right that gained power in the past decade started to abandon their traditional climate denialism and adopt new rhetoric that looks increasingly eco-fascist, an ideology that defends its violent authoritarianism as necessary to protect the environment.

In France, the leader of the far right, Marine Le Pen, refurbished Nazi-era blood-and-soil rhetoric in a pledge to make Europe the “world’s first ecological civilization,” drawing a distinction between the “ecologist” social groups who are “rooted in their home” and the “nomadic” people who “have no homeland” and “do not care about the environment.” In Germany, the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party’s Berlin youth wing urged its leaders to abandon climate denialism. The manifestos posted online by the alleged gunmen in massacres from Christchurch, New Zealand, and El Paso, Texas, explicitly cited climate change as a motivation for murdering immigrants and minorities.

“This is what it means to have people so close to the edge,” Klein said. “There is a rage out there that is going to go somewhere, and we have demagogues who are expert at directing that rage at the most vulnerable among us while protecting the most powerful and most culpable.”

The solution, she said, is to enact the kind of Green New Deal that progressives in the United States and elsewhere started fleshing out over the past year. The proposal ― more of a framework than a policy ― calls for the most generous expansion of the social safety net in decades. It promises good-paying, federally backed jobs for workers displaced by the transition away from fossil fuels, and those struggling to get by with stagnant wages and insecure gig-economy and retail jobs.

Klein, a journalist and author whose work over the past decade thrust pointed critiques of capitalism into the mainstream debate over climate change, has campaigned in recent months for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) as he runs for the 2020 Democratic nomination on a platform that includes a sweeping, $16.3 trillion Green New Deal.

HuffPost sat down with Klein to discuss her latest book and what comes next in the climate fight.

In Spain, there are competing versions of a Green New Deal. In New York, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo called his clean energy proposal a “green new deal.” The European Commission is pushing a “green deal.” Are you worried about Green New Deal branding being coopted by advocates of austerity and centrism? How do you fight back against that? 

Any phrase can be coopted and watered down. The main reason why I wanted to write the book is to help define what a transformational Green New Deal has to mean, to put more details out there. Any vague proposal is vulnerable to what you’re describing. The reason why I’m using the phrase now is because it is being used in a climate-justice context and the parameters that have been put around it by the resolution sponsored by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) — and further supported by the Sanders campaign and Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s (D) campaigns — have made it more detailed.

Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein speaks to the media before speaking at the Willy Brandt Foundation in December. CARSTEN KOALL VIA GETTY IMAGES

But I still think there are parts of the discussion that we need to talk about — like the danger of a Green New Deal inadvertently failing to lower emissions in line with what scientists are telling us we need to do, and what sort of mechanisms need to be in place to prevent a carbon bubble that could be generated by rolling out a bunch of new infrastructure and creating a whole bunch of jobs.

How has the emergence of the Green New Deal changed the way we talk about neoliberalism? The movement seems to take the governing ideology of the past five decades as a given, yet we still have certain pundits questioning whether “neoliberalism” even exists. 

It’s so interesting, this. I’ve been trying to understand what the insistence on refusing to understand neoliberalism is all about. In most parts of the world there was a discussion about the phenomenon of neoliberalism and there was a name for it, while in the United States, people were always asking what neoliberalism was. It was always about what hegemony means and that it was an ideology that didn’t want to recognize itself as an ideology. Rather, it sees itself as seriousness and commonsense. The very fact of being named as an ideology, as a contested ideology that had opponents at every stage, was antithetical to the project. How it’s possible to still deny that there is a thing called neoliberalism ― understanding that the term gets thrown around, and every term gets used and abused ― but the insistence that it doesn’t exist is about a desire to not debate it on its merits, to not reckon with the history of how it was imposed through tremendous violence in many parts of the world.

A true Green New Deal platform makes visible that the failure to act in the face of the climate crisis is not the result of something innate in humans. It’s the reality that the things that we need to do to lower emissions while avoiding a massive backlash ― while bringing the population along with you, which is what you have to do in a democracy ― require breaking every single rule in the neoliberal playbook.

Can you briefly define it?

Neoliberalism is a clear set of policy frameworks which used to be called the “Washington consensus.” It’s privatization of the public sphere. It’s deregulation of the corporate sphere. It’s low taxes for corporations and all of this offset with austerity and public cutbacks of the social sphere. That in turn creates more of an argument for privatization, because you starve the public sphere. And all of it is locked in with technocratic-seeming arrangements like free trade deals.

And a progressive Green New Deal would be a reversal of these trends? 

That is what the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has told us we need to do. We need unprecedented transformation in every aspect of society: Energy, transportation, agriculture, built environment. That requires huge investments in the public sphere. It requires regulating corporations. It requires getting some money from somewhere, and usually involves raising taxes on the wealthy. And if you want to do it democratically, you need to do it in a way that is fair. That means creating a lot of well-paying jobs and improving services, so you’re not just adding burdens onto people’s daily lives.

Besides the obvious, what are some obstacles to this project?

It so happens that we have a lot of trade agreements that our governments have signed that make a lot of the things we need to do illegal under international law. So, a lot of those trade agreements are going to have to go.

The reason why we haven’t done these things is we’ve been trying to do them in the constraints and confines of the neoliberal imaginary. That’s the only reason we’re actually now finally talking about solutions: We’re in the midst of a democratic socialist revival, which is breathing oxygen into the political imagination and made us think that maybe we can do things again. The Green New Deal has made visible the constraints, the actual barriers to what it would take to deal with this crisis.

Why can’t a market-based solution deliver on those goals? 

The Green New Deal is certainly making visible the tremendous costs of the neoliberal project. There have been so many attacks on public goods, on public services like transportation, on trade unions, on worker rights of every kind, on living standards. Climate policies that adhere to a neoliberal framework ― like introducing a marginal carbon tax or a buying a fleet of electric buses (but you want to do it in a “fiscally responsible” way, so then you increase bus fares) …  We are seeing these huge, popular resistances.

It’s the reality that the things that we need to do to lower emissions while avoiding a massive backlash … requires breaking every single rule in the neoliberal playbook. Naomi Klein

We saw it in France when President Emmanuel Macron introduced a tax on gasoline. We saw it in Chile with President Sebastián Piñera, ahead of the U.N. climate summit, when they bought a whole bunch of electric buses in order to make their public transit appear green. But, of course, because Chile has been the laboratory for neoliberalism since 1973, they have rules in place that say all of your expenditures have to be offset, so they increased transit fares. That was the spark that set off the Chilean uprising.

A thing I’ve been thinking about a lot, which you write about in the book, is the looming threat of eco-fascism. It’s been hard not to think about that over the past few months, as you’ve had these different shooters in El Paso and Christchurch citing environmental concerns in their manifestos and you have somebody like Marine Le Pen talking about borders as a climate policy and “nomadic” people having no appreciation for the need to make France an ecological society. How quickly do you think this kind of right-wing, climate fascism is going to spread? What besides adopting equitable policies can you do to fight back against that? 

These types of policies that make life more secure for people, that could tamp down the political flammability of the moment we’re in, are absolutely necessary. I don’t think they’re sufficient. I don’t think there’s any way that we move forward without a frontal confrontation with white supremacy. Which isn’t to say “Oh, just fund schools and hospitals and create lots of jobs and it’ll take care of itself.” We need both: We have to address the underlying supremacist logics in our societies and we also need to do what is necessary to be less flammable.

I want to be clear: I don’t think there are any shortcuts where we don’t actually have to battle supremacist logics. And it’s different in different parts of the world. In the United States, it’s white supremacy, it’s Christian supremacy, it’s male supremacy. With Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India right now, it’s Hindu supremacy; under Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it’s Jewish supremacy. It’s all very, very similar. As I argue in the book, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that supremacists have come to power at the very moment when the climate crisis becomes pretty much impossible to deny.

Do you think that’s a blindspot for the climate movement at large? It seems like there has been this consensus for a long time that, if only we could exorcise denialism from the polity, then people would embrace social democratic policies to deal with emissions. Is there any evidence for that? 

It’s a massive blindspot. The assumption that the biggest problem we’ve had is just convincing the right to believe in the scientific reality of climate change was a failure to understand that the right denied climate change not because they didn’t understand the science, but because they objected to the political implications of the science. They understood it better than many liberals understood it.

This is the argument I made after spending some time at the Heartland Institute conference and interviewing [co-founder] Joseph Bast, who was very honest about his motivation. He understood that if the science was true, then the whole reason for the Heartland Institute, a free-market think tank that exists to advance the neoliberal project, would crumble. He said to me that if it was true, then any kind of regulation would be possible, because in the name of safeguarding the habitability of the planet, you’d need to regulate.

It was never about the science or needing someone to patiently explain the science to you. It was always about the political implications of the science.

That said, I think there are lots of people who are not hardcore climate deniers but who are just exposed to a certain kind of right-wing media and haven’t heard the counter arguments, and could absolutely be persuaded. But if you’re talking about the hardcore denier, it’s an epic waste of time, because you’re dealing with somebody who has an intensely hierarchical worldview, which is what all the studies show. That’s just a nice way of saying somebody is racist: It means you’re OK with massive levels of inequality, you think the people who are doing well in the world are doing well because they’re somehow better and the people who are poor and suffering are experiencing this through some cultural or biological failure of their own making.

White nationalists march on the grounds of the University of Virginia ahead of the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017. Many of the white supremacists in attendance chanted “blood and soil.” STEPHANIE KEITH / REUTERS

So what happens when those people stop denying climate change? 

If you convince those people climate change really is real, or if it just becomes so obvious that they can no longer deny it, they don’t suddenly want to sign onto the Paris Agreement. What actually happens is they apply that intensely hierarchical supremacist worldview to the reality that what climate change means is that the space for people to live well on this planet is contracting. More and more of us are going to have to live on less and less land, even if we do everything right. It’s already happening. So if you have that worldview, then you will apply it to people who are migrating to your country and to those who want to migrate to your country. We will harden the narratives that say those people deserve what they get because they’re inferior and we deserve what we have because we’re superior. In other words, the racism will get worse.

One last question. Former Secretary of State John Kerry just announced a new project, this star-studded effort called World War Zero, saying we’ve got to have war footing on climate change but we’re not married to any specific policy. John Kasich, the Republican former governor of Ohio, was quoted in The New York Times saying he was on board because it’s policy agnostic and if there were a “no frackers” provision, he wouldn’t join. Is there a danger to these elite, “let’s just do something about climate change” efforts?

There would be a huge danger if there wasn’t a powerful movement today pushing for a Green New Deal at the same time. The idea that what we need to just scare people in this moment, or just get people to understand that we’re in an emergency and once we’re on emergency footing, this will somehow solve itself, that’s a very dangerous theory of change.

I began writing about climate change while I was writing about something I called the “shock doctrine,” which says that for the past four decades, states of emergency have been systematically harnessed by the most powerful and wealthy forces in our society to impose policies that are so harmful and unpopular that they are unable to impose them under normal circumstances.

I get my back up when people just say all we need to do is get people to understand we’re in a crisis. There are many ways of responding to a climate emergency, and a lot of them are very harmful. You could decide to dim the sun with solar radiation management. You could decide that you need a massive expansion of nuclear power and ignore the impact on the people whose lands are being poisoned. You could decide to fortress your borders. There are any number of emergency responses to climate change that could make our world much more unjust than it currently is.

That said, I’m not too bothered by the idea that there’s going to be a lot of people out there just screaming “fire!” For the first time since I’ve been involved in the climate movement, there’s now a critical mass of people out there who have a plan for putting out the fire that is robust, justice-based, science-based and has a movement behind it. That’s the movement for a Green New Deal. There are enough of us out there who can harness that energy and direct it in the right way. But we certainly have our work cut out for us.  SOURCE

Nuclear power is clean – except for all the waste

Thumbnail: A spent fuel pool at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station near San Clemente, Calif. Nuclear Regulatory Commission/CC via Flickr

Nuclear power generates electricity without emitting greenhouse gases or other air pollutants. Yet it hasn’t been extensively deployed to fight climate change because of safety fears, the high cost of construction and, perhaps most significantly, the hazardous waste, or spent fuel, reactors produce. Now, as the climate crisis worsens, pro-nuclear groups are speaking out.

One such group, Generation Atomic, argues that nuclear power doesn’t really have a waste problem. All 88,000 tons or so of waste produced by reactors in the U.S. could fit onto a single football field, stacked just 24 feet high, it says, with the waste produced by an individual’s lifetime energy consumption fitting in one soda can. Compare that to the 100 million tons of solid waste — about a 5-mile-high pile on a football field — that U.S. coal-fired power plants kick out each year.

These figures are accurate, but incomplete: They leave out several steps that precede the power generation phase, each of which produces sizable quantities of hazardous and radioactive waste. By omitting these, we risk ignoring the bulk of the nuclear industry’s human and environmental toll.

These figures are accurate, but incomplete: They leave out several steps that precede the power generation phase, each of which produces sizable quantities of hazardous and radioactive waste. By omitting these, we risk ignoring the bulk of the nuclear industry’s human and environmental toll.

NUCLEAR WASTE
Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station generates about 31,000 gigawatt-hours of power each year. That requires about 86 tons of uranium oxide, enriched to 3-to-5% uranium-235. In order to produce that, you need to:

… AND THEN THERE’S COAL
In order for a coal-burning power plant to produce 31,000 gigawatt-hours per year, or the same amount of electricity generated by Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, you would need to:


SOURCE