The Green New Deal In Canada: Challenges For Indigenous Participation

This postingis heavily edited for brevity. You are encouraged to read the full posting HERE

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AS WE MOVE THROUGH another colonial election year at the federal level, there is one arena that challenges most politicians: climate change and what we do about it.

Those paying attention to political debates know that taking action on climate appears to be at odds with the economic paradigm created and practiced over the last century and a half.

Rooted in a philosophy of extractivism, Canada’s economy relies on the theft and plundering of Indigenous lands and territories and peoples.

Most of the goods and services created from these extractive industries are the very drivers of climate change itself. Think tar sands, fracked gas, coal, forestry (and as such deforestation), water diversion to support it all, etc.

Considering this extractive economy, it will require a major overhaul for Canada itself to take meaningful action on climate and address the legacy of ongoing colonization, through a transformative economic, social and political shift. It is becoming increasingly impossible to ignore this truth. Droughts, floods, forest fires, super storms, erratic weather patterns, melting sea ice, decline in plant and animal species, and on and on, are increasingly top stories in the daily news (though the media often fails to connect these events to climate change).

While Indigenous peoples have been raising alarms about the state and health of Mother Earth for decades, if not centuries, decrying the abuses heaped upon her, Western science is now catching up, too.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) asserts that we have less than 11 years to cut global GHG emissions in half – while protecting our remaining cultural and biological diversity – or face catastrophic climate crisis.

It is also becoming increasingly understood that current plans and strategies, including the Paris Agreement, are failing to include or address the legacy of social injustices created by colonization, capitalism, and militarism; forces that destroy the cultural diversity which is key to mitigating climate change. Correspondingly, high level international and state policies and proposals also fail to include the full participation of Indigenous peoples despite the recognition of the important roles we play in addressing the climate crisis.

This includes the much heralded Green New Deal.

So what is this Green New Deal thing I keep hearing about?

As I write, environmental groups and centre-left political parties in both Canada and the U.S. are advocating for something called the Green New Deal (GND). Both versions of the GND are predicated on stabilizing current economic systems while simultaneously taking action on climate change, along with challenging current systems of injustice. The narrative of GND is an intentional throwback to the New Deal, an economic stimulus package created after the great depression in the U.S. by President Roosevelt.

As Julian Brave Noisecat writes in his Guardian piece No, climate action can’t be separated from social justice, The “Green” New Deal discussions happening in contemporary America “envisions a society where people have universal access to energy, jobs, healthcare and housing [and] is a call for renewed commitment to the equal distribution of opportunity and justice.”

To achieve these ends, the GND calls for major economic shifts toward a green energy economy.

Meanwhile in Canada, the discussions are more preliminary and revolve around conceptualizing a Northern version of a GND. It includes 150 organizations and prominent Canadians, including CUPE Ontario, the Canadian Health Coalition, the Canadian Unitarian Council, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Indigenous Climate Action (that’s us!), Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN) and the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change.

The campaign’s current tagline is ripped straight from the IPCC report mentioned above and calls for “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”

…The fact is that the GND is still being created in silos of elitism and is aimed primarily at influencing, and putting pressure on, colonial and corporate power to lead change.While it’s true that governments should be stepping up, history has indicated a stubborn attachment to the status quo, absent the will and commitment of the people. Indigenous Climate Action and other Indigenous organizations and communities are striving to ensure there are measures of accountability and true transformation embedded in moving things forward on the GND to avoid repeating history..

But they are advocating for systems change, aren’t they?

Yes, but they are also advocating for the same forces that drove us into a climate crisis to please pave the way out for us. Asking oppressors for liberation has not proven an effective strategy.

Currently, the GND proposals are focused on changing the energy infrastructure while redistributing wealth but ultimately failing to center the destructive intertwined roles of capitalism, consumerism, militarism and colonialism as foundations to the current crisis.

In other words, the GND in its current iteration is not a structural solution.

Without an acknowledgment of the severed spiritual and mental connection to the natural world we will continue to make the same mistakes.

It is Indigenous communities, locally, nationally and internationally, that continue to push for an actualization of instilling deeper spiritual connections the Mother Earth to help us relearn what systems of colonization, capitalism, and extractivism have severed.
Without these as tenets to a call for systems change it is merely a regurgitation of the same broken structures that perpetuate disconnection and individualism.

The current proposals for the GND, if ever taken up by those politicians, could have lasting impacts for generations to come, paving the way for new social, political and economic systems providing a new baseline.

We cannot afford for history to repeat itself.

You Can Have Capitalism, Or You Can Have a Planet — But You Probably Can’t Have Both

Climate Change Isn’t Just “Man-Made” — It’s Made by Capitalism

It’s looking pretty apocalyptic out there. We’re not just losing the fight against climate change — we’re losing it badly. Carbon emissions aren’t just not falling — they’re accelerating: 2018’s going to be the highest year ever.

What’s going wrong here? I think that we need to change the story that we tell about climate change, if we want to change our world. So far, it goes like this.

Climate change is “anthropogenic”, man-made, an inevitable outcome of a crowded, industrializing world. This story is vague, imprecise. It says that we are all responsible. It assigns us all some measure of guilt and shame, and therefore, some measure of responsibility and grief, too. The problem is that this story is true only in the most limited way — and for that reason, it limits our power to ever really fight climate change, too.

If we look a little deeper, I think we see a truer truth. Climate change isn’t just “man-made”, as in caused by all of us, “humankind”, a sad but inescapable outcome of more people using more stuff. This story — which is a Malthusian one — dooms us to impotence, through fatalism, resignation, and sheer powerlessness. But climate change isn’t some kind of hopeless tragedy — whose lines were written by sociobiological destiny.

Climate change isn’t just “anthropogenic.” It’s caused by capitalism. If we’re wise, we’d start calling it CCCC, capitalist caused climate change, or corporate caused climate change if you prefer.

Mom!! Umair’s being mean to me again!! Calm down, Tucker. Before you accuse me of being a college leftist, I invite you to consider two stark empirical realities, which lead me to that conclusion. When I put these two facts together, there is simply no other conclusion that I think any reasonable person can really come to, except that the story of climate change as merely “anthropogenic” is inadequate, a half-truth, a polite evasion — but I’ll return to all that. First, the two realities.

The vast majority of carbon emissions come not from just 100 companies — a full 71% of them. That’s a stunning figure, isn’t it? But what does it tell us? Well, nearly all of them are oil and gas suppliers — and most of them are corporations. It’s a truism to say something like “those companies supply your energy!” Of course they do. The point is that as corporations, they have no incentive to do so on what we might call genuinely economical terms. Their sole purpose is to profit, and sweep their “externalities”, their hidden and unwanted costs, under the rug, or shift them right back to you and me. Hence, you and I pay a far larger chunk of our incomes in taxes than the corporations responsible for 71% of carbon emissions do — and we go on hoping that one day maybe the hugely disproportionate tax dollars we pay will rein these giants in.

That, my friends, is a recipe for disaster — because while government can tax you and me, doing so won’t really alter how energy is supplied in the first place. Under capitalist terms, the supply of energy will always be as dirty, brutal, and costly to society and the planet as a corporation can possibly get away with. Hence, stark evidence emerging that these very same corporations have tried to brush the facts of climate change under the rug, turning what should be a fact into a “controversy”, funding propaganda and pseudoscience and so forth, just like with tobacco.

(That isn’t to say something like “every oil and gas supplier is bad!” Or “India and China are bad!” I want you to really understand the point. The rules of global capitalism still simply don’t count environmental costs as “real”, even while cities are beginning to drown (LOL), and therefore, the way that energy is extracted and supplied has little incentive to ever really change. The cheapest, dirtiest forms, kinds, and methods will always be used until they simply run out. Capitalism needs fundamental, systemic transformation at the level that global GDP is counted, measured, and conceptualized.) MORE

The Guardian view on a Green New Deal: we need it now

” Ms Ocasio-Cortez rightly sees parallels with the response to the 1930s crisis where President Roosevelt dispensed with economic orthodoxy and tamed Big Finance. He created a New Deal jobs programme that employed millions, oversaw a massive expansion of government and remade the US industrial base.” – Guardian editorial

Policymakers ought not wait for economic theory to catch up with the environmental crisis


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has spelled out what a Green New Deal involves in a House resolution: rejecting economic orthodoxy to confront climate change.’ Photograph: Leah Millis/Reuters

The Green New Deal is probably the most fashionable policy in the English-speaking world. In Britain it is advocated by both Tory MPs and Jeremy Corbyn; while a non-partisan Canadian coalition of nearly 70 groups are backing such a scheme. However, it has been made flesh by US Democrats, in particular the political phenomenon in the US House of Representatives, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Ms Ocasio-Cortez has spelled out what a Green New Deal involves in a House resolution: rejecting economic orthodoxy to confront climate change. She ought to be congratulated twice over.

At present the thinking is for governments to tackle global warming by including the social cost of carbon in the prices people pay, either through a carbon tax or a system of tradable carbon-emission permits. Such ideas have a role to play in changing the way societies consume and produce energy, but they are only moving us incrementally – if at all – towards sustainability. Global emissions of carbon dioxide are higher than they have ever been, almost three decades after the first global conference aimed at reducing them. The situation is becoming dangerous for human life. The latest figures show there is little more than a decade to save ourselves and the other creatures with whom we share the planet. To do so we must decouple economic activity from carbon emissions and ecological destruction.

Scientists Warn the UN of Capitalism’s Imminent Demise

 

A climate change-fueled switch away from fossil fuels means the worldwide economy will fundamentally need to change

Capitalism as we know it is over. So suggests a new report commissioned by a group of scientists appointed by the UN Secretary-General. The main reason? We’re transitioning rapidly to a radically different global economy, due to our increasingly unsustainable exploitation of the planet’s environmental resources.

Climate change and species extinctions are accelerating even as societies are experiencing rising inequalityunemploymentslow economic growthrising debt levels, and impotent governments. Contrary to the way policymakers usually think about these problems, the new report says that these are not really separate crises at all.

Rather, these crises are part of the same fundamental transition to a new era characterized by inefficient fossil fuel production and the escalating costs of climate change. Conventional capitalist economic thinking can no longer explain, predict, or solve the workings of the global economy in this new age, the paper says.

“Economies have used up the capacity of planetary ecosystems to handle the waste generated by energy and material use”

The amount of energy we can extract, compared to the energy we are using to extract it, is decreasing “across the spectrum — unconventional oils, nuclear and renewables return less energy in generation than conventional oils, whose production has peaked — and societies need to abandon fossil fuels because of their impact on the climate,” the paper states.

The shift to renewables might help solve the climate challenge, but for the foreseeable future will not generate the same levels of energy as cheap, conventional oil.

In the meantime, our hunger for energy is driving what the paper refers to as “sink costs.” The greater our energy and material use, the more waste we generate, and so the greater the environmental costs. Though they can be ignored for a while, eventually those environmental costs translate directly into economic costs as it becomes more difficult to ignore their impacts on our societies.

And the biggest “sink cost,” of course, is climate change.

“We face a form of capitalism that has hardened its focus to short-term profit maximization with little or no apparent interest in social good.”

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Dare to declare capitalism dead – before it takes us all down with it

George Monbiot asks, “Do we stop life to allow capitalism to continue, or stop capitalism to allow life to continue?” In terms of the present Canadian political scene this equates to , “Do I vote for  neoliberalism  or do I choose social democracy?”  Your opinion and you vote matters.

The economic system is incompatible with the survival of life on Earth. It is time to design a new one

Refugees at the Greek-Macedonian border in 2016. ‘In the 21st century rising resource consumption has matched or exceeded the rate of economic growth.’ Photograph: Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images

… as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to recognise two things. First, that it is the [capitalist] system, rather than any variant of the system, that drives us inexorably towards disaster. Second, that you do not have to produce a definitive alternative to say that capitalism is failing. The statement stands in its own right. But it also demands another, and different, effort to develop a new system.

Capitalism’s failures arise from two of its defining elements. The first is perpetual growth. Economic growth is the aggregate effect of the quest to accumulate capital and extract profit. Capitalism collapses without growth, yet perpetual growth on a finite planet leads inexorably to environmental calamity.

The second defining element is the bizarre assumption that a person is entitled to as great a share of the world’s natural wealth as their money can buy….

Our choice comes down to this. Do we stop life to allow capitalism to continue, or stop capitalism to allow life to continue?

So what does a better system look like? I don’t have a complete answer, and I don’t believe any one person does. But I think I see a rough framework emerging. Part of it is provided by the ecological civilisation proposed by Jeremy Lent, one of the greatest thinkers of our age. Other elements come from Kate Raworth’s doughnut economics and the environmental thinking of Naomi KleinAmitav GhoshAngaangaq AngakkorsuaqRaj Patel and Bill McKibben. Part of the answer lies in the notion of “private sufficiency, public luxury”. Another part arises from the creation of a new conception of justice based on this simple principle: every generation, everywhere, shall have an equal right to the enjoyment of natural wealth. MORE

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WHERE IS CANADA’S SOCIALIST RESURGENCE?

 

The Neoliberal Road to Serfdom

The oldest refrain of the Right is that socialism leads to tyranny. Yet for the last four decades, it’s neoliberalism that’s been inching us closer to a police state.


People walk by a surveillance camera along a street in the Financial District on April 24, 2013 in New York City. Spencer Platt / Getty

The fear of socialism is mostly based on one idea: that the end of the road of bigger government is the totalitarian horror of the early twentieth century.

Sure, there are other objections, usually involving muttered words like “market” and “efficiency.” But for the fathers of neoliberalism like Friedrich Hayek, what it really came down to was the fear that every increase in the role of the state was just one more step toward the chimneys of Dachau: power concentrated among a know-it-all elite deaf to the problems facing its people; ever-present surveillance of the population, whether “suspect” or not; a vast, armed bureaucracy ready to stamp out dissent; countless bodies locked and tortured in prisons; and a state that asserts the power to treat its citizens as mere subjects while demanding secrecy and impunity for itself.

It wasn’t just Hayek, writing in the shadow of the Second World War, who obsessed over this fear. Right-wing, anti-government rhetoric in the Obama years was saturated with talk of Nazis, Hitler, and tyranny, until those same people embraced a wannabe authoritarian of their own in 2015. Speaking of whom, in the midst of one of his recent anti-socialist broadsides, Trump recently asserted that “socialism eventually must always give rise to tyranny.”

Halting this threat was supposedly the great promise of capitalism. You might have had the freedom to starve and die from preventable disease, but you at least had all the political freedoms denied by authoritarian states.

Reality has proven this to be nonsense. The gulag hasn’t come to Sweden or Norway just because their governments pay for people’s medical bills. Not to mention that the society envisioned by socialists devolves decision-making power, whether economic or political, to working people, rather than concentrating it in the state.

But put this to one side for the moment, because it’s now clear — more than seven decades after Hayek worried that “what was promised to us as the Road to Freedom was in fact the High Road to Servitude” — that it’s neoliberal capitalism that has put us on that high road. MORE

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Capitalist Freedom Is a Farce

Milton Friedman was wrong. Capitalism doesn’t foster freedom — it produces autocratic workplaces and tyrannical billionaires.

 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is right – it’s time for radical change, not more ‘meh’ politics

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