All you need to know about the teachers’ strikes across Ontario

Rotating one-day teacher strikes will hit the GTA next week.

BACKGROUND 

Why are the teachers going on strike?

Premier Doug Ford said Thursday that the government will not offer teachers’ unions a raise of more than one per cent yearly. This is about half what they are seeking.

The unions vow to fight legislation capping the wage settlements for hundreds of thousands of teachers, nurses, professors, bureaucrats, and numerous other public service employees at one per cent annually for the next three years.

The province is also looking to boost class sizes in secondary schools from last year’s average of 22 to 25, down from its original plan of jumping to 28 over four years.

This is a move that would phase out thousands of teaching jobs and tens of thousands of course options for teens.

The government would mandate two online courses for teens, not four. Such classes are optional now, and there is no jurisdiction in North America that has such a requirement.

An Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario memo, obtained by the Star, says no contract talks are scheduled, and says the “critical issues” it wants the province to address include smaller classes, better supports for special needs students, a commitment to full-day kindergarten, and compensation.

Who is walking off the job next? 

For the first time in more than two decades, all of the province’s teachers’ unions are involved in job action, ranging from work-to-rule to rotating one-day strikes.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario are planning a one-day strike on Monday in Toronto, hitting both the public and Catholic boards (where the union represents early childhood educators), York Region and Ottawa.

On Tuesday, they will join all English Catholic teachers in the province, as well as public high school teachers and support staff in 13 boards, who are also hitting the picket lines.

Ontario’s public elementary teachers will walkout Wednedsay in Rainy River (Fort Frances area), Thames Valley (London area) and Rainbow (Sudbury area).

The elementary teachers’ union told members a Friday memo that the rotating strikes will continue “until we have a collective agreement or a decision is made to escalate our strike action further.”

No talks are scheduled.

How do parents get compensated for daycare costs?

The province has pledged to reimburse parents for any child-care costs incurred during the Ontario teachers’ strikes. Parents have to register online to receive compensation. No receipts are required for the payouts.

Depending on the child, parents are eligible to receive up to $60 per day. Click here for details on who’s eligible for compensation and how to apply for funds.

As of 9 a.m. Thursday, the government has received 33,000 applications for funding.

Ford’s government has already announced it will spend up to $48 million per day to repay parents for child-care costs during any work stoppage from teacher strikes.

The daily subsidies of up to $60 per child will be funded by savings from teacher salaries during the walkouts.

The 2019-20 academic year for Ontario students has been disrupted by labour disruption. This includes the first teacher walkout in the province since 1997. Here’s everything you need to know about the job action and the issues driving it. 

Where can I take my kids on the day off? 

Next week is setting up to be a busy and possibly stressful week for Toronto parents scrambling to find daycare — click here for a few options , ranging from hockey to arts camps to coding and skateboarding.

What’s happened in the past?

Until last December, there hadn’t been a full-blown strike or lockout involving Ontario’s secondary school teachers since 1997.

There have been targeted job actions, such as work-to-rule campaigns that eliminated extracurriculars, but no full-fledged, full-scale walkouts.

Ontario school job actions going back more than two decades are set out in the timeline this link provides.

International Monetary Fund: Tackling Tax Havens

The billions attracted by tax havens do harm to sending and receiving nations alike

Until the 2008 financial crisis, tax havens were generally seen as exotic sideshows to the global economy, Caribbean islands or Alpine financial fortresses frequented by celebrities, gangsters, and wealthy aristocrats. Since then, the world has woken up to two sobering facts: first, the phenomenon is far bigger and more central to the global economy than nearly anyone had imagined; and second, the biggest havens aren’t where we thought they were.

Tax havens collectively cost governments between $500 billion and $600 billion a year in lost corporate tax revenue, depending on the estimate (Crivelli, de Mooij, and Keen 2015; Cobham and Janský 2018), through legal and not-so-legal means. Of that lost revenue, low-income economies account for some $200 billion—a larger hit as a percentage of GDP than advanced economies and more than the $150 billion or so they receive each year in foreign development assistance. American Fortune 500 companies alone held an estimated $2.6 trillion offshore in 2017, though a small portion of that has been repatriated following US tax reforms in 2018.

Corporations aren’t the only beneficiaries. Individuals have stashed $8.7 trillion in tax havens, estimates Gabriel Zucman (2017), an economist at the University of California at Berkeley. Economist and lawyer James S. Henry’s (2016) more comprehensive estimates yield an astonishing total of up to $36 trillion. Both, assuming very different rates of return, put global individual income tax losses at around $200 billion a year, which must be added to the corporate total.

These highly uncertain estimates vary widely because of financial secrecy and patchy official data and because there’s no generally accepted definition of a tax haven. Mine boils down to two words: “escape” and “elsewhere.” To escape rules you don’t like, you take your money elsewhere, offshore, across borders. I prefer such a broad definition because these havens affect far more than tax: they provide an escape route from financial regulations, disclosure, criminal liability, and more. Because the main corporate users of tax havens are large financial institutions and other multinationals, the system tilts the playing field against small and medium enterprises, boosting monopolization.

Political damage, while unquantifiable, must be added to the charge sheet: most centrally, tax havens provide hiding places for the illicit activities of elites who use them, at the expense of the less powerful majority. Tax havens defend themselves as “tax neutral” conduits helping international finance and investment flow smoothly. But while the benefits for the private players involved are evident, the same may not be true for the world as a whole; it is now widely accepted that in addition to tax losses, allowing capital to flow freely across borders carries risks, including the danger of financial instability in emerging market economies.

As a general rule, the wealthier the individual and the larger the multinational corporation—some have hundreds of subsidiaries offshore—the more deeply they are embedded in the offshore system and the more vigorously they defend it. Powerful governments also have a stake; most major havens are located in advanced economies or their territories. The Tax Justice Network’s Corporate Tax Haven Index ranks the top three as the British Virgin Islands, Bermuda, and the Cayman Islands—all British overseas territories. The organization’s Financial Secrecy Index ranks Switzerland, the United States, and the Cayman Islands as the top three jurisdictions for private wealth.

To grasp why rich jurisdictions top the lists, ponder how many rich Nigerians might stash secret assets in Geneva or London—then consider how many rich Swiss or Britons would hide assets in Lagos. Offshore capital tends to drain from poor countries to rich ones.

And the offshore system is growing. When one jurisdiction crafts a new tax loophole or secrecy facility that successfully attracts mobile money, others copy or outdo it in a race to the bottom. That has contributed to a dramatic decline in average corporate tax rates, which have decreased by half, from 49 percent in 1985 to 24 percent today. For US multinationals, corporate profit shifting into tax havens has risen from an estimated 5 percent to 10 percent of gross profits in the 1990s to about 25 to 30 percent today (Cobham and Janský 2017).

The principles of the international corporate tax system were laid down under the League of Nations almost a century ago. They treat multinational enterprises as loosely connected “separate entities.” This is a fiction: multinationals in fact draw great strength from their unitary nature, reaping market power and economies of scale. If the whole is worth more than the sum of its (geographically diverse) parts, which countries get to tax that extra value? It is rarely lower-income countries, since the system tends to give preference to the place where multinationals have their headquarters, usually rich countries.

What is more, multinationals can manipulate the so-called transfer prices of transactions between these affiliates to shift profits from high- to low-tax jurisdictions. For example, a firm’s affiliate may hold a patent in a low-tax haven and charge exorbitant brand royalties to affiliates in high-tax countries, thus maximizing profits in the low-tax jurisdiction. In theory, transfer prices are meant to reflect market prices that would prevail in arm’s length transactions between two unrelated parties. But such prices often cannot readily be established: try valuing a unique widget for a jet engine that isn’t sold on the open market, or a drug patent. In practice, the value is often what the company’s accountants say it is.

The main alternative to “arm’s length, separate entity” is something called “unitary tax with formulary apportionment.” This system considers a multinational to be a single entity and apportions profits geographically according to a formula reflecting real economic activity, which could be a mix of sales, employment, and tangible assets. In theory, this method cuts out tax havens: if a firm has a one-person office in Bermuda, the formula allocates a minuscule portion of its global profits there, so it hardly matters whether Bermuda taxes its portion at a zero rate. In practice, this system also suffers technical difficulties, and the choice of formula is highly political—but it is simpler, fairer, and more rational than the current system.

Indeed, many US states, Canadian provinces, and Swiss cantons have for some time used limited versions of the system for subnational taxes, even though it is not yet used internationally. A move is already underway to require multinationals to break down and even publish financial and accounting information on a country-by-country basis, which could provide relevant data for an international allocation formula. Many other incremental stepping-stones toward the alternative are possible, so change can be evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

Until a decade or so ago, there were few political brakes on the expansion of tax havens. After the 2008 crisis, however, governments came under pressure to close large budget deficits and to placate voters furious about taxpayer-funded bank bailouts, widening inequality, and the ability of multinationals and the wealthy to escape tax. The Panama Papers and Luxembourg Leaks revealed the use of tax havens for often nefarious purposes and reinforced the pressure to do something. So the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the rich-country group that is the main standard-setter for international tax matters, launched two big projects.

One is the Common Reporting Standard (CRS), a regime to exchange financial information automatically across borders so as to help tax authorities track the offshore holdings of their taxpayers. But the CRS contains many loopholes; for example, it allows people with the right passport to claim residence in a tax haven, rather than in the country where they live. The United States constitutes an even bigger, geographic loophole: under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, it collects information from overseas on its own taxpayers, but it shares little information the other way, so nonresidents can hold assets in the country in conditions of great secrecy, making the United States a major tax haven.

Still, the CRS brought some results. The OECD estimated in July 2019 that 90 countries had shared information on 47 million accounts worth €4.9 trillion; that bank deposits in tax havens had been reduced by 20 to 25 percent; and that voluntary disclosures ahead of implementation had generated €95 billion in additional tax revenue for members of the OECD and the Group of 20, which includes major emerging market economies.

The other big initiative was the base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) project, aimed at multinational corporations. This was the OECD’s effort to “realign taxation with economic substance” without disrupting the long-held international consensus supporting the arm’s length principle, which was bolstered by tax-escaping multinationals and their allies. While BEPS did improve transparency for multinationals, it was ultimately seen as something of a failure by the OECD, especially for the digitalized economy.

The United States also belatedly recognized that, with a consumption-heavy economy, it made sense to shift taxing rights toward the place where sales occur. And emerging market economies, including Colombia, Ghana, and India, which gained more clout starting in 2016, have pushed for new approaches. The OECD began considering sales-only formulas, but some lower-income countries favor a formula that includes employees and tangible assets, which would give them greater taxing rights. These shifts away from arm’s length orthodoxy represent a step toward tax campaigners’ demands for formula apportionment.

In January 2019 the dam began to break. For the first time, the OECD conceded publicly a need for “solutions that go beyond the arm’s length principle.” In March, Christine Lagarde, then managing director of the IMF, called the method “outdated” and “especially harmful to low-income countries.” She urged a “fundamental rethink” with moves toward formula-based approaches to allocating income. In May, the OECD published a “road map” proposing reforms based on two pillars: first, determining where tax should be paid and on what basis, and what portion of profits should be taxed on that basis; and second, getting multinationals to pay a minimum level of tax. Professor Reuven Avi-Yonah, of the University of Michigan Law School, said the plan was “extraordinarily radical” and would have been “almost inconceivable” even five years ago.

We are now at the start of the most significant period of change to the international corporate tax system in a century. Progress will hinge on power struggles: between countries, rich and poor, and within countries, between ordinary taxpayers and those that profit from the current system. But radical change is feasible. The Tax Justice Network, which I have worked with, now sees its four core demands, initially dismissed as utopian, gaining global traction: automatic exchange of financial information across borders, public registers of beneficial ownership of financial assets, country-by-country reporting, and now unitary tax with formula apportionment.

But corporate tax is just a start. To understand the broader issues, we must consider the forces that make the offshore system tick. Switzerland’s example is illustrative. In past decades, politicians in Germany, the United States, and elsewhere have clashed with Switzerland over banking secrecy, with little success. In 2008, however, after discovering that Swiss bankers had helped US clients evade tax, the Department of Justice took a different tack: it targeted not the country, but its bankers and banks. In response, the embattled private players became major lobbyists for reform, and Switzerland soon made major concessions on banking secrecy for the first time. The lesson: any effective international response must include strong sanctions against the private enablers, including accountants and lawyers—especially when they facilitate criminal activity such as tax evasion.

On a deeper level, consider this. The engine of the offshore system is competition among jurisdictions to provide the best ways to avoid taxes, disclosure, and financial regulation. Traditionally, such a race to the bottom is framed as a collective action problem requiring collaborative, multilateral solutions. But cooperative approaches have flaws. Some jurisdictions feel inclined to cheat as they seek to attract mobile capital, so collective action can be like herding squirrels on a trampoline. Moreover, it is tough to mobilize voters in support of complex cross-border collaboration, especially when the goal is to help foreigners or low-income countries.

There is a radically different, more powerful, approach. The relevant question is, Do the financial flows attracted by tax havens help the receiving countries? They certainly help interest groups there—typically in the banking, accounting, legal, and real estate professions—but do they benefit the jurisdiction as a whole?

Chart. Too much finance?

A new and growing strand of research by the IMF, the Bank for International Settlements, and others suggests that the answer is no. This “too much finance” literature argues that financial sector growth is beneficial up to an optimal point, after which it starts to harm economic growth (see chart, previous page). Most advanced economies, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and other major tax havens, passed that point long ago. For them, shrinking the financial sector to remove harmful financial activities should boost prosperity.

Alongside this research, John Christensen, a former economic advisor to the British tax haven Jersey, and I have developed the concept of a finance curse, which afflicts jurisdictions with an oversize financial sector and is analogous to the resource curse that vexes some countries dependent on commodities such as oil. This “paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty” has multiple causes: a brain drain of skilled people from government, industry, and civil society into the high-paying dominant sector; rising and growth-sapping inequality between the dominant and the other sectors; an increase in local prices that renders other tradables sectors less competitive with imports; recurrent booms and busts in prices of commodities and financial assets; and an increase in rent seeking and loss of entrepreneurship at the expense of productive, wealth-creating activities as easy money flows in. Some scholars also decry “financialization,” or a shift from wealth-creating activities toward more predatory, wealth-extracting activities such as monopolization, too-big-to-fail banking, and the use of tax havens.

Financial flows seeking secrecy or fleeing corporate taxes seem likely to be exactly the kind that exacerbate the finance curse, worsening inequality, increasing vulnerability to crises, and dealing unquantifiable political damage as secrecy-shrouded capital infiltrates Western political systems. And as financial capital flows from poorer countries to rich-world tax havens, labor migration will follow.

As ever, more research is needed here. Yet it seems that for many economies hosting an offshore financial center is a lose-lose proposition: it not only transmits harm outward to other countries, but inward, to the host. Countries that recognize this danger can act unilaterally to rein in their offshore financial centers, simply stepping out of the race to the bottom and curbing tax haven activity while also improving their own citizens’ well-being. This is a powerful, winning formula. SOURCE

What has a year of experiments taught us about basic income?

Spanish demonstrators demanding universal basic income.

Spanish demonstrators demanding universal basic income.
Image: REUTERS/Andrea Comas
As a long-time proponent of basic income, and as someone who has been involved in pilots in four continents, the past year has been a roller coaster, perhaps summarised as two steps forward, one step back, with marks for progress as six out of 10. It will take acts of courage to move forward decisively in 2019, but more doors are opening.
There has been a ferment of activity. Perhaps what has happened in Canada and the United States captures the contrasting fortunes best, though events in Europe and elsewhere are encouraging too. A highlight was the 18th international congress of BIEN (Basic Income Earth Network) in Tampere, Finland, which brought hundreds of academics and activists from around the world to discuss developments. There were also several significant books, and the World Bank endorsed basic income as a development tool in its World Development Report.

North America

The debate in Canada and the USA has gone in two directions – the introduction of basic income as an alternative to existing social policies, paid from direct taxation, and the development of capital funds with dividends. The first have been implicit in pilots and demonstration projects.

At the outset of the year, basic income pilots were underway in three communities of Ontario (Hamilton, Lindsay and Thunder Bay), covering 4,000 individuals. Though, like most other experiments, these were not tests of a full basic income, they had many features of a proper basic income. Early reports were uniformly favourable, and polls showed it was popular, so much so that the Conservatives contesting the Provincial election said the pilots would be continued if they were elected.

However, on taking office, Doug Ford terminated the pilots and ordered that data collected for the evaluation be surrendered. Undaunted, videos circulated on social media reporting on how participants had been responding.

There was also an unexpected postscript. In December, the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, and the social development minister, Jean-Yves Duclos, said in interviews that a guaranteed national minimum income could be an option as they sought ways to support Canadians to adapt to an unsteady, shifting labour market. Duclos predicted it would come.

In the USA, Barack Obama, in a reflective speech in South Africa, mused that basic income would figure prominently in the years ahead, and prominent corporate folk endorsed it again, including Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk. But mainly it was a year of positioning by potential Democrat presidential candidates, with contenders offering proposals with elements of basic income. One, Andrew Yang, has made it his core policy proposal.

There was an encouraging buzz around the pronouncements of the young mayor of Stockton in California, who has taken a different route, launching a demonstration project whereby – thanks to a grant of $1 million from Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes – 100 individuals from low-income areas will be provided with a monthly basic income of $500 for 18 months. The project was held up by the process of sending invitations to 1,000 randomly chosen individuals from which the 100 are to be selected. But it should go ahead in February 2019.

In Chicago, a large group of legislators has proposed a pilot, and at the end of the year the proposal was awaiting the approval of the mayor. If it takes off, it will be the largest such pilot in the USA. Also encouraging is the pilot launched in four American cities, in which 1,000 low-income mothers will receive an unconditional $333 a month for 40 months from their child’s birth, in a project named Baby’s First Years, because the focus is on the link between basic income security and brain development. In another pilot, also best described as a demonstration project, the Magnolia Mother’s Trust started to provide 15 low-income African-American women in Mississippi with $1,000 a month, unconditionally, in December 2018.

Although it took place in 2017, another development that crystallised in 2018 that could become a harbinger of responses to natural and social disasters was the response by Dolly Parton, the country music star, to the wildfire devastation of her hometown of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. She put millions of dollars into My People’s Fund, from which $1,000 per month was to be paid to about 900 families for six months. So many other donations were made that this was increased to $5,000 in the final month. An analysis showed that the money not only enabled people to acquire housing, but led to increased work, not less.

Meanwhile, leading Democrats were tumbling out proposals. Senator Cory Booker introduced a bill proposing that lower-income children receive $1,000 each year, paid into special savings accounts, with the amount rising to $2,000 if their families are poor, paid by higher capital gains and estate taxes. The accounts would be blocked until they reached age 18, when they would be permitted to use the money for “asset building” purchases. This deviates from a basic income, being paternalistic, not trusting people with the ability to decide what was best for themselves, would require costly bureaucratic monitoring, and would raise the problem of “weakness of will”, as is the case with all capital grant schemes. But it reflects the realisation that the distribution system has broken down.

Senator Kamala Harris put forward a bill to subsidise rent through a refundable tax credit on federal income taxes, which was quickly seen as more likely to enrich landlords than give basic income security to low-income tenants, critics pointing out that a basic income would do more to help those tenants. Harris proposed the LIFT (Livable Incomes for Families Today) the Middle Class Act, offering $250 a month for singles, $500 for couples, phasing that out as earnings rose. A drawback is that somebody earning nothing would receive nothing, while somebody would need to earn at least $3,000 to receive the full benefit.

Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman proposed a bill designed to overcome one regressive failing of the Earned Income Tax Credit scheme that currently eats up $65 billion a year. It would extend EITC benefits to family caregivers and students. Like tax credits elsewhere, the EITC has rested on an arbitrary conceptualisation of what is work and what is not. Recognising that is at least a step in the direction of a basic income. Tax credits are regressive, depressing wages and subsidising low-wage employers.

Meanwhile, there have been developments around the second route to basic income, around social or common dividends. Again, there has been one setback. The starting idea is that natural resources are part of the commons; they belong to everybody, the commoners. If anybody or a corporation exploits them for commercial gain, they owe a “rent” to the commoners.

This view goes back through the centuries, epitomised by the thinking of philosophers such as John Locke and the founding fathers of the United States, such as Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine, and through the writings of Henry George and later economists. This has led to renewed interest in land value tax, eco taxes or levies and digital levies. But the main examples in practice have been based on royalties on oil.

The leading scheme where royalties are channelled into a permanent capital fund from which equal dividends are paid is the Alaska Permanent Fund. Set up in 1976 and paying annual dividends to every Alaskan resident since 1982, this has proved remarkably popular. Until 2011, the value of the dividends rose steadily. But successive Republican governors had imprudently cut income tax to zero. So, when oil prices fell, government debt rose, leading to the most recent governor raiding the fund to pay government operating costs, leading to a collapse in the annual dividends. This was rightly seen as a tax hitting low-income people, and led to a dive in the governor’s popularity and withdrawal from his re-election campaign in October 2018. The revival of Alaska dividends will depend on who succeeds him.

But the idea of capital funds is gaining ground. The major development in 2018 was rising support for taxes on greenhouse gas emissions. The global scientific community is unanimous that climate change is a giant threatening humanity and nature, and that radical action is required to tackle it. Among other measures, that requires big taxes or levies on C02. There are two problems: taxes are unpopular, and carbon tax is regressive.

In 2018, Canada moved to confront both problems, by combining a carbon tax with the promise of dividends to be paid to all, under the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act, starting in 2019. The carbon tax is too modest to bring down emissions substantially, but the act has established a principle, although the oil industry is contesting it and, predictably, the right-wing Ontario premier Doug Ford has called it “the worst tax ever”.

The new tax will increase gasoline prices by 42 cents a gallon (11 cents a litre), or by 8%. But cleverly the act is intended to be revenue-neutral, with all revenue returned to the provinces from which it is generated, and with 90% given back to individuals as rebates, the remaining 10% going to organisations affected by the tax, such as schools and hospitals. The rebates will mean that about 70% of Canadian households will receive more back than they pay in tax. This is, in all but name and certainty of amount, a basic income, and it is progressive.

In November 2018, a bipartisan group in the US House of Representatives introduced a bill similar to the Canadian reform, proposing to tax emissions and redistribute the proceeds as dividends. It will be doomed as long as Donald Trump’s fellow climate-change deniers control the Senate. But it too offers a promising route into funding a basic income system. A similar plan has been promoted by former government officials backed by major corporations such as AT&T, P&G, Johnson & Johnson, GM and PepsiCo, and financially backed by ExxonMobil.

So, in North America the idea is taking hold that revenue can be raised from commercial uses of the commons, or natural resources, and from commercial deductions from the commons in the form of pollution. Observers should note related proposals. In Chicago, the innovative alderman Ameya Pawar floated a plan to ‘public-tize’ Chicago’s water system, giving shares to all city residents and paying them dividends that would be a sort of basic income. According to him, as Chicago has a lot of fresh water, it should be seen as a public resource just as oil is treated in Alaska.

Finally, the US debate has been accentuated by the proposal by newly elected New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, backed by at least 40 members of Congress, for a Green New Deal, which includes a monthly basic income. No doubt the deal will prove controversial in its original form. But it surely points in the necessary direction.

Image: European Social Survey

Europe

While proposals were bubbling in North America, European debates became more prominent, and more politicians and political parties came out in favour. While US economist Joseph Stiglitz has dismissed basic income in the UK, saying “It is a cop-out. I do not believe it is what people want,” there is evidence to the contrary. A Populus survey in Britain found that 41% supported basic income, and only 17% were against, the remainder saying they did not know. A European-wide survey covering 23 countries found strong public support across the continent.

The most striking development came in Italy, leaving basic income proponents with mixed feelings. The populist party Movimento Cinque Stelle campaigned in the general election on a platform that included what it called a basic income, which proved remarkably attractive in southern Italy, and has been described by most analysts as the main reason for their success in becoming the largest party in parliament, and now part of the government. What M5S is offering is actually not a basic income, but the fact that it proved so popular was further evidence that some of its critics are out of touch.

Pilots have been spreading. In 2017, there was worldwide publicity around what was purported to be a government basic income pilot in Finland. In mid-2018, the BBC and the Guardian newspaper almost gleefully reported that it was being ended prematurely. This was reported in media around the world and repeated in blogs on social media. The story was wrong. The original intention, announced before the pilot begin in 2017, was that it would last for two years, up to the end of December 2018. This is precisely what happened.

Journalists had misinterpreted a statement by a new, right-wing finance minister that the pilot would not be extended because he was opposed to it. The government moved towards a workfare regime, requiring all unemployed to attend trimonthly interviews, and increased the waiting period for receipt of unemployment benefits and the period of eligibility. A utilitarian approach was in ascendancy, in which a more punitive regime closer to the UK’s Universal Credit system was being implemented, which led to thousands losing entitlement to social assistance. But this had nothing to do with what was happening in the basic income pilot.

The Finnish pilot is not testing proper basic income, but is a test of characteristics consistent with it. It provided €560 a month to 2,000 randomly selected registered unemployed from across the country, relaxing the rule that they must prove they are searching for jobs and allowing them to retain the benefit if they found one. Early reports from the evaluation by KELA, the official social insurance organisation, are encouraging. A report will be published in 2019.

In November 2018, the opposition party, Left Alliance, announced that its manifesto for the general election scheduled for 2019 would include a commitment to a basic income of €800 a month, phasing out means-tested social assistance, while leaving housing allowance unchanged. The basic income would be “taxed away” from high-income earners, and it would be phased in by consolidating various social security benefits.

In the Netherlands, partial basic income pilots were under way in Groningen, Tilburg, Utrecht and Wageningen. The experiments follow from legislation in 2015 that allowed local authorities to experiment with social policies. Initially, the pilots seemed closer to workfare, but local authorities have found ways to make them closer to a basic income, although they suffer from being limited to welfare claimants and being provided only to randomly selected individuals, not whole communities. As in Finland, they are best described as “trust experiments”, to see how people respond when not subject to behavioural conditionality.

Another experiment is underway in Barcelona, under the name B-Mincome, which has been running since October 2017 and is scheduled to last until late 2019. Again, its proponents see it as a basic income, but the money is being provided on a family basis, not individual. It is being provided to 1,000 participant families, with 500 others as a control group. When launched, it was stated that the main intention was “to analyse the most effective way of reducing inequality and breaking the poverty cycle”.

In Switzerland, much attention was stimulated by an initiative by a Swiss film-maker to launch a pilot in Rheinau, a village in the canton of Zurich. The idea was to induce 650 residents to volunteer to be recipients, from a village population of about double that, and to crowdfund a rather large basic income for one year, varying the amount by age group.

Those earning more than CHF2,500 would have to repay it as their income rose. As with the earlier Swiss referendum, the initiative suffered from putting the basic income at a high level, reaching as much as CHF2,500 for those aged over 25. At the end of the year, the crowdfunding was short. However, observers seem agreed that the initiative attracted much public support in the area.

In Germany, a basic income pilot – provocatively named HartzPlus – is set to start in May 2019 in Berlin, with a random sample of 250 recipients of state benefits and with another 250 as a control group, with a focus on evaluating the impact on labor market behaviour, health and social relations. It is set to last for three years and follows crowdfunded schemes that have proven popular in Germany, notably Mein Grundeinkommen (My Basic Income) that has been running a lottery with winners obtaining a monthly basic income of €1,000 for one year. Meanwhile, the chief executive of Germany’s Association of Towns and Municipalities (DStGB), lamenting the over-burdened bureaucratic welfare state and rising poverty, came out in favour of basic income.

In the UK, an initiative was launched in Scotland, where four areas (Fife, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and North Ayrshire) began preparing feasibility and design plans, aided by a grant of £250,000 from the Scottish government, and backed by a cross-party group of members of the Scottish parliament. The Green party has also come out strongly in favour of a basic income, and in mid-2018 the shadow chancellor of the exchequer committed Labour to proposing pilots in its next manifesto, and commissioned a report (by this author) on why and how those should be done.

In sum, the debate on basic income has moved into the mainstream in European policymaking, probably propelled by concern over the eight giants discussed in the companion piece to this progress report. Among the findings of relevance to crystallise in the past year on both sides of the Atlantic is that a large and growing proportion of those in income poverty are in households in which at least one person is in a job – 80% in the case of the USA, 60% in the UK, for example. But high private debt, insecurity, inequality, precarity, concern over the advancing robots and worries about populism are surely behind the growing interest.

Basic income elsewhere

Towards the end of the year, there was a buzz in the Indian media, around stories that Prime Minister Modi might include commitment to a basic income in the BJP manifesto for the general election in April 2019. Some MPs have come out in favour, and in several states local plans have been developed. These initiatives derive in part from the successful pilots conducted in West Delhi and Madhya Pradesh and a much-cited chapter in the minister of finance’s annual report in January 2017. It is widely accepted now that some sort of basic income for India is financially feasible.

There have been political moves in several other Asian countries. Thus, the head of the Malaysian prime minister’s Council of Eminent Persons proposed that the hugely expensive subsidy system BR1M should be replaced by a national fund from which dividends would be paid as monthly basic incomes. In China, a national network was established to promote basic income, which has highlighted the success of a basic income scheme in Huaidi in Shijiazhuang. And in South Korea, the “youth dividend” scheme launched by the mayor of Seongnam City gained considerable popularity and political interest across the country.

The biggest pilot took off in Kenya, where GiveDirectly launched its flagship scheme. This is set to last for 12 years, covering 21,000 adults, with monthly payments coming to about half the average income of low-income households. This obviously ambitious pilot is generating much interest. However, it will be years before evaluations of its impact will be available, and one should be concerned with research fatigue. What it has done is boost interest in basic income among policymakers everywhere.

Besides the World Bank’s sudden conversion, revealed in its World Development Report 2018, various IMF papers have recommended basic income, again reversing previous IMF positions. And World Bank reviews of the evidence from across developing countries have refuted (again) arguments that cash transfers lead to more spending on private bads, more dependency and less work, and negative community effects, while being fiscally unsustainable. If only those financial bodies had not opposed those of us pushing for basic income for so many years, we might be further ahead today than we are. But it would be churlish not to wish them success in their advocacy in the year ahead.

Selling basic income

During 2018, discussion of the likely cost of a basic income became more informed. For instance, one study estimated that a 2% financial wealth tax would be sufficient to fund a $12,000 annual basic income for every US household. Studies in the UK suggested that by replacing many existing benefits and raising the income tax rate by 3%, a decent basic income could be afforded. Others estimated that it could be paid from levies on wealth, land value and incursions into the commons.

During the year, it became more widely appreciated that generous personal tax exemptions in the USA, and increasingly generous personal tax allowance in the UK, are a perverse form of basic income – an “upside-down income-support program – the rich get more than the middle class, and the middle class get more than the poor”, as one American commentator put it. This is in so much as they cost as much in public revenue as would a modest basic income but are regressive, since the gain in tax-free income is greater for higher-income taxpayers, and greater for those who have enough income to pay taxes than for those who have none.

What must be researched more in the year ahead are the feedback and multiplier effects. Basic incomes have been shown to boost work, productivity and incomes, which foster taxable income and lower social costs. But how great are those effects? All simulation models and cost estimates so far have ignored feedback effects. For instance, there is ample evidence that basic income security improves mental and physical health, which reduces spending on health services, improves productivity and reduces poverty. So, the net cost of a basic income would be less than the simple budgetary cost. But we do not have good estimates of how much savings would result.

My conclusion from this review is that we will make progress most by focusing on building permanent capital funds, from which dividends as basic income can be paid, gradually rising as the fund grows. A feature of linking basic income to assets, or the commons, is that people can see a connection between the two, and are less likely to see it as a pure handout. The secret may be not in the idea but in the framing. SOURCE

Why You Need to Know About Regenerative Agriculture

Why companies as diverse as Patagonia and General Mills are suddenly focused on getting dirty

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Maybe it’s the year-end double punch of consumerism and self-reflection—what holiday meals are we making, what are we buying for people, what have I even done with my life—but December triggers a cavalcade of questions about how a person who wears things and eats things and likes to go outside (this is me, but, hey, it could be you, too) is tied into the whole dang system of consumption.

And in that blitz, an unlikely subject has come up. Not reproductive choices, not carbon offsets, not even Greta Thunberg. No, it’s regenerative agriculture, a soil-focused farming practice. Whole Foods says it’s the number-one food trend of next year. Patagonia has made it a centerpiece of its activism and will be rolling out products made using the practice early next year. General Mills announced this spring that it will employ regenerative agriculture on one million acres—about a quarter of the land it uses in North America. And this spring will see the creation of a new Renewable Organic Agriculture certification pilot program.

That’s a huge deal, environmentally, because the agriculture sector is responsible for about a quarter of global greenhouse emissions. Ag creates food and fiber and jobs. And when it’s done right, it can act as a carbon sink. Healthy soil, with intact root systems, can hold huge amounts of carbon. According to the International Panel on Climate Change, agriculture is unique in its ability to both reduce emissions, through sustainable farming practices, and capture them, through carbon sequestration.

That’s where regenerative agriculture comes in. There are 7.5 billion living organisms in a teaspoon of soil—more than there are people living on earth—and regenerative ag supports those organisms, helping them hold nutrients, fighting erosion, and negating the need for chemicals. Estimates from Ohio State’s Carbon Management and Sequestration Center say carbon sequestration through regenerative practices could offset fossil fuel emission by up to 15 percent. Loftier assumptions from the United Nations say it could offset total global emissions by 10 percent.

The term was coined in the 1980s at the Rodale Institute, the Pennsylvania-based organic farming think tank founded by J.J. Rodale. In practice, it means that farmers rotate and diversify crops and animals, don’t poison lands and water, and minimize tilling and soil disruption. Over time, those practices have been shown to make land more resilient and more productive—and able to hold more carbon and water.

The Regenerative Organic Alliance (ROA), a nonprofit coalition of organic companies like Dr. Bronner’s, Patagonia, and Horizon Organic, has built a certification for regenerative producers around three connected pillars: soil health, animal welfare, and social fairness. This ROA certification emcompasses not just organic practices, but also long-term soil health and economic benefits for farmers.

As an apparel company, Patagonia may seem an odd bedfellow in this mission. But since 2012, when it first offered wild salmon jerky, the company has moved into the sustainable food space, launching Patagonia Provisions in 2014 and working to secure responsible farming, ranching, and aquaculture partners. The more they learned, says Patagonia Provisions managing director Birgit Cameron, the more they realized that food was one of the biggest levers the company could push to help the planet.

Starting in February, Patagonia will offer clothes grown with cotton farmed to the new Renewable Organic Agriculture standard, and soon afterwards, ROA-certified food. The company already sells a beer called Long Root Ale, which is brewed with a perennial grain called Kernza grown using ROA practices. “You do start to see higher yield, and the soil draws down a significant amount of carbon, which is a planetary game changer,” Cameron says. “We couldn’t stay away from that.”

It’s worth remembering, however, that agriculture is just part of the climate pie. Elizabeth Whitlow, executive director of the Regenerative Organic Alliance, warns against assuming that sequestering carbon in soil will cancel out growing emissions. But she and Cameron are realistically hopeful, and talking with them helped turn my grinchy heart and brain. We need to start making decisions through the lens of urgency, Cameron reminded me, and good consumer choices can indeed move the needle on agriculture practices—and climate change.

So this spring, as the first green shoots push through the soil, look for the ROA certification. Talk to your local farmers about where your food is coming from and how it’s produced. The idea of voting with your dollars may be trite, but food is a place where personal action can impact the system. As Whitlow says, “What we do to the soil, we do to ourselves.” SOURCE

Green Party Collective: Deep Green Declaration

Image result for healthier, more sustainable, and more beautiful world.

We are at a critical turning point for human civilization. Our “way of life” is literally shredding the biosphere we depend on. Greens have been in the forefront of asserting that unless we make a dramatic U-turn and radically reorganize our societies, a human future may not be possible.

Humans currently use 1.7 times as much biological productivity to meet our needs (and greeds) as is produced on planet Earth each year. Wild animal populations have decreased 60% since 1970, 90% of the large fish are now gone from the oceans, and 40% of insect species are in decline. We are passing limits on deforestation, the phosphorus cycle, climate disruption, and numerous other indicators of our planet’s health, all of which are intertwined with the health of our own communities.

We cannot have infinite growth on a finite planet. Yet “development” in most of the world today is directed towards creating still more economic growth: More stuff for more people. This dynamic has benefited a tiny layer of the population, but for nearly everyone else, even many of those who’ve had rising incomes and the ability to consume more, the costs — in terms of rates of pollution and resource depletion, inequality, anomie, and decimation of local community life — have constituted a social and ecological nightmare.

Western societies have tended to conceive of “Progress” as being a linear movement toward mastery of nature, material growth, advancement of science, expansion of technology. But disconnect from the natural world has increasingly obscured the truth that the dominant culture’s trajectory is leading toward ecocide. Instead of recognizing the perils of continuing with business-as-usual, experts offer us “technological fixes” which are likely to come with unforeseen consequences. Our hypermodern reality does not, in fact, define a culture of true progress, but rather a culture that is, as Native American activist John Trudell has written, “industrially insane.”

Some tell us that the growth imperative is a result of capitalist economic relations. But the problematic “progress and development” trajectories of our civilization pre-date capitalism and have been evident in every attempt to implement socialism in the modern era. On this basis we believe that the source of the problem goes deeper than just economic relations. The Deep Green perspective has emerged as an alternative to all the old ideologies. Its worldview questions traditional leftist and environmentalist assumptions about what needs to be done. Its vision of thoroughgoing social transformation begins with an analysis of this civilization’s preoccupation with productivity values, its addiction to technology, its patriarchy, and its anthropocentrism.

Growth mania has led to hypertrophy

Capital, technology, and the state have, for centuries, been an interlocking juggernaut fostering toxic industrialism and modes of production characterized by ecological irresponsibility. Meanwhile, the ideology of “development” has brought us to our current state of alienation from nature. Its growth mania has resulted in generalized hypertrophy (institutions and technologies too large to be controlled democratically) and a sense of cultural malaise. Although the situation is dire, we believe it is possible to respond successfully to the threats we face. We note how people pull together after a storm devastates their community. Humanity will need to call on that same sense of cooperation and care in the face of the unfolding modern crisis.

Our key value of Ecological Wisdom is derived from an understanding we’ve gained of how regeneration in nature is dependent upon cooperation and upon the maintenance of ecological balances. Ecosystems tend to evolve to a climax state and then remain stable for long periods of time. As evolution continues, equilibrium is established and re-established. Human systems, whether they are economic, social, or cultural, are subsystems of the over-arching ecosystem which contains them. So human systems must also strive for equilibrium.

Neither capitalism nor socialism have focused on these insights. Deep Greens tend not to favor the term “eco-socialism” because we feel that it channels thinking into old ruts. We also have concerns about the relationship of socialism to the dominant parts of the old paradigm that valued centralism and industrialism. It seems to us that the Ten Key Values of the Greens are more suggestive of a communitarian, bioregionalist orientation than a socialist one.

While reformed socialism may attempt to ameliorate its old deficiencies, we see no good reason to burden the Green Party with a term that’s been so loaded with negativity. Moreover, we’re proud to convey that Green politics arose on the basis of a “new paradigm” worldview. That paradigm is more radically transformative than socialism. Its critique goes deeper. It takes the New Left’s desire for a participatory form of democracy and says something novel: scale is an important factor. The huge modern nation-states are always characterized by plutocracy, whether their productive assets are owned publicly or privately.

Mega-scale institutions are never conducive to participatory democracy. That recognition is the basis for the key value: Decentralization. It represents a new direction for our civilization yet hearkens back to the sanity of Indigenous lifeways.

Limits and balances

Deep Greens appreciate the concept of limits and the need to bring economic relations into harmony with the natural world. We believe the best way to do so is to transition toward bioregional economies and to return power to local communities. Bioregional economics calls on us to come to know our own home territory intimately and to try and meet as many of our needs as possible from it, as suggested by the key value: Community-based Economics. Thus, Greens should encourage a revitalization of traditional ecological knowledge and rural living skills.

There is wide recognition that we’re nearing the end of the fossil fuel era, a period of time that allowed for enormous population and industrial growth. Even if we weren’t dealing with the issue of climate change caused by industrial pollution of our atmosphere, we would have to face the reality that the age of cheap and easily accessible energy (as well as many mineral resources) is over. The challenge of scaling down so that we can continue to meet basic human needs will require creative simplification. The emphasis should be on reducing our resources usage by cutting back wasteful over-consumption, improving efficiency, and reversing the trend toward increased energy consumption per person.

Going forward, we’ll have to be thinking in terms of resilience and adaptation. This will require prioritizing the rejuvenation of local community life. It will be much easier to transition together, in community, rather than person-by-person or family-by-family.

At the proper scale, a nation or bioregion could be conceived of as a community of communities. The health of all must be a general concern. The poverty of any must be unacceptable. Under present circumstances, in our country, expenditures on militarism stand in the way of such objectives. Our military is the most wasteful industry on the planet. Few things cause more immediate and direct harm to communities and ecosystems than war. Any country that spends more on war than on schools has lost its mind. Any country that claims to stand for freedom cannot strive for imperial power without losing its soul, bankrupting its people, and eliminating real democracy. Transitioning away from militarism to a foreign policy based on peaceful diplomacy and justice means that most of the billions of dollars now going to fund wars and weapons can be redirected toward social, ecological, and communitarian regeneration.

Deep Greens take seriously our responsibility to propose solutions and help craft legislation that can foster a transition to a better society. But we are keenly aware of how presumptive it would be to claim that we advocate from a position of certitude or special enlightenment. The “consciousness raising”/social engineering mentality of the left has never been appealing to most Americans. It should be avoided. Rather than trying to pre-determine universalist prescriptions, Greens should be notable as helping to cultivate an ethos of participatory democracy, the ultimate objective being to return decision-making power to the people.

For example: We have no desire to pre-determine specific property relations. Private enterprise might work best under certain circumstances, public enterprise might be preferable under other circumstances. In either case, scale and localization are major factors of consideration. It may very well be that in a Green world we could expect to see decentralized polities handling the issue of economic relations in diverse ways — some more socialistic, some based more on private forms of enterprise, some with mixed economies. Industrial-scale corporate capitalism has been ruinous in the modern period, no doubt, but the track record of industrial-scale bureaucratic socialism has not been any more satisfactory.

Toward the greening of society

We realize that there are no “quick fixes.” Unsustainable modern lifeways are a product of thousands of years of misguided civilizational values and exploitative practices. They have enormous momentum, and so “turning the ship of state” surely will take time. Nonetheless, every day we can be endeavoring to incrementally build the new society within the shell of the old. Every day we can be fostering the dramatic cultural U-turn that will open pathways toward the “greening of society,” i.e., toward a future where we live more lightly in a material sense but benefit from the enrichment of healthier relationships with each other, with other creatures, and with the natural world.

We are facing unprecedented challenges in this new century, but, together, we can meet them if our collective effort is guided by the principles of ecology, democracy, justice, peace, and community. Deep Greens believe that there is a basis for optimism. We are confident that a truly Green analysis, politics, and praxis can show the way forward to a healthier, more sustainable, and more beautiful world. SOURCE

An Opportunity for Farmers In a Green New Deal

A Green New Deal could incentivize farming practices that help remove carbon pollution from the atmosphere.

A farm. Source: Pexels

This month, a group of Democratic lawmakers called for an ambitious plan for the United States to reach net-zero carbon pollution. While experts debate whether the proposal is technologically or politically feasible, the so-called Green New Deal is about more than shifting to cleaner, more advanced forms of energy sources. It’s also about shifting to more traditional forms of agriculture.

While farming generally takes a back seat to energy in discussions of climate, it accounts for up to a third of carbon pollution, by one account. Tractors and trucks that harvest and transport our food burn gasoline and diesel, generating pollution. Synthetic fertilizers derived from fossil fuels spur the release of heat-trapping gas from the soil, and cows and sheep emit large volumes of planet-warming pollution. Then there is the matter of agricultural giants burning forests to clear land for farming and grazing, thereby releasing carbon stored in trees into the atmosphere and reducing the capacity of the land to store CO2.

And yet, while agriculture is a big part of the problem, it can also be part of the solution. Smart growing practices can help soak up pollution and store it in the ground — what’s known as carbon farming.

Plants scrub carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in their leaves and branches. When those plants shed their leaves and die, that carbon enriches the soil, where it’s gobbled up by insects, fungi and microbes, and then exhaled back into the atmosphere. If more carbon goes into the soil than comes out, the process helps to eliminate atmospheric carbon dioxide, cooling the planet. Carbon farming also helps guard against climate change, as soil that is rich with microbes and fungi holds more water, which protects it from drought and mitigates the impact of floods.

The carbon cycle. Source: The Better Tomorrow Fund 

There are steps farmers can take to make sure the soil retains as much carbon as possible, namely disturb the soil as little as possible. Till the earth only where necessary. Keep the soil covered in a diverse array of deep-rooted crops. Rotate between cash crops, like wheat, and cover crops, like ryegrass, which nurture the soil and can be fed to livestock. Avoid the use of pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers. Protect areas that are rich in plant-life — and therefore carbon — such as forests, wetlands and peat bogs.

“What we’re learning is that the soil is a living organism. It’s full of life,” said Betsy Taylor, the president of Breakthrough Strategies, a consulting firm focused on carbon farming. Farmers can keep soil healthy by nurturing the growth of fungi and microbes. Healthy soil will store more carbon, which is good for the climate and good for crops. Unfortunately, the widespread use of chemical fertilizers is killing the soil.

Cotton planted among pecan trees in Milton, Florida. 2003. One way to improve soil health is to lay down crops among deep-rooted trees. Source: USDA 

“It’s possible to grow crops and plants of all kinds in soil that is biologically dead, in soil that — through the use of chemical fertilizers, through the use of herbicides and pesticides and fungicides, and through compaction and erosion and other loss of living topsoil — has become just a mineral medium,” said Connor Stedman, an agricultural consultant at AppleSeed Permaculture. “That’s what a lot of industrial agriculture practices are based on. They treat farms and crop growing almost like a factory.”

Taylor compared the use of reliance on chemical fertilizers to a bad diet. “I can eat my doughnuts and chocolate and beer and take a vitamin and pretend like I’m going to be okay, but under the surface, things are really getting damaged,” she said. “If we eat a healthy diet and try to eat an organic diet — that’s the latest science — then we’re more likely to be healthy. And it’s the same with the soil.”

Source: Nexus Media 

Adopting sustainable farming practices will improve soil health. However, Stedman said, “There are costs and risks to transitioning to new practices. So that’s where the private sector, the NGO sector and the public sector all have a really big role to play in helping farmers to diversify and intensify and perenniallize their production.”

Taylor said philanthropists can help by bankrolling programs that educate growers about carbon farming. Policymakers can help by funding conservation efforts and by ending subsidies that incentivize monoculture, meaning the planting of one of just a few crops, like corn and soybeans, robbing the soil of essential nutrients.

“There is a real desire among, I think, all farmers to have healthy soils but they have been in a system that has actually subsidized them to do the opposite,” she said. “You have got to shift the way you farm to build healthy soil, and I would say, right now, that’s becoming a growing consensus across the political spectrum, which is exciting,” she said.

A field of corn. Monoculture deprives the soil of essential nutrients. Source: Pexels 

The resolution on a Green New Deal calls for the federal government to work with farmers to cut pollution and invest in sustainable farming, which could “really bring jobs into communities that are losing people to opioids and to collapsing farms,” Taylor said. She suggested that, as part of a Green New Deal, the federal government might also resurrect the Civilian Conservation Corps, which was created as part of the original New Deal. During the Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps planted trees and worked to slow soil erosion. A modern-day incarnation could do the same, in addition to promoting carbon farming.

“I think we would be making a huge mistake if we thought of the Green New Deal strictly in terms of the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy,” Taylor said. “That’s essential, but it’s no longer enough.” A recent UN report on climate change finds that to prevent catastrophic warming, countries will need to remove huge sums of carbon pollution from the atmosphere, and currently, planting forests and farming carbon are the cheapest ways to do that.

This graph shows carbon pollution cuts necessary keep warming under 1.5 degrees C, the most ambitious target of the Paris Climate Agreement. Countries must cut emissions in half by 2030 and reach zero net emissions by 2050, at which point much of the remaining carbon dioxide must be removed from the atmosphere through techniques like carbon farming. Source: IPCC

“The only way to get [carbon dioxide] out of the atmosphere in great quantities and into the soil is by changing our farming and ranching practices. And a large part of that is we have to grow more things,” said Gabe Brown, 58, who deploys carbon farming techniques at his farm in Bismark, North Dakota. “We have to get away from monoculture production.”

Brown believes the government should curtail incentives for industrial farming and educate growers about carbon farming. “The more carbon a farmer or rancher can take out of the atmosphere and put in his or her soil, the greater the potential for profitability of their operation,” he said. “I am way more profitable than the average conventional producer… And I’m doing it without any government subsidies of any kind.”

John Norman, a retired University of Wisconsin soil scientist, studied Brown’s farm, which he said is storing around 80 tons of carbon per acre. He noted that a typical farm stores around 10 to 20 tons of carbon per acre. “We scientists must humbly go to the farming community and seek their guidance for what we can do to help them grow deep, healthy topsoil,” he said. “We need to stop catering to the big-agriculture-big-government money machine and put our hearts into healing our environment, like many — if not most — farmers truly want to do, but can’t because they are indentured to a brutal economic system.”

For Brown, the embrace of sustainable farming represents a return to more traditional practices. “I don’t care what you call it. It’s just farming and ranching in nature’s image. We have to get back to the basics,” Brown said. “We just follow the template nature provided, because it was a wonderful template. It’s only when man tries to impose his or her will on nature that we run into these issues.”  SOURCE

ELIZABETH WARREN: WE NEED A BLUE NEW DEAL FOR OUR OCEANS

Our oceans present an unprecedented opportunity to be a key part of our fight against climate change. Add your name if you agree: we need a Blue New Deal – alongside a Green New Deal – to rebuild our blue economy, protect and restore ocean habitat, and adapt in a climate changed world.


Ocean creatures are moving drastically to escape heating waters.

In September, I attended a CNN town hall on the climate crisis. That night, Bren Smith, an ocean farmer from Connecticut, asked me if I would support a Blue New Deal to restore our oceans, in addition to our efforts to fight climate change on land. I said I would, and I meant it – here’s what I’ll do to rebuild our blue economy, protect and restore ocean habitat, and adapt in a climate changed world.

The world’s oceans are in crisis. Across the planet, more than 90% of global fish stocks are fully exploited or overfished. The ocean has absorbed 93% of the heat trapped by greenhouse gases, warming the waters disrupting migration patternsbleaching coral reefs, and fueling sea level riseAround 30% of the carbon pollution we have pumped into the air has been absorbed in our oceans, leading to ocean acidification, changing the very chemistry of seawater. And pollution from land – whether from manufacturing, agricultural runoff, or plastic waste – is causing dead zones in our waterways and Great Lakes.

Our coasts are flooding and eroding, threatening the 40% of Americans who live in coastal counties. Our safety, public health, food security, and infrastructure are at risk. If we do not act now, things will only get worse, as climate change leads to more severe weather.

I am proud to be one of the original co-sponsors of the Green New Deal, which charts a path to transition to a 100% clean energy future, while rebuilding our economy from the bottom up and creating millions of good paying, union jobs. Environmental justice and economic justice go hand-in-hand, and I am committed to making the climate crisis and the inequality crisis top priorities in my administration.

As we pursue climate justice, we must not lose sight of the 71% of our planet covered by the ocean. While the ocean is severely threatened, it can also be a major part of the climate solution – from providing new sources of clean energy to supporting a new future of ocean farming. That is why I believe that a Blue New Deal must be an essential part of any Green New Deal – helping us fight climate change, protecting our health, and creating good, high-wage union jobs in the process.

REBUILDING OUR BLUE ECONOMY

Oceans already support millions of jobs, underpin our food system and contributes $304 billion to our national GDP. They also have the potential to be one of our strongest tools in the fight against climate change. Three billion people around the world depend on wild-caught and farmed seafood as a major source of protein. Yet decades of overfishing, pollution, and climate impacts have pushed our oceans to the brink of collapse. We know that we can have a highly productive ocean. In fact, ocean-related jobs have grown at three times the rate of the national average. It’s time to restore our oceans and harness the potential of the Blue Economy. SOURCE