In 1989, I hosted a CBC radio series, It’s a Matter of Survival, featuring interviews with almost 150 scientists and environmental experts from around the world. Their warning was consistent and stark: Human beings were causing unprecedented changes to Earth’s systems, the detrimental effects were already taking shape, and people would need to reinvent how we live, consume, use energy and move around in order to avoid a looming global crisis.
The public response was impressive. In this pre-internet era, the CBC received 16,000 handwritten letters from listeners eager to act on climate change and other environmental issues. (This would eventually lead to the David Suzuki Foundation’s creation.)
That was 30 years ago.
” 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.