Posts Tagged ‘kyoto’
by stuartbramhall in Sustainability
Book Review-Part V (of VI)
Fleeing Vesuvius, New Zealand Edition
(2011, Feasta and Living Economies)
Parts 5 and 6 of Fleeing Vesuvius are entitled “Changing the Way We Live” and “Changing the Way We Think.” Both are about solutions. They propose broad strategies for supporting large numbers of people in downsizing their energy guzzling way of life.
The main lessons I draw from these chapters are
1. Politicians don’t lead – people do. The notion that elected officials will lead us in finding solutions to the economic crisis, climate change, Peak Oil or the impending food and water crisis is a myth created and perpetuated by the mainstream media. The only solution politicians and the media can think of is to push the poor and disadvantaged off the cliff through massive austerity cuts. One of the important points Gar Aperovitz makes in America Beyond Capitalism is that Franklyn Roosevelt didn’t create the New Deal jobs and social programs (like Social Security). With the New Deal, he merely enacted on a federal level (in response to popular pressure) programs that had been operating for years on a state and local level.
2. There is an awful lot happening on the state and local level to take back our economy and lives from corporate rule. Just because people don’t hear about it on the six o’clock news doesn’t make it any less real. In addition to the Citizens Rights movement and similar movements in other countries, hundreds of US cities (representing nearly one-third of the population) have signed up to the Kyoto Accords and are massively reducing their carbon emissions. Likewise, as Aperovitz points out, hundreds of millions of Americans have opted out of the corporate economy by joining cooperatives and credit unions and creating worker owned businesses, alternatives currencies, farmers markets, etc.
Part 5 Changing the Way We Live
This section starts with economist Brain Davey’s article entitled “Danger ahead: prioritizing risk avoidance in political and economic decision making.” It looks at the difficult proposition of getting national and international leaders to enact meaningful energy and transportation policy. He suggests that we need to stress the dire risk – focusing on an impending food and public health crisis – of not doing so. I find it intriguing that the elitist World Economic forum, which meets every January in Davos Switzerland, makes the same argument in Global Risks 2012 (see http://dissidentvoice.org/2012/01/occupy-wall-street-the-view-from-davos/)
The second essay, “Transition thinking: The Good Life 2.0,” describes the philosophy and success of the Transition movement in helping thousands of local communities to make the local infrastructure changes that will facilitate a transition to carbon neutrality and energy self-sufficiency. As a member of Transition Town New Plymouth, I have been extremely surprised at the receptiveness of our local council to the initiatives we put forward (for example reconfiguring streets to make them safer for cycling and walking, rewarding council employees for leaving their cars at home, and enacting incentives to help residents insulate their homes and install solar water heaters).
“Sailing Craft for a post-collapse world” talks about strategies for replacing expensive, fossil fuel based land transport with boats powered by free wind energy.
Part 6 Changing the Way We Think
This section is a little disappointing, as some of the essays buy into reductionistic drug company hype attributing human behavior to brain molecules. The notion presented here that resource overconsumption is based on the dopaminergic reward system overlooks important work by Robert Putnum, Ralph Nader and others on the link between depression and alienation and breakdown of community and civic organizations. Kalle Lasn (founder of Adbusters) and others have written at length about systematic efforts by the public relations and advertising industry to persuade people to compensate for chronic loneliness and emptiness by consuming. This section also overlooks extensive neurophysiological research showing that human beings are hard wired to crave social interaction. These studies also show that hormones, such as ocytocin and endorphins, and mirror neurons are far more important than dopamine in this programming (see http://www.opednews.com/articles/Marketing-Serotonin-Defici-by-Dr-Stuart-Jeanne-B-100713-513.html).
I found the later essays in Part 6 more helpful, especially those that address the apathy and inertia that prevent most of the developing world from taking serious measures to address impending economic, ecological and resource crises. In “Cultivating hope and managing despair,” psychotherapist John Sharry compares this widespread apathy and inertia to Kubler Ross’s stages of grief in bereavement or impending loss (denial, anger, depression, acceptance). The impending collapse of the global economy, industrial capitalism and possibly civilization itself is the worst loss any of us can imagine. It should be no surprise that human beings’ initial response to such news is denial.
Sharry suggests that Kubler Ross has left out an essential step between depression and acceptance – namely hopeful and constructive action. Based on personal experience, this makes perfect sense. Transition Town New Plymouth draws in many people who still aren’t totally convinced we are heading off the cliff. As they become involved in constructive activities to move our community away from blind corporate consumption, they seem to find it easier to accept that mankind faces a rocky future.
People can follow the progress of the global Transition movement at the Transition Culture website http://transitionculture.org/
To be continued.
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by stuartbramhall in Going Non-Corporate, Sustainability, The Global Economic Crisis
Much of the work that went into the Voluntary Simplicity and Y2K movements (see prior blogs) has been incorporated into Transition Towns and other sustainability-related movements. There are now literally millions of groups worldwide focused on some aspect of bioregional sustainability. The most visible evidence of their success are the blossoming of home veggie gardens, urban community gardens and orchards and farmers’ markets; the 1,040 cities and towns (nearly 1/3 of the US population) which have signed onto the Kyoto accord; and the 125 communities voting to place citizens’ above corporate rights (see http://www.tikkun.org/article.php/jan2011kanner).
One of the most important factors in this success is the ability of the sustainability movement to address apathy and alienation head-on, by reengaging people in neighborhood and community life. For many people, local civic engagement leads on to re-engagement in the political process. I would never argue that progressives should focus on local community building to the exclusion of critically needed government reforms. Corporate lobbies still have the ability to overturn local and state laws in the courts by claiming that they violate alleged constitutional rights. Thus organizing to end so-called constitutional protections for corporations (which clearly run contrary to the intent of the founding fathers) – either through federal legislation or constitutional amendment (www.movetoamed.org) must be an extremely high priority. At the same time, I see the neighborhood and community sustainability networks playing a pivotal role in building strong grassroots lobbies to tackle banking reform, restoring of civil liberties or ending the wars in the Middle East.
The Basics of Sustainability Organizing
Sustainability-related work can be broken down into concrete, achievable steps, which also lends to its appeal. In preparing for the End of the World as We Know it, Y2K activists predicted local communities would need to prepare for breakdowns in the following services:
- Global commerce (food imports being the most crucial)
- Water and energy utilities
- Waste removal systems
- Telecommunications, Internet and mass media
- Financial institutions
- Transportation systems
- Governance and government services
- Health Care
- Institutions and agencies responsible for education, justice, manufacturing and security
In most places, organizers have found it easiest to begin with food, water and energy security – in part because they are most critical to human survival. However the bioregional economic network established as a first step in addressing food, water and energy security can also be used to prepare for breakdowns in other systems. For 99.9% of human existence people have relied on a bioregional economic model in which they have sourced the vast majority of their food and other essentials for life within a 100 mile radius. The process of re-creating this network is very helpful in learning to shift our thinking away from relying on national and multinational corporations to meet our needs.
Although the sustainability movement receives little attention in the mainstream media, it has it has been quietly building for nearly two decades – often with the support of state and local government (it receives the most state support in California). In Europe it receives national and EU support. The following is just a small snapshot of local accomplishments around energy, food and water security.
FOOD AND WATER SECURITY
- Increased local expertise in permaculture and biointensive agriculture techniques, as industrial fertilizers and insecticides (manufactured from fossil fuels) become unavailable and/or prohibitively expensive.
- De-paving – digging up private and public driveways and parking lots and replacing them with backyard veggie gardens and community orchards and gardens. In addition to improving food security, this restores watersheds by reducing run-off, a major threat to water security in the industrial world.
- Lawn liberation – replacing lawns and ornamental trees and shrubs with fruit and nut trees and veggie gardens.
- Support of local farmers through farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture Schemes (in which residents “subscribe” to weekly deliveries of fresh veggies and fruit).
- Neighborhood and municipal systems of rainwater collection and purification and gray water collection
- Adoption of active run-off management plans, in which lost groundwater is measured and minimized in development planning – and replaced, for example via the Blue Alternative (in which groundwater is replaced by digging small catchment pools in open spaces).
- Reduced fossil fuel dependence in transportation:
o Beginning work to create local consumer-farmer/consumer-retailer networks, including state and locally owned banks, credit unions and cooperatives. Given that local businesses struggle to compete (their costs and prices tend to be higher) with national and multinational corporations, this can be facilitated via the creation of local barter systems (example from Greece at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-12223068) and/or local currencies, such as Ithaca hours, that can only be spent locally.
o Community and municipal initiatives to increase public and active transport (cycling and walking) through urban planning that incorporates growth management and sprawl reduction, creation of urban villages where residents live closer to essential services, and restricted permiting of malls and big box retailers (Portland and Vancouver, British Columbia are excellent examples).
o Community and neighborhood street reclaiming initiatives to make streets safer for people to use cars less and walk and cycle more.
o Increased uptake of car sharing schemes, employing efficient electric or hybrid vehicles or those run on regionally produced biomass fuels.
- Reduced home/business fossil fuel dependence:
o State, local and power company subsidies for home insulation schemes and solar water heaters.
o Subsidies and reduced permit fees for Green Building (buildings purpose-built to be energy/water/waste self-sufficient).
o State and local regulations and subsidies (as per German model) to increase distributed energy systems based on alternate energy sources (solar, wind, tidal, etc).
o Active promotion of Open Source computer and information technology.
by stuartbramhall in End of Capitalism, Things That Aren't What They Seem
Vaknin’s fourth criterion for a semi-failed state is that it replaces rational infrastructure reconstruction and policy making with empire building. In his view irrational empire building is a signal that a semi-failed state is in the final stages of becoming a failed state.
He gives four examples. The first is US empire building in the US prior to the Civil War. Americans tend not to recognize aggressive westward expansion between 1812 and 1860 as empire building – nor our own civil war as prima facie evidence of a breakdown in national governance.
His other three examples are Nazi Germany, the USSR between 1956 and 1986 and post-1989 Yugoslavia (referring to Serbian nationalism and expansionism). I would also add the Roman Empire – as the fall of Rome was preceded by massive empire building in France, North Africa, Egypt, Israel, and even Great Britain.
Irrational Empire Building
Does the US meet this criteria? I have blogged previously (“Is the US a Zombie State?” – http://stuartbramhall.aegauthorblogs.com/2011/01/03/is-the-us-a-zombie-state/) about the US government’s total neglect of cities and other domestic infrastructure. There is no question that our country qualifies as the most aggressive empire builder in history.
Excluding Iraq and Afghanistan, the US has 837 military bases in 135 countries. The number of foreign basis on US soil is 0. In fact Americans would tend to view a military base in their country as a form of military occupation.
As part of the global war on terror, the US currently conducts military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Columbia, the Philippines and the horn of Africa (see http://www.fas.org/man/crs/RL32758.pdf)
In the past I have always blamed US military expansion on aggressive lobbying by defense contractors seeking to sell more weapons and a Wall Street agenda demanding cheap third world resources and labor and captive markets for our products. However after reading Vaknin’s article, I also see US military expansion into Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, Columbia, Africa, the Philippines, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and the other former Soviet republics as a desperate attempt to maintain a facade of legitimacy as other global powers surpass us economically.
Vaknin’s fifth and last criterion relates to the social fragmentation that occurs as local and popular leaders, backed by angry and rebellious constituents, take matters into their own hands.
Written pre-Obama, his article provides no specific examples. However I already see numerous examples of a shift away from federal authority to state and local government.
The best publicized example is the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol (committing to reduce CO2 emissions to 1990 levels) by 1044 mayors – representing over one-third of Americans – despite the senate’s refusal to ratify the treaty. I think it’s important to recognize that no mayors took this action in a vacuum. Seattle Mayor Greg Nickel’s, who launched this initiative, was clearly acting in response to Seattle’s extremely vocal network of sustainability activists.
Their endorsement of Kyoto is but one example of the growing power (and autonomy) of the US Conference of Mayors. A second is their unanimous adoption of a resolution supporting the global elimination of nuclear weapons and the redirection of nuclear weapons spending to meet the needs of cities. It calls on Congress to terminate funding for Obama’s program to modernize US nuclear weapons systems. Observers at the mayors’ June 2010 convention, report a high level of anger at the way the federal government has siphoned off tax dollars – leaving them no money to pay for schools, law enforcement, roads, lighting, libraries, homeless shelters, and clinics. There is even talk of a 2011 resolution requesting a formal seat at the UN.
Important States’ Rights Victories
Even more significant is Obama’s quiet reversal (in October 2009) of Bush’s policy of prosecuting medical marijuana use in the 15 states (including Washington, D.C.) which have legalized marijuana use, with a doctor’s prescription, for specific illnesses. In addition to this clear states’ rights victory, the move also reflects the inability of the Justice Department to effectively enforce these laws – given the anticipated unwillingness of juries to return guilty verdicts in states which have legalized medical marijuana via citizen initiative. This has actually occurred in a recent marijuana possession case in Montana (see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/22/montana-jury-marijuana-mutiny_n_800074.html)
Other strong challenges to the federal/corporate power elite:
- The growing movement for states to address their budget problems by withdrawing from the Wall Street debt factory and creating their own state-owned banks (like North Dakota – see http://www.webofdebt.com/articles/growing_movement.php).
- The 250% increase in extremist groups and armed militias since 2000 and the murder of six law enforcement officials in 2010 (see http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/mar/04/us-surge-rightwing-extremist-groups). In the first week of 2011 an Arizona Congresswoman and a federal judge have And in the first week of 2011 Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords has been shot and an Arizona federal judge killed.
- Growing secession movements in Vermont, Alaska, Hawaii and seventeen other states.
- Explosion of citizen-based global environmental and social justice movements (now at two million plus, with many based in the US) in the past decade.