One Policy Proposal Green Wizards Can Support
I've tried to stay away from endorsing any sort of specific policy or plan for dealing with the challenges that climate change, petroleum depletion (and more broadly resource depletion) as well as the myriad of ways that the Long Descent and coming economic stair step backwards towards a level of tech that can be sustained because too many proposals try to do everything. Or as is often the case, their focus is not on fighting the actual challenges but instead use those challenges to advocate for a different policy completely.
I'm reminded of a discussion I had online this Summer that highlights this problem. The subject was how to relocalize services and businesses in a environment of urban sprawl and suburban tract housing. Basically reestablishing the tradition of a "city square". One of the more vocal advocates of this, envisioned a government program of building new cities with intentional design around such a city square, with housing and small businesses around the square, then industry and farming further out. His idea was for smaller more walkable cities all over the country. I countered that such a grand plan didn't address the needs of the 90% poorer citizens who couldn't just up and move into one of his idea new eco-townships but who were stuck in place. He admitted that his proposal wouldn't help such people, just that he would really want to live in such a place.
My counter proposal to the real need we have for walkable city centers was to repurpose the empty Big Box stores that litter our cities now, and create in them city squares. Bring city and government services into satellite offices there, get a medical clinic in there, satellite stores where companies could deliver online purchases, have weekend farmer's markets and even food truck events. Use the government to encourage multi family housing in the nearby area and if need be use eminent domain to acquire the property. Its certainly been over used to benefit businesses, its time its used to benefit the people living in those communities.
People admit their pet proposal won't solve the stated problem, but "Hey, here's a neat idea that sort of is in the same subject, ohhh and I want someone else to pay for it". Make it as big as possible so that even if you disagree with the majority of it, to get your slice of the big pie you have to vote for it. Unfortunately at a certain point the whale gets too large for everyone.
This is the problem I see with many of the proposals, like the other person's that are being thrown out there, including the "New Green Deal".
Greer has spoken many times on the failure of the environmental movement by trying to include everyone and their personal problems into a grand coalition. Not just the environmental movement, but also Occupy Wall Street and now the Extinction Rebellion. I'm bothered by how too many in these movements seem to be speaking about "environmental justice" and using the fight against these challenges as a tool to address things that aren't directly linked to those challenges. Social issues like gay and trans rights, income inequality and even worker retraining (and many others) all seem to be getting lumped into what should be smaller more focused efforts.
Not that these issues aren't important and they need to be addressed BUT by trying to be everything for everyone, we seriously risk being nothing for no one.
The solution to me is to identify proposals that already have broad support, tailor the legislation to narrowly target just that and importantly and then revisit the program in a certain time frame to see if it is working. That last bit is the important part. At 62, I've lived through the War on Poverty, the War on Drugs, the push for public housing through big government built housing completes (think Pruitt-Igoe here in St Louis) and any number of other well meaning programs which completely failed their stated purpose but instead of being shut down, were merely let expand and take on more and more roles. We need to start accepting that some things fail.
Gardeners know this, sometimes with the best start a plant doesn't make it. Rather than hoping somehow it will magically get better, we need to learn when its time to pull it up by the roots.
Here is a good article which identifies 5 proposals that have broad bi-partisan support and are focused enough that we could clearly revisit them and see if they are working.
1) A national recycling program for commodities:
Resource depletion means just that, we are going to run out of critical minerals if we don't stop dumping them in the trash pile. Too much of the so called "renewable" energy systems are not. They simply out source their power generation to sources that come free, like solar, wind and wave. We then make the mistake of assuming that big is always better. Instead of hundreds of thousands of small backyard windmills, giving each home a modest extra bit of energy, we build huge wind farms (always out where they don't interfere with our view mind you) that generate grid sized outputs.
The problem is that 250 foot towers have to be built with exotic composite materials that don't readily recycle. Instead we just leave them to rot in place.
A national recycling program could both encourage households and industry to separate their waste but also help establish markets for the materials that can be recycled and also identify those manufacturing processes and materials that can't be recycled, and unencourage their use. We must start considering the entire life cycle of a product, from initial manufacturing to end recycling.
2) $1.5 trillion for a massive federal build-out of renewable energy::
To do this means we have to keep in mind the first of the five proposals, and encourage this build out uses processes and equipment that can be recycled. Huge carbon composite wind turbine blades only make sense when you outsource their pollution effects like we do now. I guarantee you that the people selling those huge wind turbines never mentioned that, "Ohh BTW when these wear out your company is going to be left with a huge trash problem, but don't mind, just off load the expense on a minor subsidiary, then spin it off and let it go bankrupt, that way the public and the government is liable for the clean up.
(Works for shale oil producers...)
We have to start considering the life time cost and affects of a technology before we start or continue to use it.
3) "A Climate Adjustment Fee on environmentally destructive imports" and 4) “Economic Nationalism for Climate Change”:
Its a dirty unmentioned secret of American, and by extension most Western economies, that we foul the environments of Third World countries so that we can have our luxuries for less.
Horror stories of workers committing suicide over working conditions don't register with the people buying thousand dollar iPhones. We out source our eWaste to places like India and Indonesia, where native workers are poisoned recycling our old computers, phones and other gadgets and we just don't seem to care. The Trump Administration made news with its tariffs on Chinese products because unlike their spin, American consumers actually were paying those tariffs. We were having for the first time, actually pay full price on our desires, instead of letting companies pay workers pennies to make our crap.
You may not like this fact BUT the price of everything is going to go higher.
Add this problem, at some point the economics of making a product in a Third World factory, then transporting it across thousands of miles via container ship is going to stop making sense. We can use the time now before it gets truly tight with fuel and energy, to relocalize some of our industry or we can wait until it happens, and face shortages or absolute lack. Your choice is take a long period of minor hurts or get it all thrown at you at once. We have a brief window where we as a country enjoy a energy and economic benefit. The American Empire still takes in tribute. We can use that twilight to benefit our children, and lets be honest those of us alive today OR we can continue in our wasteful ways until it hits us in the face.
I grew up when a high school graduate could expect to find work at an American manufacturer, get a "blue collar" job and spend thirty years there. In that time he (and sometimes she) would be a one income family which could have vacations in the Summer, put money away for retirement and send their children to college. Now both parents work, often at jobs with no benefits or security. Computer based flex scheduling and AI based surveillance manages your every minute on the job. Forget about retirement. And your children live in your basement while trying to pay a six figure student debt.
The way we insensitive corporate spending needs to change.
Another unmentioned secret is that you and I really do matter to politicians. Its only the Elite and their media mouth pieces that hope you will stay at home and be be quiet. If enough of us take to the streets, then no matter what their corporate Masters suggest, politicians really will vote in OUR interests.
5) $1.3 trillion to weatherize every home and office building in the United States:
I said in the title of this post "One Policy Proposal Green Wizards Can Support".
While every one of the first four proposals have broad electorate support they all have large moneyed opposition.
Does that mean we Green Wizards shouldn't support them, NO.
Though if there is one of the five I can see making a major difference in a huge amount of normal every day people it would be for the government to encourage and actually fund the weatherizing of a big portion of American homes and small businesses.
As Greer has often mentioned, "Insulate and Weatherize First, then Conserve." Its a big focus of my first year preparing my sister's house into something I can comfortably and affordably retire into. With my only source of income going into retirement being Social Security, and recognizing both conservation attempts to kill the program, and the likely event it will be cut back rather than eliminated, then while I have some money and health I need to cut my expected expenses so I can live there.
Kind of what we as a nation and a civilization are facing, isn't it?