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Mother Pelican
A Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability

Vol. 13, No. 10, October 2017
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
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Best Practices for Solidarity and Sustainability

SUMMARY & OUTLINE

This page attempts to provide a synthesis of policies and best practices for the transition to a world of solidarity and sustainability.

1. Local, National, and Global Citizen Movements
2. Education for Sustainable Development
3. Net Energy and Energy Return on Investment (EROI)
4. Financial Transaction/Speculation Taxes
5. Shift to Land/Resource Value Taxes
6. Guaranteed Basic Personal Income
7. Industrial Quality Standards and Best Practices
8. Accounting for Externalities in Production and Consumption
9. Fostering and Deploying Clean Energy Technologies

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The importance of conservation is growing each year, with increasing concerns over the destruction of biodiversity and the rising awareness of ecosystem services generating new debates on the human-nature relationship. This compact overview integrates the process, theory and practice of conservation for a broad readership, from non-specialists to students and practitioners. Taking a global perspective, it uses examples from around the world to illustrate general themes and show how problems arise from the impact of societal trends on ecological communities.

Provides an integrated account that develops a broad picture of conservation and its relevance to human development; key points at the end of chapters condense many details into valuable take-home messages; and material from original research and fieldwork, giving both beginners and experts a fresh set of examples, ideas and perspectives. Contents:

1. Introduction to conservation; 2. Threats to biodiversity; 3. Evaluation of priorities for species and habitats; 4. Monitoring, indicators and impact assessment; 5. Management of natural and fragmented habitats; 6. Management of species; 7. Sustainable use, semi-natural cultural landscapes, and the matrix; 8. Restoration and offsetting; 9. Environmental policy; References; Index to species names; Index. LINK TO THE BOOK

1. Local, National, and Global Citizen Movements

"The term Global Citizens Movement (GCM) refers to a profound shift in values among an aware and engaged citizenry. Transnational corporations, governments, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) remain powerful actors, but all of these are deeply influenced by a coherent, worldwide association of millions of people who call for priority to be placed on new vales of quality of life, human solidarity, and environmental sustainability. It is important to note that the GCM is a socio-political process rather than a political organization or party structure." Global Citizens Movement (GCM), Encyclopedia of Earth, November 2007.

KEY LINKS:

PEOPLE'S ACTION AT THE EARTH SUMMIT

Occupy Rio+20 - People’s Petition
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Source: Occupy Rio+20

We, members of the Occupy movement and civil society, highlight the critical window of opportunity at the Earth Summit to vastly scale up political, financial & public response to the environmental, social & economic crisis of our time, & to raise ambition to the level that science demands. We are exceeding 3 of 9 planetary boundaries (climate change; biodiversity loss; changes to the nitrogen cycle) and our economy has outgrown the ecosystems we depend on. We denounce debt-created money and demand urgent regulation for a steady-state economy. We vow to respect and protect the beauty and diversity of life on Earth, realising our interconnectedness with nature. Governments, corporations and financial institutions must wake up and dramatically prioritise people & the planet over abusive exploitation for short-term profit & “growth”.

In defence of our rights, freedoms & future, we call for:

1. A direct participatory democratic UN: inclusive rights-based global decision-making; open-source communications. Prioritise youth, women, marginalised voices & civil society formally in negotiations.

2. Ending corporate capture of the UN: end compromising partnerships & transfer of officials. Exclude business lobbyists from talks. Expose & prohibit the bullying & bribing of poor nations by rich nations.

3. Realisation of new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by increased cooperation, commitment, funding & resources, strengthening the Millennium Goals (MDGs) & cancelling unjust poor country debt.

4. Peace & demilitarization, democratising the UN Security Council, a binding global arms treaty, SDG on peace & conflict, nuclear disarmament by 2030 & transfer funds to local sustainable development.

5. A Financial Transaction Tax, abolition of tax havens & a Global Carbon Fee on extraction of fuels, to transparently & equitably fund life-saving adaptation solutions, prioritising resilience & climate justice.

6. Ending fossil fuel subsidies now & extraction by 2020. Invest in non-nuclear Renewable Energy for All: global wind/solar/small-hydro/geo-energy; efficient stoves; zero carbon global electricity by 2030.

7. Outlawing Ecocide as the 5th International Crime Against Peace: prosecute destruction of ecosystems e.g. tar sands, oil spills, mountaintop removal, fracking. Protect the commons & Rights of Mother Earth.

8. Zero deforestation of Amazon rainforest by 2015 & globally by 2020. Rejection of pricing & trading nature, including forests, water & the atmosphere; and rejection of offsetting damage/destruction.

9. Food & water sovereignty & security. Ban land grabs. Protect Indigenous peoples’ land rights. Switch support for biofuels & industrial, chemical & GM agriculture to small organic farming & permaculture.

10. Indicators beyond GDP: measure wellbeing, participation, environmental health, socio-economic equity, gender equality, employment, provision for needs/services, protection of rights, & peace.

This is what democracy looks like. This is Harmony with Nature. This is the Future We Need for a just, resilient, thriving world. Join Global Days of Action on June 5th & 20th to raise our voice to challenge & bring hope to Rio+20.

A high priority of global citizenship is education, either informally through personal contacts and public means of communication such as the internet, or more formally via programs sponsored by educational institutions. At a time when both developed and developing nations seem to be engulfed in political and financial corruption, education in noviolence is especially important. If a global revolution is coming, let it be a nonviolent revolution!

If a global revolution is coming, let it be a nonviolent revolution!


2. Education for Sustainable Development

Gaia Education:
Empowering Communities for Climate Change Adaptation,
Regenerative Agriculture, and Sustainable Livelihoods

Sally Bogale

This article was originally published in
International Center for Climate Governance, July 2017
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION

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Gaia Education supports vulnerable communities to rebuild their social cohesion, adapt their settlements for greater sustainability and disaster risk management, improve climate change resilience and adopt regenerative agricultural and entrepreneurial practices, which mitigate climate-related changes whilst delivering more sustainable food security and livelihoods.

We do this by using our holistic approach, where communities are encouraged to assess their settlements and livelihoods in relation to four key dimensions of sustainability: Social, Economic, Ecological and Cultural. They assess how climate change, natural disasters and unsustainable food production/livelihood practices have thrown these dimensions out of balance and how they can use the challenges as opportunities to re-align with natural processes.

Our approach has an impressive track record in building capacity of community leaders to guide their fellow villagers through sustainable village design and development, particularly in relation to the challenges of climate change, poverty and hunger. Same time we are training villagers in technical skills to make their visions for sustainability a practical reality. Trainings include climate change-adapted house building, disaster risk management, organic vegetable production, horticulture and fisheries projects, as well as social enterprise and food processing programmes.

We promote a paradigm shift in disaster management and food production from conventional relief-and-response practices to an integrated and regenerative risk reduction culture, whereby past victims become pioneers of regenerative actions. Beneficiary villages in Bangladesh, and also in India and Senegal, have made significant progress toward the realisation of self-sustaining communities, regenerating their bio-regions, and are now able to act as educators to a wider populations in their districts and regions.

Objectives and beneficiaries

We have recently completed a project in 66 communities of the coastal districts of Bangladesh, where cyclones, tidal surges, and extreme flooding have devastated settlements, agriculture and food production, increasing mortality rates and destroying the livelihoods and social cohesion of many communities.

More than 23% of the families in the region suffer from a shortage of food and over 50% of agricultural land is affected by salinity from tidal flooding during wet season and upward movement of saline ground water during dry season. In partnership with local organisation, BASD (Bangladesh Association for Sustainable Development), our objectives were to:

1. Build capacity and support villagers to work together in regenerative development and design and develop practical strategies for climate change adaptation and mitigation.
2. Increase food security through a food sovereignty approach with 27 community-led projects to grow organic food from integrated, regenerative agriculture
3. Build on strengthened communities with surplus produce by training in social enterprise and food processing skills to generate sustainable income through sales.

Example practices for climate change adaptation and disaster risk management in this bio-regional context were:

- Building low-roof houses on high plinth/platform and holding house with strong rope
- Making a high place /platform/ life-saving strong pillars to cling to
- Setting tube-wells in higher places for safe drinking water after floods
- Tree plantation to reduce soil dissolution and provide food and wood
- Using organic fertilizer to improve soil quality
- Hanging vegetable cultivation to reduce risk of damage during floods
- Local duck rearing, as more resilient than chickens during floods
- Introducing saline tolerant agriculture and species
- Establishing alternative livelihoods for less reliance on farming
- Developing seed bank in a safe place through cooperatives

Strong points of the practice

Main strong point is that we use our experience in sustainability design and regeneration practices to support communities themselves to turn climate change challenges into opportunities.

Gaia Education (GE) was conceived by a group of sustainability experts from a wide range of academic and professional disciplines, calling themselves "G.E.E.S.E" - Global Ecovillage Educators for a Sustainable Earth. For the last 11 years, GE has played a key role in the regeneration movement as a leading edge provider of sustainability and climate change adaptation education and project-based learning, transforming communities worldwide.

GE grassroots trainers have run over 200 programmes in 47 countries, across 5 continents, reaching over 12,000 people and 109 nationalities, in settings ranging from tribal communities to intentional ecovillages, from urban slums to universities. Feedback shows that our courses are ‘life-changing’ for many participants, with a 92% ‘excellent/good’ rating worldwide.

In 2012, GE responded to the demand for support beyond trainings and launched our long-term Project-Based Learning programmes, which use the wealth of knowledge from our global grassroots trainers coupled with project management support and finance for sustainable communities to implement learning and thrive whilst regenerating natural systems.

Expected results and benefits for climate change adaptation and mitigation

Our results and benefits are already demonstrable regarding climate change adaptation for the communities we have worked with:

India: As part of the Grow your own Food campaign, which use new climate-resilient agricultural approaches, Gaia Education and our local partners have supported Koraput communities to grow drought tolerant plants combined with mulching, fortified composting, vermiculture and vermi-composting, herbal pesticides and green manures, which have improved the productivity of soils and the nutritional value of meals.

Results: High yields in participating villages were the result of community engagement, access to water & new skills acquired through agro-ecological capacity building activities. Villagers who experienced success in the first year by earning supplemental income through the sale of surplus produce encouraged and influenced fellow community members on subsequent years. The project reached a total of 750 tribal families over 2 1/2 years, raising their income, adapting their food production techniques to the changing climate effects, and strengthening their communities.

Senegal: A three-year food security project engaging 4 villages - developed 16 hectares of community land to produce organic food more efficiently, and increase the communities’ capacity to adapt to the effects of climate change. Farmers’ livelihoods in the 4 villages were in decline, with productive land privately sold & remaining soils drying up. Our participatory approach, benefitted 3,000 villagers, 85% women, & transformed desert to abundant gardens. By end-Y2, 100% of beneficiaries stopped using agrochemicals & enriched soil.

Replicability potential of the practice

Because our Whole Systems Design approach adapts to the needs of the communities on the ground and uses low-tech techniques to adapt to and mitigate climate change effects in settlements and livelihoods, it can be replicated anywhere where there is a need. We currently hope to expand our work in other districts of Bangladesh, as well as adapting our model to climate-affected areas of Rwanda and the Congo, where we have been asked to assist farming communities.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sally Bogale is on the staff of Gaia Education, a leading-edge provider of sustainability education that promotes thriving communities within planetary boundaries.


3. Net Energy and Energy Return on Investment (EROI)

Inside the New Economic Science of Capitalism’s
Slow-Burn Energy Collapse

Nafeez Ahmed

This article was originally published in
Resilience, 22 August 2017
under a Creative Commons License

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Flood in Budapest 2002 ~ Credit: Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

Published by INSURGE INTELLIGENCE, a crowdfunded investigative journalism project for people and planet. Support us to keep digging where others fear to tread.

New scientific research is quietly rewriting the fundamentals of economics. The new economic science shows decisively that the age of endlessly growing industrial capitalism, premised on abundant fossil fuel supplies, is over.

The long-decline of capitalism-as-we-know-it, the new science shows, began some decades ago, and is on track to accelerate well before the end of the 21st century.

With capitalism-as-we-know it in inexorable decline, the urgent task ahead is to rewrite economics to fit the real-world: and, accordingly, to redesign our concepts of value and prosperity, precisely to rebuild our societies with a view of adapting to this extraordinary age of transition.

A groundbreaking study in Elsevier’s Ecological Economics journal by two French economists, for the first time proves the world has passed a point-of-no-return in its capacity to extract fossil fuel energy: with massive implications for the long-term future of global economic growth.

The study, ‘Long-Term Estimates of the Energy-Return-on-Investment (EROI) of Coal, Oil, and Gas Global Productions’, homes in on the concept of EROI, which measures the amount of energy supplied by an energy resource, compared to the quantity of energy consumed to gather that resource. In simple terms, if a single barrel of oil is used up to extract energy equivalent to 50 barrels of oil, that’s pretty good. But the less energy we’re able to extract using that single barrel, then the less efficient, and more expensive (in terms of energy and money), the whole process.

Recent studies suggest that the EROI of fossil fuels has steadily declined since the early 20th century, meaning that as we’re depleting our higher quality resources, we’re using more and more energy just to get new energy out. This means that the costs of energy production are increasing while the quality of the energy we’re producing is declining.

But unlike previous studies, the authors of the new paper—Victor Court, a macroeconomist at Paris Nanterre University, and Florian Fizaine of the University of Burgundy’s Dijon Laboratory of Economics (LEDi)—have removed any uncertainty that might have remained about the matter.

Point of no return

Court and Fizaine find that the EROI values of global oil and gas production reached their maximum peaks in the 1930s and 40s. Global oil production hit peak EROI at 50:1; while global gas production hit peak EROI at 150:1. Since then, the EROI values of oil and gas—the overall energy we’re able to extract from these resources for every unit of energy we put in—is inexorably declining.

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Source: Court and Fizaine (2017)

Even coal, the only fossil fuel resource whose EROI has not yet maxed out, is forecast to undergo an EROI peak sometime between 2020 and 2045. This means that while coal might still have signficant production potential in some parts of the world, rising costs of production are making it increasingly uneconomical.

Axiom: Aggregating this data together reveals that the world’s fossil fuels overall experienced their maximum cumulative EROI of approximately 44:1 in the early 1960

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Since then, the total value of energy we’re able to extract from the world’s fossil fuel resource base has undergone a protracted, continuous and irreversible decline.

Insight: At this rate of decline, by 2100, we are projected to extract the same value of EROI from fossil fuels as we were in the 1800s.

Several other studies suggest that this ongoing decline in the overall value of the energy extracted from global fossil fuels has played a fundamental role in the slowdown of global economic growth in recent years.

In this sense, the 2008 financial crash did not represent a singular event, but rather one key event in an unfolding process.

The economy-energy nexus

This is because economic growth remains ultimately dependent on “growth in material and energy use,” as a study in the journal PLOS One found last October. That study, lead authored by James D. Ward of the School of Natural and Built Environments, University of South Australia, challenged the idea that GDP growth can be “decoupled” from environmental impacts.

The “illusion of decoupling”, Ward and his colleagues argued, has been maintained through the following misleading techniques:

  1. substituting one resource for another;
  2. financialization of GDP, such as through increasing “monetary flows” through creation of new debt, without however increasing material or energy throughput (think quantitative easing);
  3. exporting environmental impacts to other nations or regions, so that the realities of increasing material throughput can be suppressed from data calculations.
  4. growing inequality of income and wealth, which allows GDP to grow for the benefit of a few, while the majority of workers see decreases in real income —in other words, a wealthy minority monopolises the largest fraction of GDP growth, but does not increase their level of consumption with as much demand for energy and materials.

Ward and his co-authors sought to test these factors by creating a new economic model to see how well it stacks up against the data.

Insight: They found that continued economic growth in GDP “cannot plausibly be decoupled from growth in material and energy use, demonstrating categorically that GDP growth cannot be sustained indefinitely.”

Other recent scientific research has further fine-tuned this relationship between energy and prosperity.

The prosperity-resource nexus

Adam Brandt, a leading EROI expert at Stanford University’s Department of Energy Resources Engineering, in the March edition of BioPhysical Economics and Resource Quality proves that the decline of EROI directly impacts on economic prosperity.

Earlier studies on this issue, Brandt points out, have highlighted the risk of a “net energy cliff”, which refers to how “declining EROI results in rapid increases in the fraction of energy dedicated to simply supporting the energy system.”

Axiom: So the more EROI declines, a greater proportion of the energy being produced must be used simply to extract more energy. This means that EROI decline leads to less real-world economic growth.

It also creates a complicated situation for oil prices. While at first, declining EROI can be expected to lead to higher prices reflecting higher production costs, the relationship between EROI and prices begins to breakdown as EROI becomes smaller.

This could be because, under a significantly reduced EROI, consumers in a less prosperous economy can no longer afford, energetically or economically, the cost of producing more energy—thus triggering a dramatic drop in market prices, despite higher costs of production. At this point, in the new era of shrinking EROI, swinging oil prices become less and less indicative of ‘scarcity’ in supply and demand.

Brandt’s new economic model looks at how EROI impacts four key sectors—food, energy, materials and labor. Exploring what a decline in net energy would therefore mean for these sectors, he concludes:

“The reduction in the fraction of a resource free and the energy system productivity extends from the energy system to all aspects of the economy, which gives an indication of the mechanisms by which energy productivity declines would affect general prosperity. A clear implication of this work is that decreases in energy resource productivity, modeled here as the requirement for more materials, labor, and energy, can have a significant effect on the flows required to support all sectors of the economy. Such declines can reduce the effective discretionary output from the economy by consuming a larger and larger fraction of gross output for the meeting of inter-industry requirements.”

Brandt’s model is theoretical, but it has direct implications for the real world.

Insight: Given that the EROI of global fossil fuels has declined steadily since the 1960s, Brandt’s work suggests that a major underlying driver of the long-term process of economic stagnation we’re experiencing is resource depletion.

The new age of economic stagnation

Exactly how big the impact of resource depletion on the economy might be, can be gauged from a separate study by Professor Mauro Bonauiti of the Department of Economics and Statistics at the University of Turn.

His new paper published in February in the Journal of Cleaner Production assesses data on technological innovations and productivity growth. He concludes that:

“… advanced capitalist societies have entered a phase of declining marginal returns?—or involuntary degrowth—with possible major effects on the system’s capacity to maintain its present institutional framework.”

Bonauiti draws on anthropologist Joseph Tainter’s work on the growth and collapse of civilizations. Tainter’s seminal work, The Collapse of Complex Societies, showed that the very growth in complexity driving a civilization’s expansion, generates complex new problems requiring further complexity to solve them.

Axiom: Complex civilizations tend to accelerate the use of resources, while diminishing the quantity of resources available for the civilization’s continued expansion—because they are continually being invested in solving the new problems generated by increasing complexity.

The result is that complex societies tend to reach a threshold of growth, after which returns diminish to such an extent that the complexification of the society can no longer be sustained, leading to its collapse or regression.

Bonauiti builds on Tainter’s framework and applies it to new data on ‘Total Factor Productivity’ to assess correlations between the growth and weakening in productivity, industrial revolutions, and the implications for continued economic growth.

The benefits that a certain society obtains from its own investments in complexity “do not increase indefinitely”, he writes. “Once a certain threshold has been reached (T0), the social organisation as a whole will enter a phase of declining marginal returns, that is to say, a critical phase, which, if ignored, may lead to the collapse of the whole system.”

This threshold appears to have been reached by Europe, Japan and the US before the early 1970s, he argues.

Insight: The US economy, he shows, appears to have reached “the peak in productivity in the 1930s, the same period in which the EROI of fossil fuels reached an extraordinary value of about 100.”

Of course, Court and Fizaine quantify the exact value of this peak EROI differently using a new methodology, but they agree that the peak occurred roughly around this period.

The US and other advanced economies are currently tapering off the end of what Bonauiti calls the ‘third industrial revolution’ (IR3), in information communications technologies (ICT). This was, however, the shortest and weakest industrial revolution from a productivity standpoint, with its productivity “evaporating” after just eight years.

In the US, the first industrial revolution utilized coal to power steam engine and telegraph technology, stimulating a rapid increase in productivity that peaked between between 1869 and 1892, at almost 2%.

The second industrial revolution was powered by the electric engine and internal combustion engine, which transformed manufacturing and domestic consumption. This led productivity to peak at 2.78%, remaining at around 2% for at least another 25 years.

After the 1930s, however, productivity continually declined, reaching 0.34% in the period 1973–95. Since then, the third industrial revolution driven by computing technology led to a revival of productivity which, however, has already tapered out in a way that is quite tepid compared to the previous industrial revolutions

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Axiom: The highest level of productivity was reached around the 1930s, and since then with each industrial revolution has declined.

The decline period also roughly corresponds to the post-peak EROI era for total fossil fuels identified by Court and Fizaine.

Thus, Bonauiti concludes, “the empirical evidence and theoretical reasons lead one to conclude that the innovations introduced by IR3 are not powerful enough to compensate for the declining returns of IR2.”

Insight: The implication is that the 21st century represents the tail-end of the era of industrial economic expansion, originally ushered in by technological innovations enabled by abundant fossil fuel energy sources.

The latest stage is illustrated with the following graph which demonstrates the rapid rise and decline in productivity of the last major revolution in technological innovation (IR3).

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The productivity of the third industrial revolution thus peaked around 2004 and since then has declined back to near 1980s levels.

Bonauiti thus concludes that “advanced capitalist societies (the US, Europe and Japan) have entered a phase of declining marginal returns or involuntary degrowth in many key sectors, with possible major detrimental effects on the system’s capacity to maintain its present institutional framework.”

In other words, the global economic system has entered a fundamentally new era, representing a biophysical phase-shift into an energetically constrained landscape.

Going back to the new EROI analysis by French economists, Victor Court and Florian Fizaine, the EROI of oil is forecast to reduce to 15:1 by 2018. It will continue to decline to around 10:1 by 2035.

They broadly forecast the same pattern for gas and coal: Overall, their data suggests that the EROI of all fossil fuels will hit 15:1 by 2060, and decline further to 10:1 by 2080.

If these projections come to pass, this means that over the next few decades, the overall costs of fossil fuel energy production will increase, even while the market value of fossil fuel energy remains low. The total net energy yield available to fuel continued economic growth will inexorably decline. This will, in turn, squeeze the extent to which the economy can afford to buy fossil fuel energy that is increasingly expensive to produce.

We cannot be sure what this unprecedented state of affairs will herald for the market prices of oil, gas and coal, which are unlikely to follow the conventional supply and demand dynamics we were used to in the 20th century.

But what we can know for sure from the new science is that the era of unlimited economic growth—the defining feature of neoliberal finance capitalism as we know it—is well and truly over.

UK ‘end of growth’ test-case

The real-world workings of this insight have been set out by a team of economists at the University of Leeds’ Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy, whose research was partly funded by giant engineering firm Arup, along with the main UK government-funded research councils—the UK Energy Research Centre, the Economics and Social Research Council and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

In their paper published by the university’s Sustainability Research Institute this January, Lina Brand-Correa, Paul Brockway, Claire Carter, Tim Foxon, Anne Owen, and Peter Taylor develop a national-level EROI measure for the UK.

Studying data for the period 1997-2012, they find that “the country’s EROI has been declining since the beginning of the 21st Century”.

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Energy Returned (Eout) and Energy Invested (Ein) in the UK (1997–2012)
Source: Brand-Correa (2017)

The UK’s net EROI peaked in 2000 at a maximum value of 9.6, “before gradually falling back to a value of 6.2 in 2012.” What this means is that on average, “12% of the UK’s extracted/captured energy does not go into the economy or into society for productive or well-being purposes, but rather needs to be reinvested by the energy sectors to produce more energy.”

The paper draws on previous work by economists Court and Fizaine suggesting that continuous economic growth requires a minimal societal EROI of 11, based on the current energy intensity of the UK economy. By implication, the UK is dropping increasingly below this benchmark since the start of the 21st century:

“These initial results show that more and more energy is having to be used in the extraction of energy itself rather than by the UK’s economy or society.”

This also implies that the UK has had to sustain continued economic growth through other mechanisms outside of its own domestic energy context: in particular, as we know, the expansion of debt.

It is no coincidence, then, that debt-to-GDP ratios have continued to grow worldwide. As EROI is in decline, an unsustainable debt-bubble premised on exploitation of working and middle classes is the primary method to keep growth growing—an endeavour that at some point will inevitably come undone under its own weight.

We need a new economics

According to MIT and Harvard trained economist Dr. June Sekera—who leads the Public Economy Project at Tufts University’s Global Development And Environment Institute (GDAE)—net energy decline proves that neoclassical economic theory is simply not fit for purpose.

In Working Paper 17–02 published by the GDAE, Sekera argues that: “One of the most important contributions of biophysical economics is its critique that mainstream economics disregards the biophysical basis of production, and energy in particular.”

Policymakers, she says, “need to understand the biophysical imperative: that societal net energy yield is falling. Hence the need for a biophysical economics, and for policymakers to comprehend its central messages.”

Yet a key problem is that mainstream economics is held back from being able to even comprehend the existence of net energy decline due to an ideological obsession with the market. The result is that production that occurs outside the market is seen as an aberration, a form of government, state or ‘political’ interference in the ‘natural’ dynamics of the market.

And this is why the market alone is incapable of generating solutions to the net energy crisis driving global economic stagnation. The modern market paradigm is fatally self-limited by the following dynamics: “short time horizons, growth as a requisite, gratuitous waste baked-in, profits as life-blood.” This renders it “incapable of producing solutions that demand long-view investment without profits.”

Thus, Sekera calls for a new “public economics” commensurate with what is needed for a successful energy transition. The new public economics will spur on breakthrough scientific and technological innovations that solve “common-need problems” based on “distributed decision-making and collective action.”

The resulting solutions will require “long time-horizon investment: investments with no immediate payoff in terms of saleable products, no visible ROI (return on investment), no profit-making in the near-term. Such investment can be generated only in a non-market environment, in which payment is collective and financial profit is not the point.”

The only problem is that, as Sekera herself recognizes, the main incubator and agent of the non-market public economy is government—but government itself is playing a key role in dismantling, hollowing-out and privatizing the non-market public economy.

There is only one solution to this conundrum, however difficult it might seem:

Citizens themselves at all scales have an opportunity to work together to salvage and regenerate new public economies based on pooling their human, financial and physical assets and resources, to facilitate the emergence of more viable and sustainable economic structures. Part of this will include adapting to post-carbon energy sources.

Far from representing the end of prosperity, this transition represents an opportunity to redefine prosperity beyond the idea of endlessly increasing material accumulation; and realigning society with the goal of meeting real-world human physical, psychological and spiritual needs.

What will emerge from efforts to do so has not yet been written. But those efforts will define the contours of the new post-carbon economy, as the unsustainable juggernaut of the old grinds slowly and painfully to a protracted, chaotic halt.

In coming years and decades, the reality of the need for a new economic science that reflects the dynamics of the economy’s fundamental embeddedness in the biophysical environment will become evermore obvious.

So say goodbye to endless growth neoliberalism.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nafeez Ahmed is a bestselling author, investigative journalist, international security scholar, policy expert, film-maker, strategy & communications consultant, and change activist. The focus of Ahmed's work is to catalyse social change in the public interest by harnessing radical, systemic approaches to understanding the interconnections between the world's biggest problems, while developing and highlighting holistic strategies for social transformation. Whether it be foreign policy and terrorism, climate change and energy, or food and the economy, Nafeez deploys the techniques of critical, rigorous and interdisciplinary analysis to join the dots and challenge power, with a view to bring forth constructive change.


4. Financial Transaction/Speculation Taxes

Financial transaction/speculation taxes are a disincentive to excessive greed in pursuing financial transactions of dubious social value, such as the so-called "financial derivatives."

RELATED LINKS:

The following section is about reforming tax codes so as to protect the integrity of the human habitat. The following is a excerpt from one many recent reports calling for taxing financial transactions to support the transition to clean energy:

Reclaiming Power: An energy model for people and the planet, Friends of the Earth,
2 December 2011.

"New research by Friends of the Earth presents an alternative energy model that would tackle climate change and enable everyone to gain access to energy.

"Our current energy model is not working:

  • Our dependency on fossil fuels is driving dangerous climate change
  • Our traditional energy model fails to serve 40 per cent of the world's population adequately
  • 1 billion of those without electricity will never be reached by expanding national grids

"The alternative:

"Friends of the Earth proposes an energy model based on a system of global feed in tariffs whcih guarantee cash back for local renewable energy generation. This model would help to:

  • Tackle climate change by shifting energy away from polluting fossil fuels
  • Deliver low-carbon, decentralised energy
  • Address poverty and development through universal access to clean, reliable, affordable energy
  • Rapidly lower the cost of renewable energy technology, making a low-carbon transition easier and cheaper worldwide

"This mechanism should be publicly funded by rich countries who have committed to help developing countries adapt to climate change

"Sources of funding could include:


5. Shift to Land/Resource Value Taxes

Land: A New Paradigm for a Thriving World

Martin Adams

Originally published by North Atlantic Books and Unitism, 2015
under a Creative Commons License

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LINK TO THE BOOK

Synopsis by the Publisher: "What if we lived in a world where everyone had enough? A world where everyone mattered and where people lived in harmony with nature? What if the solution to our economic, social, and ecological problems was right underneath our feet? Land has been sought after throughout history. Even today, people struggle to get onto the property ladder; most view real estate as an important way to build wealth. Yet, as readers of this book will discover, the act of owning land—and our urge to profit from it—causes economic booms and busts, social and cultural decline, and environmental devastation. Land: A New Paradigm for a Thriving World introduces a radically new economic model that promises a sustainable and abundant world for all. This book is for those who dream of a better world for themselves and for future generations."

SUMMARY

Many of us already sense that our current economic system creates inequality and also engenders the ecological destruction of our planet. What we don’t seem to understand is why: For example, why does it lead to financial insecurity for many, even for those who, by all accounts, shouldn’t have to worry about money? And why exactly are we destroying our planet in our frantic conversion of nature into digits and little bits of paper we call money?

One of the main reasons our current economic system doesn’t work for everyone is because the revenue flow from the commons—which include all gifts of nature—has been privatized. For example, when an oil company makes money, it not only charges money for its effort and for the machinery it uses to extract oil from the ground, it also makes money from the value of the oil itself. The same can be said of the money that people make through their private ownership of land—and what banks make through their financing of private landownership via the mortgage. This privatization of the revenue flow from nature is one of the root causes of economic recessions, ecological destruction, as well as social and cultural decline.

All of nature is community wealth, including—and especially—land. People give value to land through the goods and services they provide to their communities. For example, because people offer more goods and services in the city than in the countryside, urban land tends to be much more expensive than rural land. As communities become more attractive to live in, some property owners—but mostly the financial institutions that finance them—then extract this value by making money from real estate (buildings, like cars, decrease in value over time, but land increases in value the more prosperous a community becomes), and this extraction is one of the root causes of wealth inequality, ecological destruction, and even economic recessions.

Land—even undeveloped land—costs a lot of money in our society. Why is that? It’s because land has an intrinsic value to human beings: We all need land. And because we all need land, those that own land can make money by buying and selling land at the expense of other people who have to pay money to live on it. Under our current land ownership model, property owners only pay other property owners for land as well as the banks that finance property ownership.

While land can certainly be privately used, its value is created by the community and therefore belongs to the community. Land has to be owned in common, and whenever people use land, they need to reimburse their local communities for their exclusive use of it. They can do this by making community land contributions for the land they use. A land contribution approximates the market rental value of land, and the rental value of land is a measuring stick that reveals the financial value of the benefits that land users receive from their exclusive use of land. In most nations around the world, the value of land has already been privatized: If communities were to suddenly impose land contributions upon existing property owners, property owners would end up having to pay twice for their ownership of land—first to the previous landowner (from whom they bought land), and a second time to their local communities.

In order to transition from a land ownership model to a land stewardship model, therefore, local governments and community land trusts would either have to financially compensate existing property owners for the land value portion of the properties in question or offer a transition plan that would allow new property owners to acquire exclusive use of the land without obtaining ownership of the land itself. Land users would then be required to share the value of land with all members of their community through community land contributions. And finally, these contributions would then have to be redistributed to all community members in the form of Universal Basic Income to prevent gentrification, reduce wealth inequality, and create a truly fair economy for all participants.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Martin Adams is a systems thinker and author. As a child, it pained him to see most people struggling while a few were living in opulence. This inspired in him a lifelong quest to co-create a fair and sustainable world in collaboration with others. As a graduate of a business school with ties to Wall Street, he opted not to pursue a career on Wall Street and chose instead to dedicate his life to community enrichment. Through his social enterprise work, he saw firsthand the extent to which the current economic system causes human and ecological strife. Consequently, Martin devoted himself to the development of a new economic paradigm that might allow humanity to thrive in harmony with nature. His book Land: A New Paradigm for a Thriving World is the fruit of his years of research into a part of this economic model; its message stands to educate policymakers and changemakers worldwide. Martin is executive director of Progress.org.

6. Guaranteed Basic Personal Income

Stability and Sharing: Basic Income in History

Caroline Whyte

Originally published in
Feasta, 2 August 2017
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION

09.17.SUPP4.UBI.jpg
Featured image taken from Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

During a visit to Amsterdam last year, I was struck by the huge throngs of people from all over the world visiting the Vincent Van Gogh museum. Apparently I was one of 2.1 million visitors in 2016.

I couldn’t help wondering what the artist himself would have made of those crowds. Famously, his attempts to make a living from his art were unsuccessful, and he was plagued by self-doubt which probably contributed to the severe mental illness that eventually claimed his life.

Thankfully though, his brother believed in his potential. Indeed – as you’ll hear if you visit the museum and listen to the commentary – were it not for a modest income that Van Gogh’s brother provided to him, the vast majority of his work would probably never have seen the day. All those paintings which have become so famous would never have existed.

Would the world be a diminished place without them? Presumably the huge crowds of people at the museum, who are willing to pay 17 euros a head to see the originals, think so. Whatever your view of his art, there’s no arguing with the crass truth that thanks to Van Gogh’s paintings, the museum took in revenue to the tune of €55.5 million last year.

Basic income is generally discussed as though it’s something hypothetical that has never existed in the real world, apart for a few recent trials here and there. However, if we define it as unearned income that enables a person to meet their basic needs, we can see that basic income of one kind or other has in fact existed for a fair few people throughout history. Some of them have made use of their financial independence to do interesting things. Here is a quick list drawn up from Wikipedia:

Blaise Pascal lived entirely off his family’s income until his death in 1632 at age 39. He used his financial freedom to pursue his many interests. “His earliest work was in the natural and applied sciences where he made important contributions to the study of fluids, and clarified the concepts of pressure and vacuum….Pascal also wrote in defence of the scientific method.” He was an important philosopher and found time as well to invent the bus line.

Jane Austen: as a middle-class European woman in the early 19th century, Austen would not have been permitted to hold down most jobs. Luckily her father and brothers supported her financially throughout much of her life. She had various household duties which took up some of her time, but had sufficient time and intellectual energy left over to work on her novels, as well as access to paper and ink. (There’s a nice article here – really a book review – on why it’s a good idea to read Jane Austen.)

Harriet Beecher Stowe also never held a formal paid position in her life. In adulthood, before her success as a novelist, she survived off her husband’s salary as was the norm for married middle-class women of her day. Her book Uncle Tom’s Cabin was a major stimulus to the anti-slavery movement worldwide and it remains the second-most translated work in the world after the Bible. (Abraham Lincoln stated that the book was responsible for the Civil War in the US, which is admittedly a mixed blessing, but the war did at least end slavery there). There’s an interesting discussion of the book’s enormous influence here.

Florence Nightingale’s wealthy family disapproved of her pursuing her interests but nonetheless her father “gave her an annual income of £500? (much more than a basic income in those days, but she didn’t live extravagantly). She was responsible for the professionalisation of nursing and the promotion of public health measures which have saved many millions of lives over the past century and a half. She was also responsible for “helping to abolish prostitution laws that were over-harsh to women, and expanding the acceptable forms of female participation in the workforce,” as well as being “a pioneer in the graphical representation of statistics”.

Srinivasva Ramanujan: It doesn’t seem too much of a stretch to me to suggest that this Indian mathematician received a type of basic income at a crucial period of his life. After years of barely scraping by in poverty he was eventually hired as a clerk for the Madras Port Trust. As Wikipedia puts it, “At his office, Ramanujan easily and quickly completed the work he was given, so he spent his spare time doing mathematical research.” This research culminated in his eventually being invited to work at Cambridge University, despite having no formal qualifications. During his short life he “made substantial contributions to mathematical analysis, number theory, infinite series, and continued fractions, including solutions to mathematical problems considered to be unsolvable.”

More recently, JK Rowling is famous for having been a single mother dependent on social welfare at the time she was writing the first Harry Potter novel. Needless to say, the UK government’s support for her has paid itself back rather well: Rowling, who is probably a billionaire, pays the top tax rate in the UK, and Harry Potter is bringing enormous sums into the UK economy and is apparently worth 4 billion pounds to London alone. And for those who believe that Harry Potter is just worthless pulp fiction, here’s some interesting evidence that reading Harry Potter makes young people more empathic.

I’m sure there are plenty more people who could be added to this list – it was thrown together quickly and I would love to hear about other examples.

It’s interesting to note that it’s skewed towards the female. Some of this is owing to historical cultural norms: since educated woman weren’t supposed to hold professional jobs until relatively recently, those who managed to make meaningful contributions to humanity that went beyond their traditional role were often reliant on unearned income. But in more recent years, single mothers like Rowling have benefited from the welfare state.

The list is also skewed towards people of European heritage, partly because European countries were monetised earlier than many others, and partly because there were more records kept from Europe.

Let’s just finish by returning to Van Gogh for a minute and speculating on what might have been. Sadly, it seems that one of the triggers for Van Gogh’s suicide may have been the news that his brother was planning to quit his job and set up his own art firm, which, as the website of the Van Gogh museum puts it, “also had implications for Vincent’s financial situation.”

Who knows – if Van Gogh had been more financially stable, perhaps he wouldn’t have been sent over the edge at the age of 37, and there would be many more of his paintings for us to appreciate.

And who knows how many other people all over the world could make significant contributions to humanity if there was a basic income. A little financial stability could make all the difference.

For a thoughtful discussion on how basic income could democratize creativity, see here. Basic Income Ireland has a page on how basic income could support artists here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Caroline Whyte collaborated with Richard Douthwaite on an online update of his book Short Circuit: Strengthening Local Economies in an Unstable World in 2002-3 and went on to study ecological economics at Mälardalen University in Sweden in 2005-6, writing a masters thesis on the relationship between central banking and sustainability. She compiled the conclusion for Feasta's 2011 book Fleeing Vesuvius and was a contributor to the Feasta Climate Group's book Sharing for Survival in 2012. She lives in central France, from where she edits the Feasta website.

7. Industrial Quality Standards and Best Practices

Competitive and Sustainable Manufacturing
in the Age of Globalization

Toly Chen

This article was originally published in
Sustainability, 24 December 2016
under a Creative Commons License

Abstract: Competitiveness is the ability and performance of a firm, subsector or country to sell or supply goods or services in a given market. The competitiveness and sustainability of an enterprise are closely related. Competitiveness has received ever-growing attention in the era of globalization. This Special Issue provides a forum for researchers and practitioners to review and disseminate quality research work on competitive and sustainable manufacturing in the era of globalization and their applications, and to identify critical issues for further developments.

Keywords: competitiveness; sustainability; manufacturing; globalization

1. Introduction

With the trend of globalization, the competition within some industries is becoming increasingly fierce. To survive in the industry, every firm must strive to continually improve its competence in one way or another [1]. For example, some firms do not have their own factories, so they can focus on activities that are more profitable [2], while others continue expanding their manufacturing capacity to further drive down costs [3]. Other common strategies include: outsourcing [4], the blue ocean strategy [5], better scheduling [6,7], factory simulation [8,9], green and lean technologies [10,11,12], applying the competitiveness diamond model [13], cyber-physical systems and cloud manufacturing [14,15,16], developing next-generation technologies [17,18], forming alliances [19,20], etc.

In contrast, some studies have shown that even with considerable research and development (R&D) capabilities, manufacturers cannot guarantee long-term competitiveness (i.e., sustainability) [1,21]. In addition, in the past, support from the government enabled the continued growth of manufacturers in some regions. After such support disappears, maintaining competitiveness and sustainability becomes a big problem [22]. Further, the rise of the Chinese market and of its manufacturers has brought opportunities and threats to existing firms [22,23].

This Special Issue is intended to provide details regarding sustainable development and competitive strategies, and their applications to manufacturing.

2. Competitive and Sustainable Manufacturing Approaches

Sophisticated models for assisting the design processes of complex mechanical products are essential for managers or designers to manage design processes and further improve design efficiency. Zheng et al. [24] put forth a supernetwork-based model for designing complex mechanical products. They first identified the key elements in the design processes of complex mechanical products. Then, based on these, they analyzed the sub-elements of the key elements and the relationships between the sub-elements. Finally, sub-networks with sub-elements were built as nodes and their relationships as edges, forming the supernetwork model for assisting the design processes of complex mechanical products based on the sub-networks and their relationships.

The conventional failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA) approaches fail to explain the aggregate effects of a failure from different perspectives such as technical severity, economic severity, and production capacity in some practical applications. To fulfill this gap, Nguyen et al. [25] proposed an extension by considering the associated quality costs and the capability of a failure detection system as additional determinants to signify the priority level for each failure mode. Analytical results indicated that the proposed approach remarkably reduced the percentage of defective fabrics, thus significantly reducing wastes and increasing the operational efficiency.

Joining global production networks is critical to fostering local supplier upgrading. However, heterogeneous buyer-supplier relationships have rarely been configured and even incorporated into such networks empirically. To address this issue, Cho and Lim [26] proposed a framework based on which the features of buyer-supplier relationships can be related to the aspects of local supplier upgrading. In addition, the results of a latent class analysis showed that the ways value chains are governed have different effects on various types of technological upgrading.

Woo and Cho [27] discussed the mechanism under which the cost of wage rigidity is transferred from contractors to subcontracting firms, which in turn aggravates the inequality among the wages of workers in contracting and subcontracting firms. In addition, after studying a Korean case, the intensity of this transferring mechanism was shown to differ from industry to industry. Lu et al. [28] examined consumers’ moral reactions to a product-harm crisis. After conducting a national-wide survey with 801 respondents in China, they found that consumers will react to a product-harm crisis through controlled cognitive processing and emotional intuition. In addition, the survey results also showed that consumers view a product-harm crisis as an ethical issue, and will make an ethical judgment according to the perceived severity and relevance of the crisis.

The Japanese automobile industry has been suffering a huge economic downturn in the recent decade. The rise in costs and the decline in sales led to serious problems in this industry, such as the waste of time in replacing assembly boards for manufacturing lines. To tackle this issue, Wang et al. [29] applied the Teoriya Resheniya Izobreatatelskih Zadatch (TRIZ) approach to provide efficient solutions for the automobile industry. They first analyzed the technical problems using the function and attribute analysis (FAA) model. Then, a contradiction matrix and the inventive principle were applied to find possible solutions to these problems.

Equal channel angular pressing (ECAP) is the most popular and simple process to produce nano-titanium. However, ECAP is time-consuming, power-wasting, and far from sufficient to produce the required ultrafine-grain structure. To address this issue, Wang et al. [30] applied the Teoriya Resheniya Izobreatatelskih Zadatch (TRIZ) approach to improve the performance of ECAP, especially in reducing the production costs.

Because of the dynamic and complex characteristics of foods and their production, environment and sustainability issues are critical to the food industry. Pipatprapa et al. [31] applied the hybrid structural equation modeling (SEM) and the fuzzy analytic hierarchy process (FAHP) approach to find out factors that are influential on the environmental performance of Thailand’s food industry. The results showed that quality management, market orientation, and innovation capability have significantly positive effects on the environmental performance.

Aggregate production planning (APP) is an important task in production planning and control. However, the existing models, either static or dynamic, have several shortcomings. To overcome these, Davizón et al. [32] formulated a mathematical model to achieve optimal control. The mathematical model integrates a second-order dynamical system with a first-order system by considering the production rate, inventory level, capacity, and costs of the work force.

Galal and Moneim [33] formulated a mixed integer nonlinear programming model to determine the product mix in a manufacturing facility to maximize the sustainability index (SI) which is the weighted sum of the economic, environmental, and social measures of sustainability. The weights of these measures were determined using the analytic hierarchy process (AHP) approach.

Electronic paper (e-paper) has a lot of important applications. Huang et al. [34] estimated the future market size of Taiwan’s e-paper industry using a hybrid grey model. They incorporated Fourier series and a Markov chain into discrete Grey model (DGM) (2, 1) and the Verhulst model, respectively, and proposed two new models—Fourier Markov (FM)-Verhulst and FMDGM (2, 1). According to the experimental results, the two models outperformed the existing grey models in improving the estimation accuracy.

Lu et al. [35] investigated the effects of the internal technological innovation capability (ITIC) and external linkages (ELs) on the upgrading of the Chinese automotive manufacturing industry (CAMI) in the global value chain. The results showed that compared to ELs, ITIC was more critical to the upgrading of CAMI. In addition, in some regions, such as Shanghai and Chongqing, the effects of EL are far from significant. In contrast, in other regions, more benefits can be gained through suitable clustering.

3. Conclusions

In the era of globalization, many world-class companies have migrated to certain countries or regions for competitive manufacturing, which highlights the importance of competitive manufacturing for any global company’s sustainable development. This Special Issue features a balance between state-of-the-art research on competitive and sustainable manufacturing in the era of globalization. All methods proposed in this Special Issue have been applied to practical examples. Several valuable results were obtained, which support these methods to be viable strategies in planning-related activities.

Acknowledgments: The guest editor would like to thank the Sustainability Editor-in-Chief, Marc A. Rosen, for fully supporting the release of this Special Issue. The guest editor is also grateful to the contributors who shared their research as well as to the reviewers who spared their valuable time to review papers. The guest editor would also like to thank the journal’s staff. Without their support and professional assistance, prepublication would not have been possible.

Conflicts of Interest: The author declare no conflict of interest.

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© 2016 by the author; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Toly Chen is with the Department of Industrial Engineering and Systems Management, Feng Chia University, No. 100, Wenhua Road, Taichung City 407, Taiwan.

All humans have a propensity to cut corners. Regardless of how income is taxed (Section 5) and returned (Section 6) to tax payers, there is a continuing need for quality standards in all kinds of human work, and all kinds of industrial production and consumption. Methods and tools for this purpose have been developed in such fields as industrial engineering, operations research, and system dynamics. Industrial engineering is specifically concerned with improvements in manufacturing productivity and efficiency. The International Standards Organization (ISO), an agency of the United Nations, has veveloped a comprehensive set of standards, guidelines, and best practices. The IEEE, and other professional organizations, have developed useful quality management standards for manufacturing, health care, education, and other professions.

KEY LINKS:

What about quality standards for financial institutions? ISO 9000 could be used, but it would seem that the financial services industry should have a dedicated five digit standard. ISO-26000 on social responsibility is a guideline, not an auditable standard. Both stricter regulation and auditable standards are urgently needed for the global financial system. Furthermore, quality standards should ensure that dangerous biotechnologies are not used, even if they are financially profitable:

8. Accounting for Externalities in Production and Consumption

Make Polluters, Not Taxpayers, Pay For Destroying Nature

Lorraine Chow

This article was originally published in
EcoWatch, 20 September 2017
under a Creative Commons License

10.17.SUPP4.8.1.jpg
Andrew Hart/Flickr

Erik Solheim, the head of the United Nations' Environment Program, made an interesting point during a recent speech in New York: Companies, not taxpayers, should pay the costs of damaging the planet.

"The profit of destroying nature or polluting the planet is nearly always privatized, while the costs of polluting the planet or the cost of destroying ecosystems is nearly always socialized," Solheim said Monday, per Reuters, at the annual International Conference on Sustainable Development at Columbia University.

"That cannot continue," Solheim added. "Anyone who pollutes, anyone who destroys nature must pay the cost for that destruction or that pollution."

In a recent article, climate experts Peter C. Frumhoff and Myles R. Allen argue that companies like Exxon and other Big Oil and Gas giants—which purportedly knew about the link between fossil fuels and climate change for decades—should shoulder the billions of dollars in damages caused by extreme weather events such as hurricanes that are exacerbated by Earth's rising's temperatures.

Frumhoff and Allen write:

Using a simple, well-established climate model, our study for the first time quantifies the amount of sea level rise and increase in global surface temperatures that can be traced to the emissions from specific fossil fuel companies.

Strikingly, nearly 30% of the rise in global sea level between 1880 and 2010 resulted from emissions traced to the 90 largest carbon producers. Emissions traced to the 20 companies named in California communities' lawsuits contributed 10% of global sea level rise over the same period. More than 6% of the rise in global sea level resulted from emissions traced to ExxonMobil, Chevron and BP, the three largest contributors.

The scientists point out: "It may take tens to hundreds of billions of dollars to support disaster relief and recovery among Gulf coast communities affected by Hurricane Harvey. ExxonMobil, Chevron and BP have collectively pledged only $2.75m."

During his comments in New York, Solheim noted that economic growth and environmental preservation are not mutually exclusive. In India, for example, the promotion of renewable energy is bringing human health and environmental benefits as well as spurring the economy.

"Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi realized he can electrify the villages and provide any number of green jobs—he can provide high economic growth, he can take care of his people, and take care of the planet by the same policies," said Solheim.

Solheim said that a "pollution-free planet" is achievable but the world must take immediate action to meet that goal.

"Change is happening," he said. "Economic-wise, we are on the right track, but we need to speed up because the challenge is so big."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lorraine is a reporter for EcoWatch.

9. Fostering and Deploying Clean Energy Technologies

Terminate Fossil Fuel Subsidies

Richard Grossman

This article was originally published in
Population Matters, 23 September 2017
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION

10.17.SUPP4.9.1.jpg
Craig Generating Station, Craig, Colorado

During a break at a renewable energy meeting sponsored by La Plata Electric Association (LPEA, our electrical co-op) several years ago, a friend and I discussed the pros and cons of generating power with coal. She said that she would favor renewable generation of our energy if it didn’t require subsidies.

We both are plagued by asthma and carry expensive inhalers to use if we have trouble catching our breath. My friend admitted that our air would be better if we weren’t downwind from coal burning power plants. However, it bothered her that some of the taxes she paid went to support a photovoltaic manufacturer that had recently declared bankruptcy.

She expressed surprise when I told her that fossil fuel companies also received tax support. Indeed, subsidies for fossil fuels are more than 5 times larger than subsidies for renewable energy! Worldwide subsidies cost an astounding 444 Billion. In the USA $24 Billion in taxes go to fossil fuel subsidies. That is more than $73 of our tax money for each American, every year!

But subsidies are not the only cost we pay to support the fossil fuel industries, which include coal, oil and natural gas. Burning fossil fuels also costs us all because they are one of the largest causes of climate change—but even that is not the most immediate cost. The most serious cost of fossil fuels is to our health.

It is estimated that 91,045 people die annually as a direct result of air pollution in the USA. In addition, air pollution increases the number of people who suffer from emphysema, heart attacks and strokes—and asthma. Figures from the World Health Organization state that 36% of lung disease deaths, 27% of deaths from heart disease and 34% deaths from strokes are caused by air pollution. That is a huge toll—much larger, but more insidious, than the death rate from terrorism.

What does this have to do with population? My goal is for people to be healthy and to have healthy children. Ideally children should be planned, loved and well cared for. This means that we need to keep our planet healthy, too. Access to voluntary contraception is one of the best ways of assuring these goals. It is also important to minimize our impact on the planet, for our children’s sake.

When people think that they are saving money by having inexpensive electricity, they don’t know the true cost of their power. What is on the bill from LPEA is only a small fraction of the real cost. It is estimated that health care necessitated by the air pollution from fossil fuel-generated power costs over 9 times what we pay the power company! The rate LPEA charges is 12.56¢ per kilowatt-hour. Therefore, the true rate is $1.14 per kilowatt-hour if you include the cost of health care necessitated by air pollution from conventional power sources.

What does this mean to our country? If you look at the period from 2007 to 2015, during which there was rapid growth of solar and wind generation, almost 8000 lives were saved by not generating electricity with fossil fuel. About $70 billion in health care costs was saved by this renewable energy rather than business as usual.

In addition to more immediate health costs, climate change is already causing damage through storms, forest fires and other destruction. It is difficult to put a value on money saved by averting greenhouse gas emissions, however the value of keeping 1 metric ton of CO2 out of the atmosphere is in the range of $35. The savings from slowing climate change in this 8-year period of increasing wind and solar is estimated to be $56 Billion!

Only about 7% of our nation’s “juice” currently comes from wind and solar. Think what a difference it would make to our health if 20% or even 50% of all the electricity used in the country came from renewables. A first step is to get rid of subsidies to the unhealthy fossil fuel industries.

I agree with what Davin Montoya, board president of LPEA, wrote last year: “In fact I think the entire board supports renewable energy; but it should be done in a responsible way. I will only support a program that benefits the entire membership not a select few.” My conclusion, knowing the hazards of air pollution from burning coal to generate electricity, is different from Montoya’s. Renewable energy benefits us all in helping us to be healthier and to spend less on medical care.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Richard Grossman is a retired obstetrician-gynecologist who has been fortunate to live and work in the wonderful community of Durango, Colorado, for 40 years. He is currently researching issues of population ecology and developing a new genre of art: contraceptual art.


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