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Growth Shock, Going on Offense, and Setting an Example for Kindness Economics

Growth Shock Cover Art

If anything, the upcoming book, Growth Shock, is a call for action.

Confronting the combined threat posed by a rapid depletion of renewable and nonrenewable resources, a human population that is still growing beyond the 7 billion number it passed such a short while ago, a rapidly escalating and terrifying climate crisis, and a vast failure to act due to the power of wealthy, greedy, and entrenched special interests who, at every turn, fight to profit from harm, will be impossible without powerful, creative, and coordinated effort. What this means is action on the part of individuals, communities, organizations and governments. What it also requires is leadership from all individuals both great and small.

And if leadership means being among the first to act while compelling others to do the same, then I choose to dedicate the publication of Growth Shock and a majority of the proceeds to undertaking such an effort.

My actions through Growth Shock will involve:

Providing direct charitable contributions to 350.org

350_Banner_Vertical

(Go to 350.org)

In recognizing this imperative in the face of crisis, I’ve decided that the publication of Growth Shock will, in itself, be an action that pushes for effective change. I have identified one charitable organization — 350.org — which has been very effective in both its pursuit of the blocking of access to dangerous unconventional fuel sources (its stop the Keystone XL campaign) and in its direct targeting of the source of so much harm through its ongoing campaign of divestment in fossil fuels programs. 350.org’s other campaigns include an effort to stop all fossil fuel subsidies (globally) and to shift all power sources from fossil energy sources to first order renewables. 350.org is also aligned with a campaign supported by James Hansen to tax all fossil fuel use at the source and/or port of entry and then transfer the funds to the public who would then be incentivized to purchase non fossil energy sources and make more efficient use of energy. 350.org also identifies a probable ‘safe range’ of atmospheric CO2 levels at 350 parts per million and below. This range is based on the advice of climate scientist James Hansen who notes that it may be necessary to push CO2 levels below the 350 ppm limit that is the namesake of the organization.

 

My support of this noble and ongoing effort will involve the donation of fully 40% of the proceeds of Growth Shock to this charitable cause. If sales are small, and donations are low, then I can at least take a small part in this ongoing and effective campaign to remove fossil fuel exploitation and economic dependence. If sales are moderate to large, I hope to be able to provide seed money for new campaigns or expanding efforts under existing campaigns.

As part of this effort I also encourage other authors and bloggers to make funding pledges to 350.org or to similar charitable projects that help to confront the climate crisis through direct and coordinated political action and, when necessary, targeted acts of non violent civil disobedience.

Breaking the Bonds of Captive Consumerism and Providing Money for a Direct Transition Away From Fossil Fuels

Since political action may be stymied, blocked, and delayed by entrenched fossil fuel special interests, funding direct campaigns such as those conducted by 350.org may not be enough to address the larger problem inherent to an urgently needed energy transition. As individuals, we must increasingly take responsibility for our own energy use as well as the energy use of others. Such energy use and, what I perceive to be a market-enforced addiction to fossil fuels (by denial of economic alternatives), is a primary contributor to our current climate and economic problems.

My wife and I, like many who live in the western world, are among these captive consumers. Our electricity comes from a power company that generates only 20% of its energy from renewable sources. And though we live in a state — Maryland — that is progressive and actively pursues an increasing proportion of renewable energy, its current pace of transfer is not rapid enough for comfort. We also own a vehicle that, though having a fuel efficiency in excess of 35 mpg, is still entirely reliant on fossil energy. On the positive note, we are both vegan and, when possible, choose local food sources and so our food preferences have a very low climate impact while improving food availability for our fellows.

That said, there is much that could be done to further reduce our individual impacts — primarily investing in a solar energy system and a related solar garage for an electric vehicle. Having access to these resources would allow both myself and my wife to be freed from a majority of our captive fossil fuel consumerism and so this is also a goal inherent to the publication of Growth Shock.

Fully 20% of all proceeds from the book will go to a fossil energy freedom fund (FEFF) for our household. Once enough money is allayed for the provision of these alternative resources, we will undertake their installation as a completion of our own energy transition. But we won’t stop there.

Since we must also be held accountable for the energy use of our fellow human beings, once my wife and I achieve a high degree of fossil energy independence, these funds will shift to providing a similar gift, first to friends and family members and then to complete strangers. Should we achieve these aspirations, a role-out of FEFF contributions to others will be provided in more detail.

As with the 350.org donations, I will keep track of progress in a monthly report on this blog.

Unlikely Outrageous Success

Should Growth Shock be an unlikely outrageous success, the amount of funds going to charitable causes and active energy transitions will, necessarily, rise. In Growth Shock, I advocate highly progressive rates of taxation for individuals making more than 250,000 dollars per year and 1 million dollars per year respectively. In the highly unlikely event that Growth Shock should, even briefly, generate such a high level of revenue, then I will provide additional charitable contributions and charitable energy transition efforts equal to the difference between my base tax rate on the 40% of funds going to myself and my wife and the suggested rates given in Growth Shock for levels beyond 250,000 dollars. It is worth noting that, since 60% is already dedicated to transition or charity, additional amounts will push the giving level of ‘kindness economics’ far beyond that even suggested.

Since it is highly unlikely for Growth Shock to enjoy such a high level of public success, this additional pledge is probably a symbolic, but still important gesture.

An Open Call For Similar Action

I am also calling for others to act in a manner similar to that which I have described here. There are many important charity organizations like the Sierra club who are also involved in very effective campaigns to reduce reliance on and use of fossil fuels. In addition, individual pledges for private transitions away from fossil energy sources would be a very helpful addition to the broader, public campaigns. Greatly diminishing the power of the fossil fuel industry by reducing fossil fuel reliance will at least begin to point the nose of the ship of human civilization toward fairer weather, even though extraordinarily powerful storms may still await us on that, far less harmful, path of travel.

It is also worth noting that these actions only begin to address the problems outlined in Growth Shock. However, it is my view that removing fossil fuel reliance will begin to address some of the most immediate problems inherent in both resource depletion and in our current failure to provide effective mitigation to a rapidly worsening climate crisis. And even if mitigation is pursued it will continue to be imperative to provide aid for victims and the likely refugees that will inevitably result from a number of hard changes that are now unavoidable. So once the most important hurdle of mitigation is crossed, it is likely that we will then need to shift funds to helping victims, adaptation, and the invigoration of a kindness/living systems economy that works to revitalize the Earth life support structure through direct aid to and cooperation with our companion species here on Earth. An explanation of methods for weaving human systems back into living Earth systems will be provided in much greater depth and detail later. But such goals are outsets and worth mentioning.

Lastly, but not least importantly, It will probably also be necessary to support efforts and organizations that promote both kind and effective population restraint. Likely, another charity publication will be aimed at that effort.

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How to Fight the Fossil Fuel Special Interests: Thirteen Steps to Protecting Our Future

(Teddy Roosevelt established America’s first Progressive Party. Called the Bull Moose Party, it ran on a platform of halting the abuses of industry, preserving natural resources, advancing civilization, and developing government structures that advanced the public good. President Roosevelt, shown above, riding a moose.)

 

In dealing with the combined crisis of resource depletion and climate change, those seeking solutions are confronted at every turn with entrenched special interests whose profit and power comes from a perpetuation of a harmful status quo. They delay responses to human caused global warming. They confuse the issue by meddling with the language and definitions surrounding the topics of energy and climate. They actively work to attack alternatives to fossil fuel dependence, waging public relations and political campaigns against the supports for wind, solar, electric vehicles and increases in energy efficiency. And they work to secure special deals and subsidies to a fossil fuel industry whose goal is complete market dominance.

When we look at the money, power, and degree of political influence held by these organizations, it can, indeed, seem a massive task to rip the fingers of these new robber barons from a strangle-hold on our future. But try we must. If we do not, the future steadily grows worse. As the decades pass, the twin crises of resource depletion and climate change ratchet down on us with increasing force. At some point, we lose the ability to maintain the functioning of a world civilization and we fragment into an every-increasing number of bitter and bickering tribes, harboring only a fading memory of a golden age that has slipped beyond our reach.

These may seem like far-reaching issues. But they are real and ongoing today. And we, even now, consciously or unconsciously, are making decisions that will drastically affect the path of our lives, our children’s lives, and the lives of all generations that follow. For we have come to a turning point in our age and we must decide whether to act responsibly or to allow the hope of civilization to perish.

There are many who are already engaged in an action to shore up our civilization, our world, our vital natural resources, and the technologies, practices and behaviors that will enable sustainability. These persons come from a variety of organizations and values systems. But the one virtue they hold in common is that they know sustainability is a necessary value of a healthy civilization. Some of these organizations include:

http://www.350.org/

http://www.americanprogress.org/

http://www.sierraclub.org/

http://www.nrdc.org/

… and many more activist and advocacy organizations and think-tanks.

In addition, we have the faculty of human science that is constantly increasing our understanding of our universe and our world. All these groups, both preservers and explorers, provide an invaluable service. They guard the gates to climate change. They hold back the worst impacts of fossil fuel special interests. They provide us with a clearer and clearer understanding of the crisis we are facing.

Together, they have formed a kind of holding action reigning in the world-wide excesses of industry. But now, a holding action is no longer what is required. For even as the climate and resource depleting crises worsen, the fossil fuel industries are again engaged in a massive campaign for dominance of political, media, and financial power sources. Against this assault, a holding action cannot stand. The gate keepers instead, must unite and go on the offensive.

Returning to the issue of fossil fuel industry abuses, it is important to note that they have demonstrated, through both their action and inaction, their complete lack of responsibility on the issues of human caused global warming and resource depletion. They have waged a public relations and political war against any and all alternatives to dirty, dangerous and depleting fuels. They have blatantly refused to do anything more than what amounts to token investment in alternative energy sources. And many of them have funded efforts to demonize both scientists and those providing solutions to the combined crisis of global warming and resource depletion.

Given this immense failure, it is sadly necessary to declare a public war against these special interests and to use all peaceful means available to remove their stature as energy leaders. Over the past few decades, they have failed to make provision for the future in almost every way while employing every means to cynically shore up their own power. They have caused harm where there was no harm before. And they have placed the future of human civil society in dire peril. For these reasons, we should raise a public call that all organizations and individuals with means rally to this cause and that they operate together for a common purpose — removal of these special interests from such high power and economic prominence.

In pursuit of these goals, the following are submitted as an outline for a plan of action:

1. Provide an in-depth, wide-ranging, and ongoing communication describing industry political, economic, and environmental abuses to the public. This PR campaign would need to hit all levels of media and government. Coordination of the various environmental, sustainability, and public service networks would be key to successfully managing this kind of campaign.

2. Initiate a wide-ranging direct action against new oil, gas, and coal industry projects. A good model for this is the action against the Keystone XL pipeline. However, the actions would have to be more broad-based and diverse. Similar to what is being waged against the coal industry now, but on a broader level.

3. Direct political action and lobbying. An increase in lobbying activity explaining to our government why these actions are being undertaken and providing a list of concessions necessary from industry in order for actions to cease (requirements for action cease fire).

4. Related to the above… Lines in the sand drawn on overall carbon emissions reduction per year, on incentives for renewables (at least four times the levels of direct and indirect incentives to oil, gas, and coal or 2% of public spending), and on government public communication in major media outlets providing education on the existence and risks of global warming and resource depletion.

5. Publicly outing major oil company stock holders and industry leaders who do not agree to the terms above.

6. Organizing a campaign to promote and protect the alternatives. Direct support for GM’s Volt. Direct support for wind energy. Direct support for solar energy. Direct support for smart grids and energy storage systems. Direct support for sustainability in agriculture and for sustainable communities. Direct support for vegan and vegetarian alternatives in major food outlets and other progressive measures. This is not just word of mouth, it is coordination with the new industries in order to give them a PR advantage. In addition, identifying specific areas where coal, oil, and gas can be directly replaced by alternatives.

7. Schools, schools, schools. Coordinate non-profits to develop a fund to put solar panels on public schools. Campaign in a ‘save our schools, save our world’ program that raises both the importance of schools and the need for alternative energy. Enlist teachers, students, librarians. Develop renewable energy and global warming laboratories at schools through their science and technology programs. Form local fundraisers to collect money for school solar panels and education programs. Focus on the schools in Texas, Oklahoma, California, North Dakota, North Carolina, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Virginia and Florida the most. These are either key energy regions, areas that will be hardest hit by climate change or both.

8. Change the language to reflect the true nature of the problems facing us. Global warming is an appropriate descriptor. Denier is more apt than skeptic. Paint those who support fossil fuel industries and who deny global warming as irresponsible, short sighted, and harmful to society. If they are going to act in an amoral fashion. Shame, shame, shame them.

9. Focus on the media. Hold the media accountable for irresponsibility in its portrayal of energy and climate issues. Expand the scope of agencies like Media Matters to include the entire media on issues like global warming, climate change, and alternative energy. As an example, I see about one hit piece on the Chevy Volt at least every other day. These articles, the people who write them, and the news sources they come from should be called out, fact checked, and exposed for publishing inaccurate and harmful information.

10. Direct action to protest public officials funded by the oil, gas, and coal industry. Identify political officials funded by oil, gas, and coal. Publicly post information about them on ‘watch dog’ sites on the internet. Pick visible and prominent figures from this group and organize strategic protests against them aimed to call attention to their pandering to oil, gas and coal special interests. Identify oil, gas, and coal funding sources, organizations hired to do their political dirty work etc.

11. Provide an agency designed to protect the scientists. Provide legal assistance to scientists assaulted by fossil fuel special interests. Provide public advocacy on behalf of these scientists. Put people to work tracking every death threat, every instance of public besmirchment, every fallacious litigation against these scientists, every invasion and violation of their human and Constitutional rights. Track groups that have targeted scientists. Identify individuals. Target these groups and individuals with both civil and criminal prosecution.

12. Protect our future. On every Earth Day, each year, to symbolically communicate our resolve to protect our future, we could organize groups of concerned individuals to form ‘linked arm rings’ around the institutions, natural resources, community, state and national bodies and infrastructure that play a key role in preserving out future. We could encircle GISS, NASA, NOAA offices, Solar panel facilities, windmills, a neighborhood Chevy Volt, parts of our national parks. Our bicycles. Our local farms. We could take a picture and post them to all forms of media on the net under the header “Earth Day, Protect our Future, the things, people, creatures, and places we must protect to ensure a good future.” The idea is to create a ritual action, repeated yearly, that cements in people’s minds the importance of preserving the future. Have prominent individuals make speeches. Encourage people to write poems or publish blogs on this subject. Encourage only certain foods (local, vegan etc) to be eaten on the week leading up to this day. The idea is to cement a cultural value, to provide a symbolic action, and to create a basis for a new form of moral good. And, last of all, to force the world to recognize it.

13. The public elevation and celebration of climate and alternative energy luminaries like James Hansen, Bill McKibben, Joe Romm, Al Gore, and others who are eloquent, brave, or who have maintained the strength of character to directly confront our problems. We should also elevate and celebrate those who have come before — persons like Rachael Carson and John Muir or presidents like Teddy Roosevelt. Even as we look to the future we should establish precedent based on the morality, prominence, resonance, and moral bravery of our leaders. Many have sought to demonize these individuals. We should, therefore, fight to defend them.

For events to have degenerated to the level of direct conflict, rather than that of cooperation, is truly tragic. However, responsible people can no longer sit by or offer only token and fragmented resistance to fossil fuel special interests. The damage caused to both climate and economies is now widely apparent and still these powerful organizations work to delay action, to harm the alternatives, and to attack scientists.

The degree of self-serving insanity coming from this group has risen to the level of a narcissistic irrationality. If we were on a sinking ship they would be screaming ‘don’t man the pumps!’ for fear of wetting their fragile and overly decorous business attire. It’s high time we got them off the deck, away from the captain, and safely locked in the brig, all while the rest of us managed this emergency and fought to save the vessel from sinking.

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