Archive for category Great Redistribution
In various ways, cars are at the center of our oil dependence. Long term, well, many things are needed – more public transportation, new kinds of propulsion, reorganized cities, towns, and suburbs. Short term, anything that moves in that general direction.
Hoboken, NJ, is a small city across the Hudson River from mid-town Manhattan. Once a port and small-industrial city, now it’s a bedroom community for people working in New York City. Lots of them. And cars infest the streets. In the past couple of years the city has done two things to free its residents of cars: 1) they’ve partnered with Hertz to create a city-wide car-sharing program. According to the City “the first phase of this program is anticipated to remove more than 750 vehicles from Hoboken’s crowded streets.” 2) They’ve established a shuttle service that circumnavigates the city and is no more than a 5-minute walk from any resident. The shuttles are tracked by GPS, which can be followed on the web or through cell phone. Ridership has increased by 50% in the first 6 months of use.
219 years ago our originators “brought forth upon this continent a new nation: conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
Today we have less liberty. Inequality has reached obscene proportions as millions die of preventable diseases and starvation each year, and over a billion children suffer sociogenic brain damage worldwide, as the rich get ever richer. We have been engaged for many years in stalemated, unwinnable wars that waste Nature and bankrupt us spiritually, morally, economically and politically. If, seven generations from now, we are to celebrate freedom and the proposition that all humans and all lifeforms are part of the Great Order Of Diversity, the Great Equality Aspiration, we must renounce fear and war, victimization and alienation, to participate fully in Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness following faithfully “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” that guided our founders.
We, as a united people, mindful of our consumption and numbers, must dedicate ourselves to consecrating Earth, hallowing this planet and all its creatures great and small, so that future generations may live in peace, ecological balance and liberty. This Declaration of Interdependance introduces a Great Transition that places joy, well being, and sustainable economics first.
In this spirit we resolve that this nation, under “the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,” shall have a new birth of freedom . . . and that government of the people . . . by the people . . . for the people . . . shall not perish from the Earth.”
While the internet has been very important in recent protest movements in Tunisia and Egypt, the internet is also vulnerable to central control, as when the Egyptian government all but shut down the internet within Egypt. We need an online world that’s genuinely free. Eben Moglen, a professor at Columbia Law School, has been advocating the need for a Freedom Box, a little server you could plug-in to a wall socket that would allow us to conduct online business outside the confines of Facebook, Google, and the rest. Here’s a New York Times story about Moglen and his idea. Here’s Moglen’s Freedom Box Foundation, and here’s the Kickstarter project that’s getting it funded. If you want to volunteer to work on the Freedom Box or follow the work, go to this wiki at debian.org.
Richard Heinberg is posting drafts from his new book in progress, The End of Growth (New Society Publishers). “The Sound of Air Escaping” explains why the American economy is grinding to a halt, with little chance of continuing forward on its present path. He observes:
During the 1930s, industrialized countries were in the early stages of their shift from an agrarian coal-based rural economy to an electrified, oil-based, urban economy—a shift that required enormous infrastructure investments (in new highways, airports, dams, and power lines) that would ultimately pay off handsomely for a nation on the verge of realizing a consumer utopia. All that was needed to initiate the building of that infrastructure was credit—grease for the wheels of commerce. Government got those wheels rolling by taking on debt, with private companies increasingly taking up the lead after World War II. The expansion that occurred from the 1950s through 2000, as that infrastructure was built out and put to use, easily justified the government pump-priming that initiated the process. Interest payments on the government debt could be paid through growth of the tax base.
Now is different. … both the U.S. and the world as a whole have passed a fundamental crossroads characterized by increasing scarcity of energy and crucial minerals. Because of this, strategies of growth that worked spectacularly well in the mid-to-late 20th century—via various forms of business and technological development—have reached a point of diminishing returns.
If the Keynesian remedy doesn’t cure the ailment but merely extends the suffering (while increasing government debt to truly toxic levels), the medicine of austerity may have such severe side effects that it could kill the patient outright. Both sides—left and right, the socialists and free-marketers—assume and hope to the point of desperation that their prescription will result in a rapid return to continuous economic growth and low unemployment. … that hope is futile.
There is no “silver bullet,” no magic solution that will turn back the clock to an era of abundant resources and easy growth. For now, all that governments can do is buy time through further deficit spending—ideally, using that time to build infrastructure that will continue to function in the coming era of reduced flows of energy and resources. Meanwhile, we must all find ways to come out from under a burden of debt that will otherwise crush us. The inherent contradiction within this prescription is obvious but unavoidable.
Writing in The Nation, Johann Hari spells out this fantasy:
Imagine a parallel universe where the Great Crash of 2008 was followed by a Tea Party of a very different kind. Enraged citizens gather in every city, week after week—to demand the government finally regulate the behavior of corporations and the superrich, and force them to start paying taxes. The protesters shut down the shops and offices of the companies that have most aggressively ripped off the country. The swelling movement is made up of everyone from teenagers to pensioners. They surround branches of the banks that caused this crash and force them to close, with banners saying, You Caused This Crisis. Now YOU Pay.
And he goes on to point out that it has happened:
This may sound like a fantasy—but it has all happened. The name of this parallel universe is Britain. As recently as this past fall, people here were asking the same questions liberal Americans have been glumly contemplating: Why is everyone being so passive? Why are we letting ourselves be ripped off? Why are people staying in their homes watching their flat-screens while our politicians strip away services so they can fatten the superrich even more?
And so a dozen British citizens decided to start protesting against Vodaphone, which had managed to to gull the government into forgiving £5 billion in taxes:
That first protest grabbed a little media attention—and then the next day, in a different city, three other Vodafone stores were shut down in the northern city of Leeds, by unconnected protests. UK Uncut realized this could be replicated across the country. So the group set up a Twitter account and a website, where members announced there would be a national day of protest the following Saturday. They urged anybody who wanted to organize a protest to e-mail them so it could be added to a Google map. Britain’s most prominent tweeters, such as actor Stephen Fry, joined in.
Could this happen in the USofA?