Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category
Mainstream economics is largely built on theories that assume that people are best understood as highly competitive and individualistic maximizing agents. In fact, capitalism is said to be the most desirable economic system ever constructed precisely because its laws of motion are in sync with these traits. Capitalism’s desirability is easily called into question, however, if people highly value fairness, cooperation, and relations of solidarity. After all, capitalist imperatives tend to work against the development of social conditions and institutions that promote these values.
Many supporters of capitalism draw upon studies of non-human animal behavior to defend their assumptions about human nature. But, as the Ted Talk by Frans de Waal found here (and below) demonstrates, non-human animals also greatly value fairness, cooperation, and relations of solidarity.
After watching the video take a few moments to imagine an economic system that builds upon these attractive values, then compare the policies that would be helpful to create it with the policies we currently promote to strengthen our existing economic system. For example, how would this foundational shift influence our thinking about how best to organize production, relate production decisions to social and community needs, structure the ownership of society’s productive assets, and so on.
The Asia Times Online calls it “‘Occupy’ with Chinese Characteristics.” Whether Chinese activists identify with the Occupy Movement is unclear. What is clear is the growing activism of:
a confrontational vanguard of young people – high school students and twenty-somethings (collectively known as “after 80s” and “after 90s” for their birth years) who appear quite happy to mix it up violently with the cops and cadres.
The most recent confrontation took place on July 28thin Qidong. Qidong, as the Austalian Socialist Alternative explains,
is located on an estuary of the Yangtze River; across the way stands China’s biggest city, Shanghai. The Yangtze River Delta is one of China’s richest regions, but high speed economic development has come at the cost of severe environmental destruction. For example, more than half of coastal areas in Jiangsu province (where Qidong is located) are categorised as “seriously polluted zones” by the Ocean and Fishery Bureau. The main source of pollution is the industrial wastewater illegally discharged by corporations.
The Chinese government wants to build a new pipeline that would take wastewater from a special economic zone near Shanghai to a major Qidong fishing port on the Yellow Sea. The pipeline would serve a paper mill and nearly completed pulp plant, both of which are owned by a large Japanese multinational, Oji Paper Company of Japan. The people of Qidong don’t believe Chinese government claims that the wastewater will be safe and have voiced opposition to the pipeline since 2009 when the government first proposed its construction.
THE RESISTANCE MOVEMENT IN ACTION
Here is a report from a Japanese newspaper about what happened in Qidong:
About 5,000 people filled the streets in central Qidong before 6 a.m., when the rally began. The protesters began chanting, “Protect the environment” against the dangers posed by a plan for a drainage pipeline into local waters.
But less than 10 minutes later, the crowd broke through a row of police officers blocking the main street and started marching toward the city government building 1 kilometer away. The demonstrators became louder after they reached the building.
Several minutes later, they pulled down the steel gate and swarmed over the premises.
About 2,000 occupied the inner courtyard, several thousand on the street in front of the city government building and many others in nearby structures overlooking the building, bringing the total of protesters to more than 10,000.
Here are some pictures that help to give a feeling for the day’s events:
This was, as Socialist Action describes, a well planned action:
In order to stop this disastrous project, small-scale protests had been occurring since June, but were suppressed by the local government with various means. When China’s summer school holiday began in July, many students in Qidong decided to help build a bigger protest movement. They used social media to spread the information, but also produced many leaflets “To the people of Qidong” and distributed them in shopping centres and other public spaces. . . .
Big banners of petition with countless signatures were carried in the middle of the column, saying “Resolutely Resist Oji Paper Discharging Wastewater at Qidong”. Organisers equipped with megaphones led the chanting: “Opposing Oji Paper, defending our home!” A teenage woman, holding an anti-pollution t-shirt with her mother, marched proudly in the front of the contingent. More people arrived. The demonstration was growing like a rolling snowball.
People were taking photos from the roadsides and posting them online. Within hours, the news of Qidong had spread like a wild fire nationally. . . . Some shops offered free bottled water and bread to the protesters as support. A 70-year-old woman reproached the cops: “These kids are doing the right thing, don’t disrupt them.” Most of the police personnel who arrived in the morning were local residents, whose families would be affected by the pollution as much as the protesters, so they generally sympathised with the cause. Moreover, they were heavily outnumbered so could not stop the protesters anyway!
Outside the municipal building, the protesters demanded that the government stop Oji Paper from building industrial wastewater pipes. The officials rejected the demand with the excuse that the government would have to pay a great amount of compensation to the company if they cancelled the project. The response enraged the crowd and thousands of protesters stormed the building. They surrounded the party secretary (the highest government official in a city) and asked him to wear an anti-pollution T-shirt. On his refusal the protesters stripped him naked and chased him around.
Large quantities of poker cards, condoms, expensive cigarettes and imported wine were found in those officials’ offices. These things were displayed on the roadside as evidence of government corruption.
The outcome, as reported by Asia Times Online, was a victory for the demonstrators:
The announcement posted on the Qidong municipal website on July 28, the same day as the demonstrations, stated:
After careful considerations, the Nantong City Government has decided to halt the implementation of the Nantong Large-Scale Project for Expelling Standards-Meeting Water into the Sea in Qidong.
An electronic billboard in Qidong displayed a less nuanced, more crowd-pleasing message on the same day, even as demonstrators were gathered in the city center:
After careful consideration, the Nantong City Government has decided to cancel this project for ever.
The Qidong protest was no isolated event. For example, it followed the three day June struggle in Shifang (in Sichuan province, Southwest China) to halt the construction of a copper smelter. According to Asia Times Online,
In Shifang, activists among a crowd of several thousand attempted to bumrush the municipal government building, but were repelled in a police action that turned into something of a police riot. The result was dozens of serious injuries inflicted on agitators, demonstrators, and hapless bystanders alike, and a marked swing in national popular sympathy toward the demonstrators.
Despite the repression, the activists did succeed in forcing the government to cancel the project. Socialist Action notes that the Shifang action was itself inspired by:
a 100,000-strong demonstration in Dalian (in Liaoning province, Northeast China) last year, which compelled the local government to promise to move a chemical plant. . . .
From Dalian to Shifang, then to Qidong, young people dominated. They used social media to organise their actions, their enthusiasm to agitate the masses and their bodies to fight the cops. Many of them were born after 1989, but they have inherited the spirit of Tiananmen Square. Such a generation of youth are not only active in environmental struggles, but also in the strikes taking place in the factories of Pearl River Delta, in the land rights uprisings occurring in the villages of Guangdong, in the battles against police brutality that occur in every city on a daily basis.
There is a lot going on in China that is not reported in this country. While there is indeed labor repression there is also resistance fueled by the desire of many Chinese to change the direction of their country. Rather than seeing ourselves locked in some kind of zero sum economic competition with China, we should be looking to connect with Chinese activists, sharing experiences and strategies. After all, we also are in desperate need of a change in direction.
China is widely celebrated as an economic success story. And it is as far as GDP, investment, and export growth is concerned. However, as we know well from our experience in the United States, such economic indicators often reveal little about the reality of people’s lives. In China workers are subject to intense working conditions with a disproportionate share of the benefits of production going to a top few. For example, as Bloomberg News notes:
The richest 70 members of China’s legislature added more to their wealth last year than the combined net worth of all 535 members of the U.S. Congress, the president and his Cabinet, and the nine Supreme Court justices.
The net worth of the 70 richest delegates in China’s National People’s Congress, which opens its annual session on March 5, rose to 565.8 billion yuan ($89.8 billion) in 2011, a gain of $11.5 billion from 2010, according to figures from the Hurun Report, which tracks the country’s wealthy. That compares to the $7.5 billion net worth of all 660 top officials in the three branches of the U.S. government.
The income gain by NPC members reflects the imbalances in economic growth in China, where per capita annual income in 2010 was $2,425, less than in Belarus and a fraction of the $37,527 in the U.S. The disparity points to the challenges that China’s new generation of leaders, to be named this year, faces in countering a rise in social unrest fueled by illegal land grabs and corruption.
“It is extraordinary to see this degree of a marriage of wealth and politics,” said Kenneth Liberthal, director of the John L. Thornton China Center at Washtington’s Brookings Institution. “It certainly lends vivid texture to the widespread complaints in China about an extreme inequality of wealth in the country now.”
Growing numbers of Chinese workers and farmers have been engaged in workplace and community struggles in opposition to corporate and government policies, especially those designed to intensify the privatization, deregulation, and liberalization of the Chinese economy. The number and determination of participants in these struggles has forced business and government leaders on the defensive.
Recently, the People’s Daily ran an editorial calling for renewed commitment to “reform” in an attempt to shore up support for the government’s neoliberal policies. The editorial appears to have triggered growing discussions and debates on and off the internet among academics and activists about alternatives.
One concrete outcome from these discussions and debates is a 16 point proposal which was developed collectively and recently published on the Red China website; it has gained significant support. The following is an English translation of the proposal by the China Study Club at University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Reading it provides a window into political developments in China and also highlights the similarity of struggles in China and the United States.
A SIXTEEN-POINT PROPOSAL ON CHINA’S REFORM
1. That the personal and family wealth of all officials be publicized and their source clarified, and all “naked bureaucrats” be expelled from the Party and the government. (“Naked bureaucrats” refer to those officials whose family lives in developed countries and whose assets have been transferred abroad, leaving nothing but him/herself in China.)
2. That the National Congress concretely exercises its legislative and monitory function, comprehensively review the economic policies implemented by the state council, and defend our national economic security.
3. That the existing pension plans be consolidated and retirees be treated equally regardless of sector and rank.
4. That elementary and secondary education be provided free of charge throughout the country; compensation for rural teachers be substantially raised and educational resources be allocated on equal terms across urban and rural areas; and the state assume the responsibility of raising and educating vagrant youth.
5. That the charges of higher education be lowered, and public higher education gradually become fully public-funded and free of charge.
6. That the proportion of state expenditure on education be increased to and beyond international average level.
7. That the price and charge of basic and critical medicines and medical services be managed by the state in an open and planned manner; the price of all medical services and medicines should be determined and enforced by the state in view of social demand and actual cost of production.
8. That heavy progressive real estate taxes be levied on owners of two or more residential housings, so as to alleviate severe financial inequality and improve housing availability.
9. That a nation-wide anti-corruption online platform be established, where all PRC citizens may file report or grievance on corruption or abuse instances; the state should investigate in openly accountable manner and promptly publicized the result.
10. That the state of national resources and environmental security be comprehensively assessed, exports of rare, strategic minerals be immediately cut down and soon stopped, and reserve of various strategic materials be established.
11. That we pursue a self-reliant approach to economic development; any policy that serves foreign capitalists at the cost of the interest of Chinese working class should be abolished.
12. That labor laws be concretely implemented, sweatshops be thoroughly investigated; enterprises with arrears of wage, illegal use of labor, or detrimental working condition should be closed down if they fail to meet legal requirements even after lawfully limited term for self-correction.
13. That the coal industry be nationalized across the board, all coal mine workers receive the same level of compensation as state-owned enterprise mine workers do, and enjoy paid vacation and state-funded medical service.
14. That the personal and family wealth of managerial personnel in state-owned enterprises be publicized; the compensation of such personnel should be determined by the corresponding level of people’s congress.
15. That all governmental overhead expenses be restricted; purchase of automobile with state funds be restricted; all unnecessary traveling in the name of “research abroad” be suspended.
16. That the losses of public assets during the “reforms” be thoroughly traced, responsible personnel be investigated, and those guilty of stealing public properties be apprehended and openly tried.
The WTO is said to be concerned only with the promotion of free trade for our collective benefit. And, according to the WTO, the TBT was negotiated to achieve that very aim. In the words of the WTO:
Technical regulations and product standards may vary from country to country. Having many different regulations and standards makes life difficult for producers and exporters. If regulations are set arbitrarily, they could be used as an excuse for protectionism. The Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade tries to ensure that regulations, standards, testing and certification procedures do not create unnecessary obstacles, while also providing members with the right to implement measures to achieve legitimate policy objectives, such as the protection of human health and safety, or the environment.
Sounds reasonable—well, the United States just lost two cases this past September in which foreign governments charged the United States with violating that agreement.
First case: a WTO panel ruled in Mexico’s favor against U.S. measures designed to protect dolphins. The United States allows tuna fishers that use dolphin-safe nets to label their tuna sold in the U.S with a dolphin-safe label. According to Mexico, this unfairly discriminates against those fishers that want to use different methods of production. The WTO agreed—the U.S. was being an unfair trader. No more labels.
Second case: a WTO panel ruled against U.S. measures designed to reduce teenage smoking. Among other things, the U.S. measures banned the sale of many flavored cigarettes–in particular clove cigarettes–which were seen as likely to hook young smokers. Indonesia is a major producer and exporter to the United States of clove cigarettes and it argued that the U.S. ban discriminated against its products. The WTO agreed—the U.S. was being an unfair trader.
It also looks likely that a WTO panel will find against U.S. consumer labeling laws that allow country of origin labeling for beef. If consumers knew where their beef came from it might influence their purchasing decisions. That could have a negative effect on sales of imported beef.
Free trade in the eyes of the WTO means maximum freedom for corporations to produce and sell products as they want. Said differently, it means a world in which governments are forbidden to take steps to protect the environment or the health of its citizens if doing so interferes with private profit making.
This is just one agreement. The WTO presides over many more that are equally, if not more, scandalous. You will be hard pressed to read about these decisions in the press. The reason: it might encourage people to question the free trade agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama that the U.S. government is promoting, since they also include TBTs. My recently published analysis of the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement can be read here.
The United Kingdom faces many of the same problems we do. And the British government has decided to respond to these problems with many of the same policies promoted by our own conservative political leaders: slash public spending and cut public sector jobs and wages. In fact, the British plan calls for six consecutive years of spending cuts. As Paul Krugman explains:
Britain, like America, is suffering from the aftermath of a housing and debt bubble. Its problems are compounded by London’s role as an international financial center: Britain came to rely too much on profits from wheeling and dealing to drive its economy — and on financial-industry tax payments to pay for government programs.
Over-reliance on the financial industry largely explains why Britain, which came into the crisis with relatively low public debt, has seen its budget deficit soar to 11 percent of G.D.P. — slightly worse than the U.S. deficit. And there’s no question that Britain will eventually need to balance its books with spending cuts and tax increases.
The operative word here should, however, be “eventually.” Fiscal austerity will depress the economy further unless it can be offset by a fall in interest rates. Right now, interest rates in Britain, as in America, are already very low, with little room to fall further. The sensible thing, then, is to devise a plan for putting the nation’s fiscal house in order, while waiting until a solid economic recovery is under way before wielding the ax.
But trendy fashion, almost by definition, isn’t sensible — and the British government seems determined to ignore the lessons of history.
Both the new British budget announced on Wednesday [October 20, 2010] and the rhetoric that accompanied the announcement might have come straight from the desk of Andrew Mellon, the Treasury secretary who told President Herbert Hoover to fight the Depression by liquidating the farmers, liquidating the workers, and driving down wages. Or if you prefer more British precedents, it echoes the Snowden budget of 1931, which tried to restore confidence but ended up deepening the economic crisis.
The British government’s plan is bold, say the pundits — and so it is. But it boldly goes in exactly the wrong direction. It would cut government employment by 490,000 workers — the equivalent of almost three million layoffs in the United States — at a time when the private sector is in no position to provide alternative employment. It would slash spending at a time when private demand isn’t at all ready to take up the slack.
Why is the British government doing this? The real reason has a lot to do with ideology: the Tories are using the deficit as an excuse to downsize the welfare state. But the official rationale is that there is no alternative. . . .
What happens now? Maybe Britain will get lucky, and something will come along to rescue the economy. But the best guess is that Britain in 2011 will look like Britain in 1931, or the United States in 1937, or Japan in 1997. That is, premature fiscal austerity will lead to a renewed economic slump. As always, those who refuse to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.
Well, not surprisingly, the outcome of this austerity plan has been further economic decline. As the chart below shows, the UK economy actually fell back into recession the last three months of 2010, suffering a 0.5% contraction.
Despite that outcome, the government, according to the BBC, remains committed to its austerity policy:
The Chancellor, George Osborne, said the numbers were disappointing.
But he added the government would not be “blown off course” from its austerity program.
The figures are set to raise concerns over prospects for the economy, with large public spending cuts expected to come in this year.
The BBC’s economics editor Stephanie Flanders said people were right to worry about where the UK’s growth would come from in 2011, especially as higher-than-expected inflation had dealt a further blow to household budgets.
Michael Roberts provides the following update and summary of economic trends:
The UK economy is struggling to recover from the Great Recession of 2008-9. While profitability has recovered, British big business is still refusing to invest. In Q1’11, UK gross fixed investment slumped by 4.4% compared with Q4’10, while household consumption fell 0.6%. Most significant, business investment excluding property fell 7.1% (manufacturing investment fell 1.1%). It prefers to heap up the cash, invest abroad or speculate in stock markets rather than invest in expanding production or employment in the UK. And while that continues British households on average will continue to suffer significant losses in living standards.
Household spending is set to experience the slowest pick-up of any post-recession period since 1830, according to a survey of economists. British consumers will spending barely more by 2015 than they were before the financial crisis in 2008. In the UK’s 18 major recessions since records began in 1830, Bank of England data show consumer spending on average recovered to 12% above its previous peak within seven years. But forecasts by the UK’s Office for Budget Responsibility put spending in 2015 at just 5.4% above the 2008 peak, making it the slowest recovery of any comparable post-recession period. After recessions in the early 1980s and 1990s, spending was 20% and 15% higher respectively.
That household spending will be so laboured is not surprising as the average British household faces the biggest drop in income for 30 years. Average income could fall 3% this year, the steepest drop since 1981 and taking households back to 2004-5 levels. The Institute for Fiscal Studies said average take-home incomes actually rose during recent recession due to low inflation and higher social benefits. But IFS analysis suggests the long-term effects of the recession and higher inflation will soon squeeze incomes. Lower wage increases and the corrosive effect of rising inflation mean that it is “entirely possible” that income this year will return to levels of six years ago. Even the Bank of England warned that UK households faced a significant cut in their spending power as inflation heads towards a 5% annual rate.
So, one thing we can learn from studying the UK is not to adopt conservative budget policies. Another is that there are alternatives to the other established policy option, which is to just keep spending and hoping for a magical revival of economic fortunes.
To find solutions to the climate crisis and the recession, we need more public spending, the opposite of current government policy. We have people who need jobs and work that needs to be done. A million climate jobs in the UK will not solve all the economy’s problems. But it will take a million human beings off the dole and put them to work saving the future.
Their plan is careful to distinguish between climate jobs (which reduce greenhouse gases) and green jobs (which can mean almost anything). More specifically it calls for the creation of a million, new public sector jobs and a National Climate Service to employ them, highlights the kind of work that should be done, and presents a plan for financing it that does not rely on increasing the federal deficit.
In the words of the alliance:
We mean a million new jobs, not ones people are already doing. We don’t want to add up existing and new jobs and say that now we have a million climate jobs. We don’t mean jobs with a climate label, or a climate aspect. We don’t want old jobs with new names, or ones with ‘sustainable’ inserted into the job title. And we don’t mean ‘carbon finance’ jobs.
We mean new jobs now. We want the government to start employing 83,300 workers a month in climate jobs. Then, within twelve months, we will have created a million jobs.
We mean government jobs. This is a new idea. Up to now government policy under both Labour and Conservatives has been to use subsidies and tax breaks to encourage private industry to invest in renewable energy. The traditional approach is to encourage the market. That’s much too slow and inefficient. We want something more like the way the government used to run the National Health Service. In effect, the government sets up a National Climate Service (NCS) and employs staff to do the work that needs to be done. Government policy has also been to give people grants and loans to insulate and refit their houses. Instead, we want to send teams of construction workers to renovate everyone’s home, street by street. And we want the government to construct wind farms, build railways, and put buses on the streets.
Direct government employment means secure, flexible, permanent jobs. Workers with new climate jobs won’t always keep doing the same thing, but they will be retrained as new kinds of work are needed.
I strongly recommend reading their plan.
Over 3000 participants from 183 countries are attending a two week UN sponsored climate gathering in Bonn, Germany. The talks are supposed to help prepare the agenda for COP 17, or as it is more formally known, the 17th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (defenders of the environment have renamed the meeting the Conference of Polluters) which will take place November 28 to December 9, 2011 in Durban, South Africa.
The cost of climate inaction grows worse. As the Earth Island Journal reports:
Last week, the International Energy Agency announced that emissions continue to increase unabated. Emissions released in 2010 were the highest in history, despite the economic recession. The report stated that the “prospect of limiting the global increase in temperature to 2 degrees Celsius is getting bleaker.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that the level of CO2 emissions released in May 2010 set another record high.
The COP meetings have three main goals, all of which remain far from satisfied:
• set emission reductions for developed and developing nations
• secure funding and technology to help developing nations adapt to climate change
• determine how to measure, report and verify emission reductions
The Kyoto Protocol is the only international treaty that has binding targets for reducing emissions. It was adopted on December 11, 1997 and entered into force on February 16, 2005. The implementation rules were adopted at COP 7, which was held in Marrakesh in 2001. The Protocol targets are only binding on developed countries (Annex I countries); there are no binding targets for developing countries. The Annex I countries agreed to reduce their collective production of greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2% relative to the 1990 level over the period 2008 to 2012; their commitments are listed in the Protocol’s Annex B.
Unfortunately, the Protocol does not include any mechanism for enforcing national action, which is one reason that overall emissions continue to grow. Another reason is that some important polluters, like the United States, never signed the Kyoto treaty.
If no action is taken at COP 17, the Kyoto Protocol will expire. Most developed countries appear content to let this happen. At COP 15, held in Copenhagen, the United States led the charge for replacing the Protocol with a less binding agreement, one that included no specific emission reduction targets. No progress was made at COP 16, which was held last year in Cancun.
Most third world countries–including the G77, Alliance of Small Islands States (AOSIS), the Least Developed Countries, the Africa Group, and ALBA–support a second renewal period as a step toward a strengthened treaty, one with enforceable national targets and a commitment by developed countries to pay climate reparations to those third world countries suffering the consequences of climate change.
One argument made by the United States and other developed countries against a renewal of Kyoto is that the Protocol does not including binding targets on the third world, and third world countries like China and India are themselves now major producers of greenhouse gasses.
A new study, one that acknowledges the importance of globalization, offers an important perspective on this developed country claim. In brief, the study seeks to distinguish between emissions generated by production in a given territory and emissions generated in a given territory as a result of both production and consumption. This is an important distinction because developed country transnational corporations have off-shored manufacturing activity to the third world. This development has promoted a significant rise in third world emissions. However, since an ever growing share of third world manufacturing production is exported to developed countries, the calculation of territorial based emissions overstates third world country responsibility and understates developed country responsibility.
As Glen P. Peters, Jan C. Minx, Christopher L. Weber, and Ottmar Edenhofer, the authors of the study, explain:
Despite the emergence of regional climate policies, growth in global CO2 emissions has remained strong. From 1990 to 2008 CO2 emissions in developed countries (defined as countries with emission- reduction commitments in the Kyoto Protocol, Annex B) have stabilized, but emissions in developing countries (non-Annex B) have doubled. Some studies suggest that the stabilization of emissions in developed countries was partially because of growing imports from developing countries. To quantify the growth in emission transfers via international trade, we developed a trade-linked global database for CO2 emissions covering 113 countries and 57 economic sectors from 1990 to 2008.
We find that the emissions from the production of traded goods and services have increased from 4.3 gigatonnes [Gt] CO2 in 1990 (20% of global emissions) to 7.8 Gt CO2 in 2008 (26%). Most developed countries have increased their consumption-based emissions faster than their territorial emissions, and non-energy-intensive manufacturing had a key role in the emission transfers. The net emission transfers via international trade from developing to developed countries increased from 0.4 Gt CO2 in 1990 to 1.6 Gt CO2 in 2008, which exceeds the Kyoto Protocol emission reductions.
Our results indicate that international trade is a significant factor in explaining the change in emissions in many countries, from both a production and consumption perspective. We suggest that countries monitor emission transfers via international trade, in addition to territorial emissions, to ensure progress toward stabilization of global greenhouse gas emissions.
The figure below, which comes from their study, compares the rate of growth in a number of variables. It shows that “emissions embodied in trade,” which are emissions generated by the production of exports, has grown faster than population, GDP, and global CO2 emissions. It also shows that the growth in “net emission transfers Annex B to non-Annex B,” which are emissions contained in exports produced in developing countries but consumed by or used in developed countries, has outstripped all the variables, even the growth in international trade.
Their study also included the following figure which shows the net change in territorial emissions over the period 1990 to 2008 along with the change in the net emission transfer between each country and developing countries. The small orange star represents pledged emission reduction commitments.
If we consider only territorial emissions, Europe actually came close to meeting its target reductions. However, if we take into account the net emission transfers that come from consuming exports produced in the third world, Europe actually increased its emissions. U.S. emissions grew territorially and again because of net emission transfers. Looking at Annex B countries as a whole, we can see the important role that China plays as a producer and exporter of manufactured goods to the developed world.
The authors of the study conclude by noting that their work shows that “a significant and growing share of global emissions are from the production of internationally traded goods and services.” This means that emission reduction cannot fairly or productively be approached solely through the use of territorial mandates. We need to recognize that progress in achieving environmentally sustainable economic relations will require national changes that also confront and transform contemporary capitalist globalization dynamics.
Here is an excellent 7 minute, 47 second video on the production of electronics and why the industry’s strategy of “designing for the dump” is toxic for people and our planet.
This strategy highlights the economic concept of “market failure.” Market failures occur when private producers are not forced to internalize all their production costs. Private producers go about their business producing to maximize profit. But because private costs are less than social costs, we get market outcomes that actually lower social welfare.
For more information on the problem and responses to it, check out the story of stuff website here.
[youtube] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sW_7i6T_H78 [/youtube]
Detroit appears to be a harbinger of our future.
That future is captured beautifully and painfully in a new book called The Ruins of Detroit by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre.
Over the past generation Detroit has suffered economically worse than any other of the major American cities and its rampant urban decay is now glaringly apparent during this current recession. Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre documented this disintegration, showcasing structures that were formerly a source of civic pride, and which now stand as monuments to the city’s fall from grace.
“Ruins are the visible symbols and landmarks of our societies and their changes, small pieces of history in suspension. The state of ruin is temporary by nature, the volatile result of the end of an era and the fall of empires. This fragility, the time elapsed but even so running fast, lead us to watch them one very last time: being dismayed, or admiring, wondering about the permanence of things. Photography appeared to us as a modest way to keep a little bit of this ephemeral state.”
The picture below is of the United Artist Theater in Detroit. You can see more of their pictures here.
Environmental writer Rebecca Solnit, recently in Detroit, commented that “the continent has not seen a transformation like Detroit’s since the last days of the Maya.” Detroit’s population has fallen from 2 million in the mid-1950s to 800,000 now. “Poverty, joblessness, depopulation and decay have created an almost post-apocalyptic scene here.”
Mayor Dave Bing has announced his “revitalization” plan—shrink the city. He is planning to cut city services to targeted neighborhoods, forcing their residents to move, and then tearing down their houses.
His plan is for a new, smaller, upscale, redesigned urban core. And his plans are based, in large part, on recommendations from the organization, Living Cities. “Members of that national organization include the Bank of America, Deutsche Bank, J.P. Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Prudential Financial, along with ‘philanthropic’ groups like the Ford, Kresge, Kellogg and Skillman Foundations.”
Hmm, if you are suspicious that this plan has more to do with high-profit real estate deals then rebuilding the city for its inhabitants, you are probably right. Sounds like what many of the same business elites have in mind for our national restructuring, doesnt it?
Already, Detroit is moving to close seventy-seven city parks—“the parking lots will be barricaded, trash bins will be removed, the grass will not be cut, equipment will not be maintained. No events will be permitted in the parks.”
Not surprisingly, there are other, more grass-roots visions for the city. As Democracy Now reports:
Demolition crews here are planning to tear down 10,000 residential buildings over the next four years that the city has deemed dangerous. But as old structures are coming down, the city is redefining itself in other ways. An estimated 20 to 30 percent of the city’s lots are vacant. There’s a growing urban agriculture movement that community groups are using to reclaim Detroit. Several farms currently exist within the city, and there are hundreds more community, school and family gardens.
You can learn more about that movement here.
On June 23, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I have a dream speech” while leading a March in downtown Detroit. That was two months before he used the same phrase in his more famous Washington D.C. address.
The struggle continues.
The editors of Fortune magazine had hired the cartoonist Chris Ware to design the cover of the magazine’s May 2010 issue, which includes its annual listing of the country’s top 500 corporations as ranked by revenue.
They were no doubt hoping to get a cover that resonated with some of the magazine’s past cover glamor–You can see examples of past Fortune magazine covers here.
Well, Ware produced a stunner, but his inclusion of exploited Mexican factory workers, Guantanamo Bay prisoners, and a number of funny hits on corporate greed and federal bailouts was clearly not what the editors had hoped for. So, they rejected it.
But you can still see it. You will need to expand its size (by clicking on it to get a larger view and then clicking once again to get an even larger view) by going here.
It doesnt look like much is going to happen in Copenhagen at the Climate Conference. The developed countries do not appear interested in negotiating a binding treaty with meaningful carbon reduction. The police are out in force to make sure that the protesters don’t complicate things, as the picture below illustrates.
But just in case environmental catastrophes do finally force a serious discussion of solutions, it is worth examining the preferred mainstream response to the challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions: cap and trade.
Here is a ten minute fun film that presents and critiques cap and trade–it is called The Story of Cap-and-Trade.
Oh yes, the US proposal for Copenhagen–while the science and most of the third world calls for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2020 compared with 1990 levels, the US is proposing cuts of 17 percent by 2020 relative to 2005 levels. Put in terms of 1990 standards, the US is proposing a 4 percent reduction. The Europeans are willing to go as high as 20 percent.
Most importantly the US and the EU are pushing to break the tie between the current talks and the 1997 Kyoto process. The reason is that Kyoto involved a legally binding treaty and most scientists and third world countries want to extend that treaty though the current negotiations and have it include sanctions for countries that fall short in meeting their emission reduction obligations. The US and the EU, on the other hand, want an agreement that is largely voluntary.
To be clear, when the US and the EU make their proposals it is not out of ignorance of the consequences. As the New York Times reported:
environmentalists alerted reporters to the existence of a six-page document, dated Dec. 15, that appeared to be a detailed compilation by the U.N. office managing the talks of all the major countries’ pledges and plans for curbing their emissions, along with a calculation suggesting that they would not hold the global temperature rise under the goal of 2 degrees Celsius goal that world leaders have set.
Without stronger action both before and after 2020, “global emissions will remain on an unsustainable pathway,” the document read, “with the related temperature raise around 3 degrees C.”
People involved in the climate talks confirmed the authenticity of the document