Earth Overshoot Day and Not-For-Profit Enterprise

I wrote this post for the Post Growth Institute and it was originally published here.

In 2015, 13 August is Earth Overshoot Day. The day marks the estimated calendar date when humanity’s demand on the planet’s ecological services (which produce renewable resources and assimilate wastes) outstrips what the Earth can supply. This means that for the rest of the year, we are taking more than is regenerated, operating in Overshoot. Last year, Earth Overshoot Day was August 19th. We first went into Overshoot in the late 1970s, and since then the day has crept ever earlier on the calendar. This means we are using the ecological resources of just over 1.5 Earths.

Meeting the challenge of providing for all humanity’s needs within the limits of what our Earth can provide will require a radical restructuring of the global economy. In this post I will discuss how a post-growth economy based around not-for-profit enterprise can help us get to One Planet Living. Continue reading

Dutch citizens take their government to court for being useless on climate change – And win!!

Yesterday the supreme court of the Netherlands came to a historic landmark verdict: the Dutch government’s lack of strong climate change action was branded illegal.

Organised by the climate campaign group Urgenda, 886 Dutch citizens sued their own government for failing to act in line with climate science, and therefore endangering lives. The Hague ruling used existing human rights laws and tort law – a form of common law that every country has, that refers to the basic duty to avoid causing harm.

Campaigners celebrate the landmark verdict. Image from Urgenda, not mine.

Campaigners celebrate the landmark verdict. Image from Urgenda, not mine.

The judges said that based on existing policies, the country is set to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17% by 2020 (compared to 1990 levels) at the very most – which was deemed unacceptable considering the severe risks of global climate change, the country’s status as an advanced and affluent state, and the flat and low-lying geography of the country that poses a significant flooding risk.

Yesterday’s ruling has ordered the Dutch Government to instead reduce emissions by at least 25% by 2020, compared to 1990 levels. The verdict is legally binding, Continue reading

Twisted Tory energy policy but good news from China and India

The UK is seriously behind the curve on energy policy.

The Tories have just announced they’re going to make true on their manifesto commitment and axe the subsidy for onshore wind turbines a year ahead of schedule, in 2016. And of course they have also cemented their full support for fracking the country to pieces.

This is such a twisted energy policy for 2015, the year of the historic make-or-break climate summit in Paris, that I kind of want to hide under my bed for the next few decades.

Wind turbines in Iowa. Photography by Samir Luther, Creative Commons Licensing.

Wind turbines in Iowa. Photography by Samir Luther, Creative Commons Licensing.

We’re also likely to miss our binding EU target of 20% renewable energy by 2020, which isn’t going to get any better by cutting off public investment for onshore wind energy, one of the cheapest renewable technologies. Never mind our own domestic 2008 Climate Act, which requires an 80% cut to emissions by 2050.

Happily though, our dismal set-back is shown up by really promising progress in the emerging economies. Here’s some good news from China and India.  Continue reading

Six Types of Citizen Power

We all know power is very unequally distributed in  UK society, and this concentration of power at the top of the socio-economic ladder is much more extreme at the global level. Many places are ruled by completely unaccountable violent dictators and militias. I’m lucky to live in a liberal democracy. But just because other parts of the world are so much less fortunate, doesn’t mean we in Britain and the West should be content with the watered down versions of “democracy” that actually aren’t that democratic. Or liberal, for that matter.

I can’t speak for other countries that I haven’t experienced, but I know that in the UK although we have democracy, our politicians are not obliged to do what we want, nor what they promise to do. Most of them (especially the ruling Conservatives) appear to be much more interested with lining the pockets of their corporate chums and, indirectly, themselves.

Big Business gets to scrounge off the state constantly with tax breaks, unchallenged tax avoidance, direct subsidies and indirect subsidies such as topping up poverty wages with benefits – while the poorest are vilified to legitimise the speedy erosion of their rights. Austerity for the poor and socialism for the rich. The injustice of it all is breathtaking, to anyone who bothers to look.

I know, it’s a bleak picture. And it’s easy to understand why so many people in this country have become hopeless and apathetic. It’s easy to take a glance at the corruption, hypocrisy and deceit and decide that the elite is all-powerful and normal everyday citizens (who aren’t politicians and don’t run a big company or a big news outlet) are powerless.

It’s easy to see why you might think that, because that’s what the powerful want us to think. Citizen apathy is in their favour, big time.

But it’s not true.

Reclaim the streets and flex your citizen muscles. From San Francisco Art Institute, creative commons licensing.

Reclaim the streets and flex your citizen muscles. From San Francisco Art Institute, creative commons licensing.

Continue reading

Degrowth explained with orange juice. Yes, orange juice.

So I came across this super cute 4-minute video from Grist which explains the concept of degrowth using the analogy of a stall selling class A delicious orange juice. I think you’ll like it, and it’s especially good if you’re new to the idea.

As far as I’m aware the degrowth concept stems largely from the work of ecological economist Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen (among others) and is now a full blown international movement. Apart from specifying that advanced economies need to contract rather than just stop growing, it seems to be little different to the idea of post-growth and exhorts many of the same solutions and attitudes.

Aw man I really want some sweet OJ now…

Energy Democracy

Here’s a really cool short video I found on Films for Action about the energy revolution we so desperately need and deserve – a democratised renewable energy system designed to meet all our energy needs sustainably rather than just make a few corporations obscenely rich. And that includes the billion people currently living without power. Give it a watch!

Also – I apologise for my lack of posting recently. I’m two and half months away from finishing my degree, I’m working voluntarily for the Post Growth Institute and the UK’s Green Party and I have a job as a waitress as well. I’m just a bit busy basically. I have loads of ideas I’m dying to put into words though. Come June I’ll be back on to regular blogging.

Much love!

Labour and Nature: Power in Numbers

This post originally appeared on postgrowth.org, I wrote it for the Post Growth Institute blog, and wanted to repost it here as well. 

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“Good jobs! Clean environment! Green economy!”

That is the rallying cry of the BlueGreen Alliance, an impressive coalition of environmental organisations and labour unions in the US, with over 15 million members. Their existence is part of a growing synthesis between the labour and environmental movements, which is based around two core ideas: 1), that building a sustainable society has the potential to create millions of decent ‘’green-collar’’ jobs, and 2), that the effects and even the mitigations of climate change will have serious impacts for workers and will hit the poorest hardest, unless they have a voice in the debate, ensuring their right to a ‘’just transition”.  Continue reading

Unclaimed Carbon

I already knew that national carbon accounting does not include the emissions embedded in imported goods. Those emissions are attributed to the country that produces the goods. Which is why many post-industrial countries can claim to have reduced emissions, while pointing accusing fingers at China and other emerging economies that now make all our stuff. What I didn’t know until Naomi Klein’s fantastic new book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate enlightened me, is that the emissions from international shipping are not attributed to any country.

Massive container ship. Creative Commons copyright.

Massive container ship. Creative Commons copyright.

Continue reading