Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Ann McFeatters reminds us of the good a government can do when it dedicates itself to identifying and responding to urgent public needs. And Bill McKibben makes the case for an all-out mobilization against climate change:
We’re used to war as metaphor: the war on poverty, the war on drugs, the war on cancer. Usually this is just a rhetorical device, a way of saying, “We need to focus our attention and marshal our forces to fix something we don’t like.” But this is no metaphor. By most of the ways we measure wars, climate change is the real deal: Carbon and methane are seizing physical territory, sowing havoc and panic, racking up casualties, and even destabilizing governments. (Over the past few years, record-setting droughts have helped undermine the brutal strongman of Syria and fuel the rise of Boko Haram in Nigeria.) It’s not that global warming is like a world war. It is a world war. Its first victims, ironically, are those who have done the least to cause the crisis. But it’s a world war aimed at us all. And if we lose, we will be as decimated and helpless as the losers in every conflict--except that this time, there will be no winners, and no end to the planetwide occupation that follows.

The question is not, are we in a world war? The question is, will we fight back? And if we do, can we actually defeat an enemy as powerful and inexorable as the laws of physics?
Today we live in the privatized, siloed, business-dominated world that took root under McNamara and flourished under Reagan. The actual wars we fight are marked by profiteering, and employ as many private contractors as they do soldiers. Our spirit of social solidarity is, to put it mildly, thin. (The modern-day equivalent of Father Coughlin is now the Republican candidate for president.) So it’s reasonable to ask if we can find the collective will to fight back in this war against global warming, as we once fought fascism.

For starters, it’s important to remember that a truly global mobilization to defeat climate change wouldn’t wreck our economy or throw coal miners out of work. Quite the contrary: Gearing up to stop global warming would provide a host of social and economic benefits, just as World War II did. It would save lives. (A worldwide switch to renewable energy would cut air pollution deaths by 4 to 7 million a year, according to the Stanford data.) It would produce an awful lot of jobs. (An estimated net gain of roughly two million in the United States alone.) It would provide safer, better-paying employment to energy workers. (A new study by Michigan Technological University found that we could retrain everyone in the coal fields to work in solar power for as little as $181 million, and the guy installing solar panels on a roof averages about $4,000 more a year than the guy risking his life down in the hole.) It would rescue the world’s struggling economies. (British economist Nicholas Stern calculates that the economic impacts of unchecked global warming could far exceed those of the world wars or the Great Depression.) And fighting this war would be socially transformative. (Just as World War II sped up the push for racial and gender equality, a climate campaign should focus its first efforts on the frontline communities most poisoned by the fossil fuel era. It would help ease income inequality with higher employment, revive our hollowed-out rural states with wind farms, and transform our decaying suburbs with real investments in public transit.)
The next president doesn’t have to wait for a climate equivalent of Pearl Harbor to galvanize Congress. Much of what we need to do can—and must—be accomplished immediately, through the same use of executive action that FDR relied on to lay the groundwork for a wider mobilization. The president could immediately put a halt to drilling and mining on public lands and waters, which contain at least half of all the untapped carbon left in America. She could slow the build-out of the natural gas system simply by correcting the outmoded way the EPA calculates the warming effect of methane, just as Obama reined in coal-fired power plants. She could tell her various commissioners to put a stop to the federal practice of rubber-stamping new fossil fuel projects, rejecting those that would “significantly exacerbate” global warming. She could instruct every federal agency to buy all their power from green sources and rely exclusively on plug-in cars, creating new markets overnight. She could set a price on carbon for her agencies to follow internally, even without the congressional action that probably won’t be forthcoming. And just as FDR brought in experts from the private sector to plan for the defense build-out, she could get the blueprints for a full-scale climate mobilization in place even as she rallies the political will to make them plausible. Without the same urgency and foresight displayed by FDR—without immediate executive action—we will lose this war.
- David Camfield discusses the clash in visions as to Canada Post's future as either a long-term provider of needed public services, or an organization devoted to shrinking services and expectations for workers and the public alike. And Katie Simpson examines how federal workers are justifiably reluctant to take overtime work when they're unlikely to get paid for it.

- Bianca Wylie points out the lack of funding for Toronto's anti-poverty strategy, while recognizing the importance of following through on the commitment. And Poverty Free Saskatchewan offers its take (PDF) on a provincial budget which looks to be going backwards in the name of corporate-run "transformation".

- Finally, Alison highlights the Libs' choice to facilitate the sale of arms to human rights abusers - and their bizarre spin about revisiting the desirability of the loopholes they've opened up.


  1. McKibben wrote his entire piece without a word about the TPP and TTIP. Because their passage, likely in the post-election months this year, negates everything he says in the entire piece. Readers were not well served.

    1. I'd think it's implicit rather than explicit, particularly since the column is both written primarily from a U.S. point of view, and as a call to action rather than an assessment of the barriers to it.

      But lest there be any doubt, McKibben has directly pointed out the problems with trade agreements as well: see e.g. .