Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Martin Lukacs discusses the need for collective action to fight climate change - and the dangers of allowing ourselves to be distracted by calls to focus solely on individual choices:
These pervasive exhortations to individual action — in corporate ads, school textbooks, and the campaigns of mainstream environmental groups, especially in the west — seem as natural as the air we breathe. But we could hardly be worse-served.

While we busy ourselves greening our personal lives, fossil fuel corporations are rendering these efforts irrelevant. The breakdown of carbon emissions since 1988? A hundred companies alone are responsible for an astonishing 71%. You tinker with those pens or that panel; they go on torching the planet.

The freedom of these corporations to pollute – and the fixation on a feeble lifestyle response – is no accident. It is the result of an ideological war, waged over the last 40 years, against the possibility of collective action. Devastatingly successful, it is not too late to reverse it.
Anything resembling a collective check on corporate power has become a target of the elite: lobbying and corporate donations, hollowing out democracies, have obstructed green policies and kept fossil fuel subsidies flowing; and the rights of associations like unions, the most effective means for workers to wield power together, have been undercut whenever possible.

At the very moment when climate change demands an unprecedented collective public response, neoliberal ideology stands in the way. Which is why, if we want to bring down emissions fast, we will need to overcome all of its free-market mantras: take railways and utilities and energy grids back into public control; regulate corporations to phase out fossil fuels; and raise taxes to pay for massive investment in climate-ready infrastructure and renewable energy — so that solar panels can go on everyone’s rooftop, not just on those who can afford it.
If affordable mass transit isn’t available, people will commute with cars. If local organic food is too expensive, they won’t opt out of fossil fuel-intensive super-market chains. If cheap mass produced goods flow endlessly, they will buy and buy and buy. This is the con-job of neoliberalism: to persuade us to address climate change through our pocket-books, rather than through power and politics.

Eco-consumerism may expiate your guilt. But it’s only mass movements that have the power to alter the trajectory of the climate crisis. This requires of us first a resolute mental break from the spell cast by neoliberalism: to stop thinking like individuals.
- Tim Harford argues that part of the public response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy should be to act on the desperate need for more and better-maintained social housing. And Michael Laxer connects the mindset behind the media's dutiful praise of a slapdash set of stairs in Etobicoke to the themes of deregulation and antisocialism that lead to public safety catastrophes.

- Aaron Mate interviews Kerris Cooper about the role of family income in a child's development and future prospects, while also highlighting the potential gains from a more fair income distribution.

- Rob Shaw reports on the precarious state of ICBC after it was used as a cash cow by Christy Clark and her self-serving B.C. Liberals. And Jennifer Ackerman reports that Brad Wall and the Sask Party are determined to similarly suck all the value out of Saskatchewan's Crown Corporations as quickly as they can get away with it - even as the Crowns remain a bright spot both for economic development and public revenue.

- Finally, Anjuli Patil reports on Nova Scotia's move to reverse the privatization of 10 schools due to its belated recognition that P3 schemes did nothing but cost the province money.

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