Why climate breakdown is happening, and how to stop it

In a sane, intelligent world, basic needs will be guaranteed on condition you do nothing to damage the ecosphere, the thin shell round a little ball where life is possible. This weblog explores why economic growth is still the received ‘wisdom’.There are two interlocking reasons: the Tragedy of the Commons (see Page on this weblog) and the fact that humans are hard wired to be short term loss averse.

The IPCC reports should make preserving the ecosphere the top political issue, but there are powerful forces preventing this, for understandable, but still inexcusable temporary reasons. No one has yet thought of anything which would enable manufacturers to see manufacturing less rather than more as a viable business strategy. This will have to be in tandem with maximum re-sale and repair, with recycling as a final option, but that ‘obvious’ strategy is more bad news for manufacturers. Some blame capitalists. Yes, but they are trapped in a competitive system. CEOs have almost invariably got where they are today by gambles which paid off.

And capitalists are not 100% to blame. Millions of ordinary people are collectively making unsustainable purchases from the capitalists. I suggest an approach which I believe has a better chance of helping to slow the now dangerous trends than a direct attempt to defeat the capitalists. This will encourage a new culture based on sustainability to emerge.

The central problem is that limiting economic activity to what the ecosphere can bear will feel like loss. Damage to the ecosphere ensures that worse loss will occur if we don’t limit economic activity, so short tem loss must be mitigated by something which enables everyone to feel secure.

The unconditional basic (citizens’) income (UBI), a regular payment to everyone, can be a part of the solution to two apparently unconnected problems, social justice and inequality on the one hand, and limiting economic activity to sustainable levels on the other. Unfortuntely those pressing for a UBI and those trying to prevent destruction of the ecosphere seem to remain separate groups.

The UBI has practical implications, but I see a mind set change as its primary purpose – a means to allow whole populations to see downsizing – preserving the ecosphere – as a priority, uniting former tribal enemies.

That the UBI is affordable is explained on another ‘Page’. It will be drastically redistributive, but persuasion can replace duress in many personal decisions, so that market forces can be given free rein. The UBI is fair, but it is not as ‘left wing’ as it appears at first sight. Anyone with ability can achieve their ambitions, whatever their start in life, without anyone oppressing anyone else.

The Green Party should be recruiting supporters and voters from both sides of the outdated political spectrum.

What became the Green Party was initally no more than a response to the 1972 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) study Limits to Growth . I joined in 1973, a few monthe after its inception, Although I have never personally experienced poverty or the means tested benefits trap, my work as a Probation Officer (now retired) brought me forcibly into contact with these realities, and the sheer injustice of accusations that those so trapped were scroungers or benefit cheats. The graph at the top of this page is an official demonstration of this. It is to be found in Dynamic Benefits: towards Welfare that works published by the Centre for Social Justice on 16th September 2009. The graph shows that the withdrawal of benefits has the effect of a form of taxation on all incomes. That effect is huge on low incomes, but insignificant on large incomes.

The surprising source is the Centre for Social Justice. set up by Iain Duncan Smith whilst still in opposition, and Dynamic Benefits is the foundation for the mis-named and accident-prone Universal Credit as its centre piece. In 2018 only a minority of the intended beneficiaries were receiving the UC, and even those who do are often dependent on food banks due to late payments. If effective, it could have been described as an emaciated version of the Basic Income. Iain Duncan Smith’s own literature can be used as a devastating expose of the effect of means testing, in direct opposition to failed government policy, in support of a Basic (Citizens’) Income.

But although the Basic Income principle is gaining ground in Europe it is doing so purely as a social justice measure. Whilst a more equitable income distribution is important, for me an even more important function of a CBI is

To allow whole populations, as individuals, to contemplate a recession with equanimity.

This would apply whether the recession was accidental, as it always has been up to now, or a planned slowdown as proposed by Kate Raworth.. The Citizens’ Basic Income will not bring about a recession, in fact it will reduce its severity for the poor, but it will make the unthinkable thinkable, preferably before the forces driving indiscriminate growth cause an economic collapse anyway.

This weblog tries to explain how the Citizens’ Basic Income will help both climate change and poverty. Ecological sustainability should be the major political issue. Is the economy more important than the environment? The global environment depends on a healthy ecosphere. To better understand why intelligent humans are currently not heeding scientific warnings that we are reaching the limits of the ecosphere to cope with the effects of increasing population times per capita consumption, please also look at my ‘Pages’ on the Tragedy, and Résumé as Springboard.

I retain my hope that the Green Party will have the necessary vision to grasp this opportunity to shift the obselete political fault lines.

Revised March 2019

 

 

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6 responses to “Why climate breakdown is happening, and how to stop it

  1. Have you seen Are the Greens against the attack on benefit claimants? What would you do?

    Absolutely! we are against this attack on benefit claimants. This attack is nothing more than Cameron’s government trying to get us to blame each other for the state of the country instead of pointing the finger at the real culprit, which is the conservative government in this case.

    What would I do about it? First thing I’d do is penalise businesses that move jobs abroad. We’re seeing far too many goods being sold in Britain that we made in sweat shops and factories with poor working conditions half-way around the globe. As far as I’m concerned if a business benefits from British trade then it’s only fair it repays that by provide British people with jobs (which pay a living wages and with good working conditions) and equally as importantly, get this businesses to pay their taxes.

    We’re seeing likes of multinational corporations swoop into the UK, put local businesses and farmers out of business, and generally do more harm to this country than good.

    Of course the Conservatives and their ‘benefits reforms’ are only making things worse too. Work-fair and this ridiculous idea of getting long-term unemployed to work for no wages would be a joke if it wasn’t so serious. I personally know a good number of people who have lost their jobs, only to be replaced by someone on workfare who isn’t being paid. David Cameron doesn’t seem to understand that if businesses can pick up this free ‘work-fair’ slave labour, it’s only putting more people out of work because every work-fair placement is a job that someone could be doing. When we hear the politicians talk about benefits in the house of commons, it’s clear to see how this is all just a game to them and they barely understand that this is people live’s their messing around with.

    We live in a country where the big business has taken over, they don’t pay taxes and a lot of the time they don’t even pay their workers. So you can absolutely guarantee the Greens would put an end to that.

    Christopher Were
    Deputy Leader
    http://askthegreens.com/post/40791411614/are-the-greens-against-the-attack-on-benefit-claimants

    • I wish I was internet savvy enough to copy this to Christopher. It looks as though he is unaware of the Citizens’ Income, or certainly of its full implications, and that Dynamic Benefits (2009)
      http://www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk
      an Ian Duncan Smith think tank report, unwittingly provides the dynamite to discredit the whole nasty specious workfare edifice.
      I shall take the risk of losing readers in the hope of educating them instead. Christopher’s take on the attack on welfare is pure Old Labour. Not far wrong, just lacking, rather as Newton’s ideas on gravity seemed OK until Einstein tweaked them.
      Just one example for now. Like Christopher (and Natalie Bennett for that matter), I think bringing jobs back to the UK is vital, but if this is to be part of an ecologically sustainable package, employers will have to be ‘subsidised’ somehow, not made to pay wages only possible in a growth economy. There is more in other posts and pages in my blog, though this aspect is more fully explored in my book (link on homepage).

  2. A CI is in principle good, even makes sense if it is not too generous.
    The problem is how to pay for it (sorry, I haven’t read the book).
    Comment 1 The money for CI and everything else derives considerably from a sort of “head count” tax. A firm contributing towards the national tax does this partly through the tax payments of its workers. For example oil companies generate huge income, but because they have few employees contribute not nearly as much tax
    as firms with many employees.
    In other words a person related tax inhibits employment. If our accountants could get a workable system going, tax should be extricated as much as possible directly from the company profits, as little as possible to beperson dependent . People could then be paid far less (no taxes) and living cost could be further be reduced with no VAT.
    Comment 2 A long time ago a man called Jesus Christ tried to introduce a sort of Communist/Marxist system to the Romans , with some degree of success I would say. Nowadays Christian ideals no longer guide society rather does GREED and and with it an acceptance of
    dishonesty Every football fan will substantiate this

    .

    • Two main sources of revenue for the CI: 1. Straightforward redistribution through taxation of incomes, though I would settle for a flat tax – not favoured by most CI advocates. This is not as bad as you think once you take means testing into account. Iain Duncan Smith is right to abolish means testing, but not by simply abolishing means tested benefits. The CI does away with means testing by giving benefit equivalent to everybody, and simply taking a balancing amount according to income from other sources. 2. Resource taxes, as in Alaska. That would catch the oil companies. But taking from companies rather than individuals might inhibit job opportunities. Low personal incomes would enhance job opportunities.
      Greed. Absolutely, but I see greed as an inextricable feature of the growth dynamic. Once a steady state ethos is consensual, greed will be much less in evidence.

  3. I completely agree with your comments above, and I am a member of the green party, however, I despair at the attitude of left wing parties etc.towards manufacturers and business.
    My question is, what is your opinion, on the Minimum wage, and the cost of living, is it more important to raise the min wage, or more important to lower the cost of living, and what effect will it have on UK manufacturers.

    • Blogs get unwieldy by the time you have written 100. You would find a full answer. Unfortunately, the Green Party leadership plays down that the Basic income could allow wages to fall. It is redistributive, but it allows ideas to make sense which are oppressive without it. Lower the cost of living if possible, but definitely lower the cost to employers. But as I say, neither our left leaning leadership, nor Zac Goldsmith, who shows no sign of grasping the social justice aspects of sustainability, are ready to talk to each other.

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