‘The Case for the Green New Deal’ Forward Excerpt:
We can afford what we can do. This is the theme of the book in your hands. There are limits to what we can do – notably ecological limits, but thanks to the public good that is the monetary system, we can, within human and ecological limits, afford what we can do.
For humanity to survive on a liveable planet there is an urgency to what we must, and can, do. We are facing extinction. The earth’s complex life support systems of atmosphere, oceans, land surface and life forms are at the point of breakdown, according to the world’s top scientists. As George Monbiot has warned, ‘Only one of the many life support systems on what we depend – soils, aquifers, rainfall, ice, the pattern of winds and currents, pollinators, biological abundance and diversity – need fail for everything to slide.’1
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a clear and trenchant call for action in 2018. We need to cut annual global emissions by half in the next twelve years and hit net zero carbon by the middle of the century. According to Jason Hickel in Foreign Policy magazine,
It would be difficult to overstate how dramatic this trajectory is. It requires nothing less than a total and rapid reversal of our present direction as a civilization. The challenge is staggering in its scale, and the stakes are even more so. As the co-chair of an IPCC working group put it. ‘The next few years are probably the most important in our history.’ After decades of delay, the is our last chance to get it right.2
For the UK and US, as well as other OECD countries, averting climate breakdown means cutting CO2 emissions by 80 per cent by 2030 and reaching a zero carbon economy by 2040. This will allow OECD emission cuts to be equitably shared with non-OECD countries’ emission cuts (as in the 1992 UN Convention of Climate Change’s ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ (CBDR), in which OECD nations have to cut first and hardest).
To protect earth’s life support system and to achieve such a radical transformation we must escape from capitalism’s globalised, carbon-belching financial system – designed and engineered to issue trillions of dollars of unregulated credit to fund supposedly limitless consumption, and in turn to furiously fuel toxic emissions. It is an economic system that over a relatively short period of human history has wrecked earth’s natural system. And thanks to capitalism’s dependence on a system enriched by imperialism, racism and sexism, it has bound all human societies to a form of slavery.3 And yet, some have made historically unprecedented capital gains from this system. They are the ‘1%’.
As the Economist noted back in 2012, the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans not only get more of the pie; they are increasingly creators of finance. Steve Kaplan and Joshua Rauh of Northwestern University reported that investment bankers, corporate lawyers, hedge-fund and private-equity managers have displaced corporate executives at the top of the income ladder. In 2009 the richest twenty-five hedge-fund investors earned more than $25 billion, roughly six times as much as all the chief executives of companies in the S&P 500 stock index combined.4 And yet the financial system on which these wealthy individuals have gorged is not itself a private asset. It is instead a great public asset, financed, guaranteed and sustained by millions of ordinary taxpayers in all the economies of the world. In other words, a great public good has been captured by the 1 per cent. It needs to be restored to collective ownership.
At the same time, environmentalists have treated the ecosystem for too long as almost independent of the dominant economic system based on deregulated, globalised finance. Macroeconomics, monetary theory in particular, are deemed a subject for ‘experts’ – the ‘creatures of finance’ that control the globalised financial system. Much of what is done within that system is deliberately kept hidden from society’s gaze. Even so, many continue to avert their gaze from the activities of the finance sector, partly because the system appears too complex and remote, but also because we all benefit from it in some way. Millennials and pensioners alike enjoy the freedom that globalised finance provides for those who wish and can afford to travel widely among foreign lands and cultures. Many appreciate that ease with which bank accounts can be accessed in remote places, along with the ability to purchase and transport goods from anywhere on earth by making a bank transfer with just the click of a computer button.
I will argue that we can no longer afford to indulge such freedoms and powers, or to bend to the will of the gods of finance. There will be no chance of protecting earth’s life support system if we do not simultaneously escape from the grip of the masters of the globalised financial system. A capitalist system that is blind to the most vital capital of all: that provided by nature, which finds itself exploited parasitically and used up at a reckless rate, as E. F Schumacher argued in his 1973 classic, Small is Beautiful.5
By escaping from the inexorable control of the masters of the financial universe, we will find that we can afford to create a new, more balanced system of international economic and ecological justice. That we can also afford to reforest large swathes of the earth and its coastal area. We will discover that we can afford to urgently end the globalised economy’s addition to fossil fuels. That we can afford to transform our economy away from its fixation with ‘growth’. That we can, within our finite physical and intellectual limits, begin to restore our damaged ecosystems to health. That we can work together, collectively, to protect ourselves, our families and communities and the environments in which we survive, grow, develop and create.
In other words, we can – and to survive, we just – transform and even end within the next ten years the failed system of capitalism that now threatens to collapse earth’s life support system and with them, human civilisation. We must replace that economic system with one that respects boundaries and limits; one that nurtures ‘soils, aquifers, rainfall, ice, the pattern of winds and currents pollinators, biological abundance and diveristy’;6 one that delivers social and economic justice.
We Green New Dealers know we can achieve that in the ten years or so what the UN’s scientists believe are left to us. One reason it is achievable is this important fact; just 10 per cent of the global population are responsible for around 50 per cent of total emissions. Tackling, the consumption and aviation habits of just 10 per cent of the global population should help drive down 50 per cent of total emissions in a very short time. The understanding helps us grasp the rate and scope of what is possible if we genuinely believe climate breakdown threatens human civilisation.7
Furthermore, we know we can do this because we have, in the past, undertaken huge transformations within less time, than that suggested by the 2018 IPCC Report. Our confidence should stem not only from knowledge of past transformations, but also from new understanding of money and monetary systems, I am determined to ensure that his knowledge is shared in order to empower campaigners and environmentalists with economic evidence and arguments with which to confidently challenge purveyors of capitalist economic dogma, the climate deniers, defeatists and naysayers. Those who consider it utopian to believe society can end a deeply entrenched system of racialised capitalism. Those who are convinced that ‘there is no money’ for transformation, and that government spending is inflationary. Those who feel that capitalism’s hyper-globalisation is working just fine. That poverty, racial and gender inequality and injustice are not a result of globalised capitalism, but rather of human weakness. That decent jobs for all is a pipe dream. That humanity has survived previous periods of climate breakdown – and will do so again. That humanity is essentially evil and drive by greed and self-interest. That there is no hope.
Not true. There is hope; and it rests not on a utopian vision of humanity, but on our knowledge of human genius, empathy, ingenuity, collaboration integrity, and courage. We know that it is possible to transform the globalised financial system because we have done it before – and in the relatively recent past. That too will be a theme of this book.
To transform the current economic and financial system we must ignore defeatists on both the left and right of the political spectrum, and arm ourselves with sound knowledge. Such knowledge can empower millions of people, and be a mother for action.
Above all, it will serve to correct widespread and deliberate misinformation about the workings of the great public good that is the monetary system. Falsehoods peddled by the followers of Hayek and Ayn Rand; by mainstream economists, cryptocurrency fanatics and other monetary ‘reformers’, and all those who either passively or actively defend a financialised capitalist economy that deliberately depletes the earth’s finite and precious resources.
We can choose to survive. But in order to survive, everything must change. Everything. Radical action, based on sound understanding of the financial system and moral courage, can transform the present and guarantee a future.
Sometimes we just simply have to find a way. The moment we decide to fulfil something, we can do anything. And I’m sure that the moment we start behaving as if we were in an emergency, we can avoid climate and ecological catastrophe. Humans are very adaptable: we can still fix this. But the opportunity to do so will not last for long. We must start today. We have no more excuses.8
– Ann Pettifor, Excerpt from book: ‘The Case for the Green New Deal’ Forward
Please find book at your local bookstore. It is a Green New Deal must read….