Air Date 6/17/2022
[00:00:00] JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left podcast, in which we shall take a look at many intertwining realizations that are beginning to permeate society, which include, but are not limited to, the dead-end mentality of infinite growth, the uselessness of growth past a certain point for human wellbeing, and the deepening alienation being felt in response to consumerism in place of community.
Clips today are from Double Down News, The Conversation Weekly, The Taxcast, Upstream, The David Pakman Show and with additional members-only clips from Our Changing Climate, Upstream and Circular Metabolism.
Capitalism is the Planet’s Cancer: Operate Before it’s too Late | George Monbiot - Double Down News - Air Date 1-30-20
[00:00:44] GEORGE MONBIOT: Every human being grows. We grow through childhood. And then when we hit adulthood, we reach a plateau. Our body has a regulating system which stops growth beyond a certain point. Occasionally that system breaks down and a cell begins to multiply and to grow without regulation. And we call that cancer. Cancer is basically infinite growth within a finite living system, which is the human body.
That is exactly what is happening with capitalism. Capitalism is dependent on infinite growth within a finite living system, which is the planet. Capitalism is the planet's cancer. And just like cancer in the human body, we have to cut it out.
All through my adult life, I've been railing against corporate capitalism and consumer capitalism and crony capitalism. And these are the real problems. And it's taken a long time for the penny to drop. Maybe the problem isn't the kind of capitalism, maybe the problem is capitalism.
So let's look at the planetary disaster. We're losing the soil. We're losing the fresh water. We're losing the insects. We're losing all the other astonishing species that we share this planet with. We're losing the coral reefs. We're losing the rain forest. We're losing everything. And it's all going at a phenomenal rate. What's causing this? The driving force is economic growth. A global economy growing at 3% a year doubles every 24 years. And then it doubles again, and then it doubles again. That's the trajectory we're supposed to be on. That's what governments want. Right? It just keeps doubling and doubling and doubling and doubling. Which would be just fine if the planet was growing at the same rate. But we live on a finite planet, and infinite growth on a finite planet is a recipe for catastrophe.
The only way it's been done so far is to use ever-increasing areas of the world as places we effectively steal from. By the most powerful parts of the world extract materials and cheap labor from the weaker parts of the world, and then ever greater parts of the world have to be used as a dump to dump our waste, until basically the whole world is an extraction zone and a dump.
The whole atmosphere is a dump for carbon dioxide. Our cities are a dump for air pollution. Our land is a dump for all the junk that we use for a day or two, and then get bored of, and pass on, which you have to do if economic growth is going to continue.
If you've got enough money, you can buy a piece of land. You can buy the right to pollute the atmosphere with your private plane. You can buy a bluefin tuna steak, despite the fact that you're driving a species into extinction. You can buy mahogany furniture whose extraction is causing massive destruction in the Amazon.
Money translates into a right to natural wealth. Why? What's the just principle? There isn't one. And yet that unjust assumption is at the heart of capitalism. And those who are able to accumulate or inherit or grab enough money can then use that money to grab a huge chunk of our common treasury, our common resources, the stuff we all depend on to survive. And then they act like they have a natural right to do whatever they want with that.
If everyone tried to live like the very rich today, we would need multiple planets, five planets, 10 planets, a hundred planets. But we've only got one.
But if instead, you say, let's have luxury, but make it public luxury. Let's have fantastic public swimming pools, brilliant public parks, great tennis courts, great art collections, great museums, great community centers, great youth centers, great playgrounds, all those wonderful things that we try to accumulate for ourselves, but let's do it publicly. Then in creating that space, you don't take space away from other people, you create space for other people. You don't need to multiply those resources again and again and again, as everyone tries to do it privately. By doing it publicly, you need far fewer resources. You can have a really rich, fulfilling life with very high standards of human wellbeing, but without the environmental destruction. And in so doing, we create community, where community has been smashed apart by capitalism.
I don't think there's another way we're going to get through this century. If we carry on believing that people who are rich today can live like the oligarchs and people who are poor today can live like the rich and everyone can just expand and expand and expand and accumulate and accumulate -- which is what capitalism tells us to do -- and that we can just keep on multiplying GDP and we can double economic activity every 24 years like we're doing at the moment, then the only possible outcome is catastrophe.
We need a whole new economic system.
Degrowth: why some economists think abandoning growth is the only way to save the planet Part 1 - The Conversation Weekly - Air Date 10-28-21
[00:05:43] LORENZO FIORAMONTI: Degrowth intellectuals were the first to highlight the contradictions of the growth model. And I think there'd be an extremely innovative. They developed a very robust and interesting idea of what a good society should be, almost from a philosophical point of view, more than from an economic point of view, but also at the same time a weak economic architecture. The early degrowth intellectuals who are arguing that we should all live more conveniently, that we should all live more frugally, that time should be spent being together, consuming less and get more involved in social activities rather than work. Very idyllic. Which is extremely alluring to many people. I mean, I think it's beautiful to think that you can sit around a bonfire and then tell stories and so on and so forth.. But definitely the economic theory behind it, it tends to be weak, right?
[00:06:32] GEMMA WARE - HOST, THE CONVERSATION WEEKLY: Lorenzo says part of the problem is how the term "degrowth" could be perceived by poorer countries, particularly those in Africa.
[00:06:39] LORENZO FIORAMONTI: I take you to Malawi and they're going to tell you, oh, we've had degrowth for the past 50 years and we don't live well, you know?
How do you go to to Swasiland or to Gabon and argue about negative growth? They're gonna tell you, look, you can come here and stay here. We have degrowth every single day. That's why we don't have electricity in our homes. That's why we don't have any food. That's why we didn't go to school. That's why we didn't have hospitals.
So for as long as our brand is degrowth, we're going to be confined to the rich capitalists of the north, where there has been a lot of growth and now people are rich enough to start fantasizing about a world in which you can leave your car in the parking lot and go for a walk. But those countries that have never seen growth will never embrace degrowth.
[00:07:18] GEMMA WARE - HOST, THE CONVERSATION WEEKLY: Another problem he says is to do with the word "degrowth".
[00:07:20] LORENZO FIORAMONTI: Yeah, I think the concept of degrowth, with all its merits, is still perceived as a negative. Even the name itself, "degrowth," it's wrongly perceived as negative growth. I think their brand is not capturing what we really need.
What we need is another model of growth. It's not negative GDP growth.
[00:07:40] GEMMA WARE - HOST, THE CONVERSATION WEEKLY: In recent years, Lorenzo has written a couple of books arguing that the world needs to move away from its obsession with gross domestic product, or GDP, as a way to measure growth.
[00:07:49] LORENZO FIORAMONTI: Our economy expands according to GDP, even when he produces negatives, when it produces things that harm our economic activities. Disasters increased GDP because for construction has to happen. Contamination, pollution increases GDP because you have to clean up. Every time that something that happens somehow GDP moves and ticks up. And this is a problem because we should actually measure what helps our economy improve.
[00:08:17] GEMMA WARE - HOST, THE CONVERSATION WEEKLY: GDP was first developed as a way to measure economic growth in the 1930s and forties in the US. This was in the wake of the Great Depression and in the lead up to World War II. It was adopted more globally in 1944 at the Bretton Woods conference, at which both the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank were founded.
[00:08:33] LORENZO FIORAMONTI: It's an indicator of an old type of economic expansion, when destruction of the environment, exploitation of society, and somehow their inefficient industrial processes were the norm. But nowadays, there are no longer the norm. Actually we consider an economy that is cleaner and an economy that is more innovative and the economy that is quicker at doing things with less impact, actually we consider it better. And GDP doesn't do that.
So GDP likes squandering energy, likes wasting energy, because that moves more money for someone.
[00:09:05] GEMMA WARE - HOST, THE CONVERSATION WEEKLY: Meanwhile, in poorer countries, Lorenzo says that the pursuit of GDP growth encourages a dependence on a particular model of development.
[00:09:13] LORENZO FIORAMONTI: These countries are faced with the contradiction of having to give away something in order to see GDP grow. But they intuitively realized that giving away what they have is not a good idea. And so some of these countries have seen sudden spurs of growth and then followed by destruction and despair every second year. If you look at the African continents, there's been growth and de-growth, growth and de-growth all the time, very destabilizing.
Some of these countries don't realize why the fact that they can use their own energy to produce, for instance, clean energy via solar panels and wind turbines on the rooftops and consume their own energy why? That doesn't count towards GDP. But if they sell it to someone else or if they put it together under a huge central plant, then GDP measures that as contributing to growth. It's increasing inequalities, and for many of us, it means more poverty, especially when you consider informal economies when in order to create GDP growth, you have to privatize natural resources.
[00:10:11] GEMMA WARE - HOST, THE CONVERSATION WEEKLY: This is because the transfer of money from one landowner to another counts towards GDP.
[00:10:16] LORENZO FIORAMONTI: You have to enclose public areas. What happens to those shepherds, the people that could access some of these resources openly, and now they can't anymore. So you creating more poverty for them. And in some cases you're creating a lot of wealth for a few, for a smaller elite. And that again is destabilizing for many of these societies.
So for many of us, economic progress and a good economy should bring about social and environmental wellbeing. People should live better. They should live longer. That should be more social cohesion and the environment should be cleaner. That should be what a good economy does. Paradoxically, we are rewarding countries for doing exactly the opposite via the model of GDP growth. It's about consuming better, more than less. When you consume better, you consume less. We waste 30% of our food production. That's a serious inefficiency of the growth model and that no one really wants. So consuming better it means having less impact on society and the environment.
[00:11:13] GEMMA WARE - HOST, THE CONVERSATION WEEKLY: There have been attempts to develop methodologies that can measure these more positive economic outcomes.
[00:11:18] LORENZO FIORAMONTI: The genuine progress indicator does precisely this. So you say, take away money. We don't want to measure how money moves. But we simply want to measure the wellbeing outcomes. Is a society increasing literacy? Positive. Is a society increasing ecological sustainability? Positive. Are natural ecosystems more resilient in a society than in another? That's a positive for society. And so on and so forth.
So we're not measuring how money moves, and we're measuring the outcomes.
[00:11:46] GEMMA WARE - HOST, THE CONVERSATION WEEKLY: Lorenzo believes there's an economic theory focused on wellbeing is also politically more acceptable than one that appears to advocate for negative growth.
Your obviously now a politician. Is it really difficult politically to advocate for the ideas of degrowth?
[00:12:03] LORENZO FIORAMONTI: I think it's very hard, and it's politically almost impossible to do so. And again, I want to underline this: I'm sympathetic to the degrowth argument. Some of the degrowth proponents are very good friends of mine, and I have huge respect for their work.
But I think if we want to have success in policy, if we want to have success in the media, if you want to have a concept that travels around the world and is successful and not just in Berlin or London or New York, but it's successful also in Lusaka and Angola and in Vietnam or anywhere else, you need to have a different message.
Degrowth as a concept doesn't travel well in politics. It's often ridiculed in the media. And it's certainly not warming the hearts and minds of people in as I call not-GDP-developed countries. And you do need a new code, a new narrative, and this narrative has to be somehow able to produce excitement in society.
And I still think that the concept of wellbeing is, at the end of the day, what we all want. The degrowth promoters want a well-being economy.
Degrowth: liberation from growthism - The Taxcast - Air Date 9-23-21
[00:13:08] NAOMI FOWLER - HOST, THE TAXCAST: This goes to the heart of the misunderstandings we have about our economies, and ultimately Capitalism. We might not like its excesses, but we still believe that only capitalism and higher GDP can deliver better lives. I heard you recently demonstrating, and it was really fascinating, how nations pursuing GDP growth doesn't actually make life any better for ordinary people after a certain point. Can you talk us through that?
[00:13:40] JASON HICKEL: Yeah, the key thing to understand is that rich countries don't need more growth to achieve improved social outcomes. Now, in poor countries, growth may be necessary because we actually have to increase sovereign economic capacity to produce the things that are necessary for people to live well. In rich countries that's not an issue—there's effectively a surplus and overcapacity problem, overproduction problem.
So past a certain point, the correlation between growth and human wellbeing totally breaks down and this is very clear in the empirical record, it should not be surprising. After all, growth means an increase in aggregate commodity production, and there's no reason to believe that an increase in aggregate commodity production should necessarily have a positive causal impact on human welfare. This should be clear to any observer. It all depends on what we're producing, and how income is distributed. Are we producing military hardware, or are we producing vaccines? Is income distributed to the rich, or is it distributed to the working class? Et cetera, et cetera. This is what matters.
So looking at the USA is a good example. This is the most advanced capitalist economy and so this is the objective that all capitalist economies are trying to achieve, like that level of commodification. One of the richest countries in the world in terms of GDP per capita, but look, Spain beats the USA in terms of social indicators, including a life expectancy that is five years longer with 55% less GDP per capita. Portugal outperforms the US with 66% less. These are not just two outliers, there are dozens of similar examples of countries that achieve strong social outcomes that exceed that of the US but with significantly less GDP per capita.
So the question is how is this achieved, and the answer is that it's achieved quite simply by distributing income more fairly, producing things that people actually need and not things that are designed solely for elite consumption, and ensuring universal access to high quality public services. And the evidence is clear that when it comes to human wellbeing and improving social indicators, that's what matters—fairness, livelihoods, and access to public services. The literature could not be clearer on that. So
if we compare the US to Spain or Portugal, it becomes clear that a huge portion of US economic activity, of US productive activity is basically organized around things that do not actually contribute to human wellbeing at all, things like production of SUVs, planned obsolescence, military expansion and so on. We can think of that as basically ecological damage without gain, and that's irrational. This is a deeply inefficient, irrational way to run an economy, and it's socially irrational too, in that this chunk of the economy requires an extraordinary amount of human labor.
Take fast fashion, for example. Millions of people's lives are poured into extracting and producing and selling clothes that are designed to be used a few times and then discarded, which has an ecological cost, but clearly also a social cost. It's a waste of human lives, a waste of human talent, a waste of humanity in general, I suppose. So that's what I mean by a waste. A significant portion of productive capacity in rich countries is effectively damage without gain.
Our Struggles are Your Struggles: Stories of Indigenous Resistance & Regeneration - Upstream - Air Date 3-21-22
[00:16:50] SUNGMANITU BLUEBIRD: Capitalism is the root of a lot of these issues, and capitalism is built through colonialism. Colonialism serves as a means to export misery from the imperial core to Third World countries, and we're past a point of colonization and into the point of imperialism, where we're at the highest stage of capitalism and that it's expanding into these markets in order to devour as much as it can in order to keep itself going. It's important to
conceptualize this in terms of, 500 years ago there was no white man here. Colonialism wasn't a thing, and we had completely different systems of politics and different social relations, and so the Red Nation attempts to address imperialism, colonialism, capitalism through a Marxist analysis, but not one that falls prey to the hero worship and book worship that a lot of European Marxists tend towards, or Orthodox Marxists I should say. We instead introduce Indigenous praxis into the question, because what we have is 500 years of experience in revolutionary resistance against colonization. We're continuing 500 years of Indigenous praxis, and we're informing it with 150 years of Marxist theory plus Indigenous theory.
[00:18:22] DELLA DUNCAN - HOST, UPSTREAM: The Red Nation Manifesto has listed a 10-point program that outlines their demands. The points include the end of disciplinary violence against all Native and oppressed peoples; access to appropriate education, healthcare, social services, employment, and housing; an end to colonialism and capitalism; and the reinstatement of treaty rights.
[00:18:48] SUNGMANITU BLUEBIRD: We're on the front lines because without the domination and stealing of our land, none of this would really be going on. It’s a long lasting domino effect that we're seeing the seeds that were sowed so long ago finally being reaped. And the reason we want a reinstatement of treaty rights is because 83% of biodiversity is protected by Indigenous people, and we only have control of 10% of the land on Earth, and most of that land is Bolivia, which is an Indigenous country. So a reinstatement of treaty rights represents a reinstatement of protections for the wildlife and ecosystems that are part of those treaties.
The Indigenous struggle isn't just about Indigenous people, our struggles are your struggles. We want our lands to be protected. Those lands are the lands that feed you, those lands are the lands that give you water, those lands — the lands that your everything comes from, there is no people without a land. There's a million reasons why the repatriation of native lands and lives and the protection of nonhuman relatives is important, but a lot of it is that it's just restorative to the environment.
[00:20:11] DELLA DUNCAN - HOST, UPSTREAM: The Red Nation has also put out a visionary platform and practical toolkit called The Red Deal: Indigenous Action to Save Our Earth, which is a call for climate action that goes beyond the scope of the U.S. colonial state, and, I’m reading from the book itself here, is “a program for Indigenous liberation, life, and land — an affirmation that colonialism and capitalism must be overturned for this planet to be habitable for humans and other-than-human relatives to live dignified lives. The Red Deal is not a response to the Green New Deal, or a 'bargain' with the elite and powerful. It’s a deal with the humble people of the earth; a pact that we shall strive for peace, and justice and a declaration that movements for justice must come from below and to the left.”
[00:21:08] SUNGMANITU BLUEBIRD: Politicians can't do what only the mass movements can do. We didn't get the Civil Rights Act because of a politician. We got the Civil Rights Act because people all over the united States acted out in various ways in order to express that they needed change, they wanted change, and it needed to happen today. Instead of a couple big protests, a couple few riots, this was stuff happening one after another after another. People don't realize how quickly these things were going and how organized people were, and we need to get to that point again as the left. And the mass movements of like DAPL (Dakota Access Pipeline), it can't rely on these singular events. It needs to be a constant movement. It needs to be always going, always building, and becoming stronger and stronger.
[00:21:56] DELLA DUNCAN - HOST, UPSTREAM: The water protectors at Standing Rock, who were resisting the Dakota Access Pipeline, or DAPL, marked a defining moment of Indigenous resistance and land defense. 2016 has been called the Year of the Water Protector, but it was just part of a much broader movement of Indigenous Resistance efforts across North America, including Dooda Desert Rock, Unist’ot’en camp, Keystone XL, Idle No More, Trans Mountain, Enbridge Line 3, Save Oak Flat, Bayou Bridge, Kumeyaay Defense Against the Wall, Winnemucca camp, and many more.
In fact, according to a report titled Indigenous Resistance Against Carbon, published by the Indigenous Environmental Network and Oil Change International, Indigneous resistance alone has stopped or delayed significant levels of greenhouse gas pollution.
[00:23:02] ALBERTO SALDAMANDO: Indigenous resistance and their victories against fossil fuels kept 6.56 billion metric tons of CO2 from the atmosphere, which is one quarter of the emissions for the U.S. and Canada combined.
[00:23:16] DELLA DUNCAN - HOST, UPSTREAM: Alberto Saldamando is the Indigenous environmental Network’s Counsel on Climate Change and indigenous and Human Rights. He's also co-author, along with Dallas Goldtooth, of the Indigenous Resistance Against Carbon report.
[00:23:31] ALBERTO SALDAMANDO: Indigenous resistance — and victories —against oil pipelines, against coal mines, against extraction actually kept carbon out of the atmosphere. So that our victories really contributed to the struggle against climate change.
[00:23:46] DELLA DUNCAN - HOST, UPSTREAM: The report that Alberto co-authored examines 26 Indigenous frontline struggles against a variety of fossil fuel projects across all stages of the fossil fuel infrastructure development chain over the past decade. The authors of the report, " cherish these struggles, not only for their accomplishments, but for the hope they instill in the next seven generations of life; a hope that is based on spiritual practice and deep relationship with the sacredness of Mother Earth.”
[00:24:17] ALBERTO SALDAMANDO: Indigenous peoples, they have a connection to the land, they have a spiritual as well as a material connection to the land. The land provides for them, and they make sure that the land continues to provide for them by seeking an equilibrium with their environment so that their activity does not affect negatively the environment that sustains them.
When we talk about natural laws, it's not like Creator came down and said, here, you've got to do this or – it's not like this biblical kind of law, but it's nature's feedback. You're harming me, stop what you're doing, or you're helping me. When you restore the salmon and the game starts coming back, and the forest regenerates really in relation to the salmon, it's nature's response to us. It is a response. It may not be carved in stone, but it's a response nonetheless that we listen to, and I think more and more people are listening to what nature is telling them. That they live in the world with other beings, with other biodiversity, plants as well, and that in order to sustain ourselves, we have to sustain nature. I think we have to listen to nature and we have to listen to the Earth. It's the voice of the Earth that teaches us.
That's really where those values lie, where that faith lies, so by taking on these new perspectives, this new paradigm of sustainability and abandoning the neoliberal view of development. We don't want development, we want sustainability, and that's what we're shooting for. I think, in helping frontline communities in their struggle, we're also contributing to their sustainability, their food security, food sovereignty, their environments, their biodiversity, it's just woven together. All of these things affect each other.
Eco-Socialist Degrowth? w/ Paul Murphy - Rupture Radio - Air Date 5-2-22
[00:26:06] PAUL MURPHY: So the first thing I think is there are just objective limits to the amount of energy you can use, and material. They're linked because, in theory, you can have a thing called solar communism. The sun, which is just giving a huge amounts of energy, if it could be harnessed with solar power and so on, well then, okay, the limit is very, very far away. But there isn't enough minerals in the world for us to produce enough solar panels to continue the way that we are going. And similarly, in terms of electric cars, there's a recent report there isn't enough lithium in the world to have just replaced all the private combustion engine cars with electric cars.
There are real limits, and that doesn't mean, we're not saying the issue is overpopulation population or any of that stuff, but for example, there are nine planetary boundaries generally accepted by scientists. So it's not just about the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, it's about ozone depletion, it's about nitrogen, it's about the quality of the water, it's about phosphorus, it's a whole series. There's nine different planetary boundaries and it's accepted that we've crossed four of the nine. Just by saying they have democratic/public ownership it doesn't get beyond that problem, those are actual real material limits.
So that forces a bit of a rethink about the idea of superabundance. Would have been an idea that within a communist, classless society, we're going to have super abundance. You need to reconsider what you mean by that. It is impossible to have quantitative superabundance of everything. Everybody can't, in a future socialist society, everybody can't have an individual electric car, it's not physically possible for us to do that. And to even come close to doing that would require incredible destruction to the earth, with all sorts of environmental problems flowing from that.
So you need to reimagine what super abundance means in qualitative terms, which is that a superabundance in terms of free time, a superabundance in terms of leisure activities, superabundance in terms of a real quality connection that people have with each other, combined with very high standards of material living, but it can be done in the way of significant public transport and so on.
So just to deal with your point as well, yeah, so the most hostile people to de-growth in terms of the left will be people who could be defined, and I think that largely accept the definition, is eco modernists. They often would also reject, wouldn't even embrace the term eco-socialist, it's, "oh, well socialism incorporates all of that,". And in fact, we would see those ideas as a rehashing of the productivism, what's known as Prometheanism of some of the socialist movement of the past, which is the idea that you can just produce your way out of crises. Just produce more and more stuff without any negative impact, and what they rely on, in just in a simplistic way, they rely on the idea that stuff that is not currently invented, for example, carbon capture and storage on a massive scale, is going to be invented, and that will mean that we can continue on our current trajectory of growth, but just shift to solar panels and so on, to a higher percentage of renewable energy, or for example, shift to nuclear without dealing with all of the complications and dangers that arise from that.
And we think, just from a rational point of view of humanity, to take that gamble of continuing on the road of producing more and more and more in the hope that this magical invention is going to come around the corner in a few years' time, in time to save us, is very dangerous game. And there's a great quote from Engels that I can't remember, but basically it's when you do this kind of stuff, nature's going to have its revenge on you. And so we think at the center of what an eco-socialist project should look like is restoring the balance and the relationship between humanity and nature. I think the concept of the metabolic rift, which John Bellamy Foster rediscovered from Marx and Engels, the idea this rift in the relationship between humanity and nature that's being caused by capitalism and the nature of production organized by capitalism, we need to overcome that. Overcome the alienation of humanity from itself, but also from nature.
All of this is in a very abstract way, but I think when posed in concrete terms, in terms of people having quality of life, quality relationships, quality time for those things, that's actually the stuff that most people want to have. Of course, with a basic standard of material living, which enables them to live in comfort and no question about that.
Jason Hickel on how degrowth will save the world (part two) - Politics Theory Other - Air Date 12-19-21
[00:30:34] JASON HICKEL: And so the fact is this. The results of these COP meetings will effectively mean nothing until we have a binding agreements that cap's fossil fuel use and scales it down on a scientific schedule, in a just and equitable way. For rich countries, that means winding down all fossil fuel use to zero in roughly the next 10 years. Think about the ambition of that. That's a 10% cuts in fossil fuel use per year, that's what we need to be talking about, and rich countries are just nowhere near that conversation. No one's talking about a cap on fossil fuel use at all.
So the distance between where we need to be and where these negotiations bring us is monumental, and we should be very concerned about that. It's not okay at this stage in the game, 2021, that there's still this kind of gap. It's a disaster. So we need to be demanding our leaders scale up their ambition significantly, and that's just the facts.
[00:31:28] ALEX DOHERTY - HOST, POLITICS THEORY OTHER: Do you find it at all surprising that, as well as perhaps the more knotty and difficult issue of changing to a different energy system, that a lot of the seemingly more low-hanging fruit also isn't addressed. We still have SUV's running around. I'm talking to you from London, and England notoriously has appalling housing stock with badly insulated homes. There's still houses with single glaze windows, and obviously this isn't necessarily the biggest stuff, but I remember talking to Andreas Malm and he was talking about how just demoralizing it is that the fact that these very minor things that are not being done. Why do you think even that isn't being achieved?
[00:32:00] JASON HICKEL: Yeah, it is remarkable. So the SUV thing is a very obvious issue that needs to be addressed, and this is this it's something that de-growth scholars have been pointing out for some time now. When it comes to the question of energy demand, we have to address the question of energy demands. And so that means getting rid of forms of energy demands that are socially unnecessary, and SUVs are just an obvious example of that. Private jets also, things like that. And this is very easy low-hanging fruit and should be obvious, and it is demoralizing that it's not.
But just to revert, also demoralizing is the fact that again, we have these climate summits that never actually cap fossil fuels. Instead, there's this shift in the discourse away from fossil fuels and towards emissions. Now that might seem fine, but it opens the door to all of these net zero pledges, which are very sketchy because the assumption is that these net zero pledges is basically we're going to keep using fossil fuels and keep emitting carbon through the rest of the century, maybe even, and just hope that we have technology to pull emissions out of the atmosphere later on. So there's lots of room for fudging there when you talk about emissions instead of fossil fuels. And so this is why I say, as a matter of urgency, we have to be talking about capping fossil fuels, but also in addition to the demand reduction strategies that are low-hanging fruit.
[00:33:13] ALEX DOHERTY - HOST, POLITICS THEORY OTHER: Just going back to COP26 itself, and in terms of where blame ought to be apportioned, as you say, there was clearly this effort to pin the blame on countries in the global south and to position coal is this sort of dirty fuel that is increasingly identified with poorer countries and not with the richer nations. But obviously a country like India, it's run by nationalist parties, some would say quasi-fascist and in the case of the BJP, it's extremely friendly to domestic business interests in India. So do you think there's a danger of positioning things simply in a north/south, perpetrators in the north and victims in the south?
[00:33:49] JASON HICKEL: Look in terms of just the raw facts of overshoot emissions, so if we look at country's contributions to exceeding their fair share of the planetary boundary, which is 350 parts per million concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, it's patently evidence that global north countries are overwhelmingly responsible for climate breakdown. So the analysis we published in the Lancet finds that the rich countries of the global north are responsible for 92% of excess emissions. So that's just a fact.
Now in India, for example, is way under its fair share limits of emissions. Now, this is not to say that global south countries should not ramp up ambition as much as possible, it's simply to say that without real leadership from the global north here, then it's not a meaningful conversation. We're going to have to see that kind of leadership from the north before we can reasonably expect dramatically increased ambition in the global south.
And furthermore that ambition is going to be contingent on access to fair financing for the transition and also access to the necessary technologies, which is going to require suspensions on patents for, say, renewable energy technology, and also cash transfers that will enable renewable energy build-out in the global south, et cetera. So we have to have strong commitments on that justice dimension before we can expect rapid de-carbonization in the south.
So the answer is both. We have to recognize the severe inequalities in north/south responsibility.
[00:35:10] ALEX DOHERTY - HOST, POLITICS THEORY OTHER: Particularly historically, I suppose, as well as the contemporary situation.
[00:35:14] JASON HICKEL: That's right. But we also have to be calling for, at the same time calling for all countries to scale up ambition as much as possible. That's the situation we're in.
Infinite Growth on a Finite Planet? (Tim Jackson Interview) - The David Pakman Show - Air Date 9-19-21
[00:35:21] TIM JACKSON: GDP was never a very good metric. I mean, one of the things I do in the book is go back to the words of Robert Kennedy speaking in 1968, so 53 years ago, where actually he was a prominent politician prepared to acknowledge the limits of this measure of the GDP and say, look, it measures everything except that which makes life worthwhile, he said, but it also, it misses out the damage that we're causing to the planet. It doesn't include the positive things that people do for free in their own homes is just not a very good measure of our wellbeing.
And so in a sense, the answer to your question, well, let's start with some better measures of what really matters. And some of those measures, like our sense of wellbeing and our sense of purpose and so on, could be measured, which are very unfamiliar to politicians. And that's a little bit of a challenge. But others of them are really quite simple, like measuring, for example, how much we are degrading our capital assets in the economy itself is something that the GDP is notorious for failing to do and not putting any sort of sense of cost on the damage that we're causing to the environment and not putting any sort of value on the work that people do in their own homes.
All of these things actually -- and there are very, very good, attempts to improve that measure of the GDP. But you could almost say at this point in time, almost any distance towards measuring something more meaningful than the GDP would be a step forwards, because it's just not a very good measure of progress. It's not a very good measure of human progress in society.
[00:37:00] DAVID PAKMAN - HOST, THE DAVID PAKMAN SHOW: So in terms of some of those things -- the universal basic income movement, which has different names, proposes itself as a way to put value to that which has done in the home, for example, or that which an economy may not currently value; carbon taxes would be a way in which we might put a monetary value on the degradation of the environment or the pollution that's released, et cetera. Is that thinking too small still, or are those good ideas? Good steps?
[00:37:26] TIM JACKSON: No, th they are very good ideas. In some ways something like universal basic income is. And I think when, one of the architects of the universal basic income, Andre Gorz, talking about it first, or talking about it seriously in the 1960s, he wasn't the first person to talk about it. But what he said was it's a sort of stealth concept, because by changing our relationship to the way that we earn money and by changing our relationship to the way that we work, it enables us to think in massively creative ways about all the valuable things that are happening in society: volunteering in our community, and the free work that happens in the home, and looking after our elderly and looking after our kids. And it allows us to put a value on those things which, in the purely capitalist system, in the system of the markets, if you like, just don't have that value on them.
So I'm in favor of those. But I still think, to answer your question, I would say they are tools in a toolbox. And the difficulty sometimes in implementing those tools, using those tools is that the architects of the system don't allow them to be used. So the example of ecological taxation, for example, we talked about for decades, and yet it's really hard to implement because of the politics of the growth-based economy.
[00:38:43] DAVID PAKMAN - HOST, THE DAVID PAKMAN SHOW: Well, that's where I was going to go next, which is when we talk about convincing people, getting people on board, et cetera, it seems that two-, four- and six-year political terms in a variety of different countries are completely mismatched with the timeline and priorities that are required to deal with these issues, where a lot of these things are longer-term projects. And if your next election is in two years or four or six, it just seems to be fundamentally at odds with the timescales that we're talking about to actually make some of these structural changes.
[00:39:23] TIM JACKSON: It is at odds in many ways. And I think, that's not the only thing that's wrong with the political system, because the other thing that's wrong is it becomes, in some sense, because of the way in which political parties become funded, they end up being apologists for the status quo, defending invested interests. And that sometimes stands in the way of representing the interest of the poorest in society, the most vulnerable in society, including of course the other species we share the planet with.
So we do have to think much more seriously, I think, about the role of governance and the role of power within government. And think about that as you're suggesting in with a much longer term view.
And again, there are some interesting initiatives there that in Hungary, there's something called the ombudsman for future generations, a representative of people who are coming way down the line from the future and are not represented by the democracy of the day.
And that's been taken up in Wales in the UK with a future generations act. And so this initiative, in fact, to change the way the government works, to bring the future into our decision-making in the present, is a really important part of thinking about how we address those long-term issues.
Degrowth: why some economists think abandoning growth is the only way to save the planet Part 2 - The Conversation Weekly - Air Date 10-28-21
[00:40:37] SAM ALEXANDER: If our only conception of the good life is "more is better," but that's one of the conceptions that the degrowth movement is challenging.
They are trying to rethink the consumer's conception of the good life in such a way that we might actually understand and realize a way of life that increases our quality of life, despite shrinking our material footprints. So one way to understand degrowth is a trade of sorts: less stuff, but more freedom or more community or more time for ourselves to pursue our private passions or more connection with nature.
There is a way to move toward a degrowth economy of sufficiency, sustainability, distributed justice that doesn't mean that we are going to be living in caves with candles. We can live well on less. But it does require a rethinking of high impact cultures of consumption.
[00:41:38] DANILE MERINO - HOST, THE CONVERSATION WEEKLY: Sam told me that the biggest challenge to making a shift to degrowth is that the economic systems and social fabric of the world itself are structured towards growth.
[00:41:51] SAM ALEXANDER: This attempt to live with less within a growth-orientated system is extremely difficult. In a sense, we are locked into high consumption living by virtue of both the political and regulatory structure systems within which we live, and also the infrastructure.
So to give some small examples, it's very hard to escape your car if there are no safe bike lanes to get yourself to work, or if there's no public transport that will take you to work, or if you live so far out, 'cause you can only afford a house in the distant suburbs. People will get in their cars and they should get in their cars if that means they can provide for their children.
[00:42:30] DANILE MERINO - HOST, THE CONVERSATION WEEKLY: All this means that governments would need to play a crucial role in making large scale transformation happen.
[00:42:36] SAM ALEXANDER: We cannot produce a degrowth society purely through personal action alone. There will need to be a political and a macro economic adjustment. We might need policies that lead to resource caps to recognize that we only have a right to a fair share of global resources. We might have reduced working hours. We might need to rethink the way our governments are spending their money to pursue a post-growth vision of progress, rather than a growth-orientated one. There will be distributive policies that will need to manage any economic contraction in a way that ensures that the poorest are kept afloat in any complicated transition.
And it will be a complicated transition. It's unlikely to be smooth. There will be severe forces that will resist any degrowth transition. And that will be part of the political challenge.
[00:43:29] DANILE MERINO - HOST, THE CONVERSATION WEEKLY: But Sam also pointed out that the change looks different depending on where you are in the world.
[00:43:33] SAM ALEXANDER: Nobody in the degrowth movement has ever called on the poorest people in the world to contract their material needs, because that would be insane and unethical. There are still billions of people around the world who are under-consuming by any humane standard. And so a conception of progress would have to involve lifting those poorest out of material destitution. So there is a significant distributive element to the degrowth position, and that is fundamental.
[00:44:01] DANILE MERINO - HOST, THE CONVERSATION WEEKLY: Another common critique of the degrowth movement is that the ideas are unrealistic. But Sam says, look at the outcomes of the status quo.
[00:44:09] SAM ALEXANDER: Sometimes degrowthers are accused of being utopian in the pejorative sense, in the sense that we're just inventing these theories or visions that sound nice, but are unrealistic. I think there is various ways to respond to that utopian critique.
On the one hand, I would say that it's not the degrowthers who are being unrealistic, but it's the people who think that limitless growth on a finite planet is viable.
On the flip side I think you can almost embrace the charge of utopianism and say that until we have a vision of a just and sustainable society, it's very hard to move human hearts. It's very hard to mobilize communities.
So I think it's an important and not at all self-indulgent process to try to imagine, not only the problems with the existing society, but also what a coherent alternative would look like, and then to try to think through the process from how do we get from A to B. And that's what the degrowth movement is trying to do.
How We End Consumerism - Our Changing Climate - Air Date 6-4-21
[00:45:06] CHARLIE KILMAN - HOST, OUR CHANGING CLIMATE: In the global north, over-consumption runs rampant, whether it's a brand new Tesla model S or a nice pair of jeans, vying for status, acceptance, desire, or because of that Instagram ad, are all ingrained in our conception of success and mental wellbeing. Under capitalism, we buy the right things as a way for us to seek acceptance from and connection with our peers.
The barrage of ads we encounter every day equate smiles with khakis, suaveness with sunglasses, and even love with headphones.
But this drive to purchase that new Swiffer Wet Jet or that new car is not an inherently biological trait. Our quest for more, our relentless over-consumption is a symptom of capitalism, an economic system reliant on constant growth in order to create profits. For a business to succeed, out-compete others, and ultimately rake in more profits, it must grow. And one of the brainchildren of this profit growth imperative is advertising, a way to make new and useless products seem fresh, exciting, and even essential. That new iPhone, Bose's noise-canceling headphones, and basically all of fast fashion are the epitome of this phenomenon.
This kind of advertising is not telling you what the company's products are, but instead what you could be with their product. In this way, the products of the capitalist profit machine are foisted onto us, the consumers, as life-altering goods that in reality change very little of our material circumstances. In short, capitalism needs to make more and more shit to remain effective. So corporations transform these products through marketing from goods that don't need to exist into necessities, in order to get us to eat up what they're making.
But more consumption and more income does not equate to more happiness. In fact, this phenomenon is called the Easterlin paradox. Studies revealed that after our basic material needs are met, any additional consumption does a little to improve happiness or mental health.
In addition to its impact on individuals' self-conception and mental health, capitalist overproduction and subsequent over-consumption, especially in the global north, drives massive waste emissions and pollution. A country's rise in emissions correlate strongly with their growth in GDP. Same with energy consumption and production.
The capitalist growth model is incompatible with a zero carbon world, a fact which has been on display in the failures of decoupling strategies that try to use renewables and techno fixes like band-aids over a gaping wound.
We know that decoupling doesn't work when we look at South Korea's emissions growth after their green growth initiatives in 2009. And we can see it in the fact that even though renewable capacity is at an all time high, so too is fossil fuel capacity. We are emitting more than we ever have. Decoupling strategies just don't adequately address the overwhelming scientific evidence that recognizes we need to drastically reduce emissions quickly if we are to stay below 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming.
So if the capitalist growth profit economy can't exist alongside a zero carbon environmentally ethical one, what other options do we have?
Under the pressures of capitalism and consumerism, certain people are grasping for some form of release valve, whether it be minimalism, zero waste, or slow living, those with the privilege to do so are working to carve out some respite from the unhappiness of capitalist alienation.
All of these lifestyle choices correctly recognize the detrimental effect of capitalist consumption on life and environment, but they lack a structural approach that recognizes the importance of both the individual and the system. This is where degrowth comes in.
Degrowth positions itself in an anticapitalist framework that seeks, in the words of professor of human geography Mark Whitehead, "the downscaling of production and consumption in a way that increases human wellbeing and enhances ecological conditions and equity." Essentially, degrowth calls for a realignment of the economy from one based on over-consumption and obsessive accumulation to one that produces goods to satisfy real needs, like housing, health,, education, transport and arts.
At its core, degrowth seeks the dramatic contraction of rich countries to allow for an increase in wellbeing for poorer countries. Models show that a world population of 10 billion people cannot exist on this planet living the current capitalist North American or European lifestyle. And now it takes the earth one year and eight months to regenerate what we consume in a year. And by "we," I mean the richest 10% of the world who are responsible for 50% of carbon emissions.
So de-growth completely re-imagines what it means to live well in countries like the United States or Australia or Germany. It means buying less, repairing, reducing meat consumption, and no second homes on the individual level.
But ultimately degrowth cannot function as just individual lifestyle choices. Systemic pathways like subsidizing all housing retrofits, shutting down the 100 companies that are responsible for 71% of the world's emissions, redistributing all food waste, dramatically expanding public transportation methods, eliminating unnecessary marketing, and a robust emphasis on low carbon care-oriented jobs like educators, therapists and in-home care providers are just some of the many ways to simultaneously improve the wellbeing of all, while drastically reducing the global north's consumption levels.
Degrowth doesn't mean going back to the Stone Age, but it does mean a drastic reduction in energy and material consumption from the largest historical emitters, like the United States. The stark truth is that to both avoid global warming above 1.5 degrees Celsius, while simultaneously establishing a decent living for the majority world, consumption levels of the global north need to plummet. One study modeled that countries with the highest per capita consumers could cut their energy consumption rate by 95% and still live well with a combination of efficiency, technologies and alternative lifestyle choices.
In addition, they found a global reduction of energy consumption by 60% is not only feasible, but also could be done in a way that brings a comfortable lifestyle to every single person on this planet. And if you're thinking that a 60% reduction or even a 95% reduction would mean living in caves, you'd be wrong.
The paper asserts that this contraction means reverting back to 1960s levels of consumption. And that would mean a 1960s lifestyle, not just for the US, but for everyone on the planet. This new reality would look a lot like what Annie Raser-Rowland describes in her book, The Art of Frugal Hedonism "a life for all that centers people and experience and wellbeing instead of relying on extra stuff to manage our emotional health. It would be an economy based on mutual care and repair."
But this economic reality cannot happen under a state capitalist model. Indeed, were the growth to be handed down in policy from the ruling class, it would look the same as austerity measures or even the conditions we're now living through in the pandemic. Because under capitalism, no growth means recessions, the consequences of which inevitably fall on the working class and the marginalized. Which is why degrowth is just one piece of the puzzle.
While degrowth does a sufficient job recognizing the inherent destruction of our current capitalist growth profit system, it needs to be in conversation with eco-socialism. Eco-socialism cannot work without degrowth, and degrowth cannot function without eco-socialism. A synthesis of the two creates a steadier path away from capitalism.
The seizing of the means of production by the laborers and the masses and the subsequent full democratic control of the workplace and the state is essential to implement any measure of degrowth. Reducing consumption must bubble up democratically from the many. Otherwise it can quickly fall into draconian measures of economic oppression, which is why eco-socialism is essential. It allows for the reconstruction of the economy, not based on profit and ultimately endless growth, but one based on needs, ultimately handing the working class agency and liberation. In the words of Marx, "Without a constant need for work in order to live or to 'have', we can actually start being." We can start asking questions like why we burn 800 million gallons of gas every year in the US just to mow our lawns, when we can have an abundance of communal gardens instead. Why does work need to be the thing that defines our life? Why is it so much easier to buy than to repair?
Faced with the realization that capitalist decoupling is not working as we continue to increase global consumption, an eco-socialist degrowth intervention must happen. After all, what could be more enticing than a life with more time to be with the people you love and to do the things you want to do?
Jason Hickel on International Development and Post-capitalism (In Conversation) - Upstream - Air Date 5-28-20
[00:54:54] DELLA DUNCAN - HOST, UPSTREAM: You mentioned in your intro, you're from Swaziland and of course your work really does also focus on the global south. I do have to say in hearing about de-growth and also in hearing about the Corona virus crisis, I also do think about the global south and think about, for example, garment workers or folks in factories of those global supply chains, that it seems, from what I'm hearing, there's really having to decide between working and living or not working and potentially dying of starvation.
So I'm just wondering, what's your sense of what's happening for the global south and particularly in regards to the coronavirus and supply chains, but also more generally about de-growth? Is there any concern that if we de-grow some parts of the economy that it might adversely affect or draw more suffering towards other countries?
[00:55:47] JASON HICKEL: Yes. Both are excellent questions, I'm so glad you've asked. So first about coronavirus, yeah, to me, just as coronavirus has exposed problems in the economic system of neo-liberalism in countries like the US and UK, we're seeing the same thing play out in the global south. And this is important because over the past 40 years, the global south has been subjected to structural adjustment programs by the IMF and the World Bank and other investors, which have basically forced them to massively slash spending on public healthcare and public education, cut wages, cut environmental standards, cut capital controls, et cetera, et cetera, but, when it comes to a crisis like this, the real crucial thing is the cuts to public health care spending.
So in the immediate decades following the end of colonialism, most global south countries, most newly independent, democratically elected governments in the south were building robust, universal public health care systems. And beginning in the 80s with structural adjustment, all of that was shredded, and so most countries in the south these days have very poor public health infrastructure. That is not a natural state of affairs. It's not just that they never got around to developing them. It's not just because they're poor countries, they don't have public health care systems, no, they were actively and purposefully shredded by structural adjustment.
What we're going to see is that, as a consequence, they are fundamentally unprepared to deal with a crisis like COVID, and we're seeing this happen already in places like Ecuador, where bodies are literally piling up in the streets. There's a total deficit of PPE, of hospital beds. The system is utterly fragmented. It cannot cope, and it is a catastrophe. For the most part, these images and these stories have not surfaced in Western media, and to me, this is so heartbreaking because Western economies, or the governments of Western economies, did this to the south, and there needs to be some kind of reckoning.
Now for me, the first step here is that there has to be massive amounts of debt cancellation in the global south right now. There are dozens and dozens of countries in the south that are presently paying more in debt service than they're spending on public health and education. This is ludicrous. And for the most part, these debts are old debts. In some cases they've been paid off many times over, but because of the miracle of compound interest, they're still owed.
So there needs to be massive debt cancellation. This is on the table right now, but in such meager amounts that it's laughable. Rich country creditors got together and decided they would cancel, I think, $20 billion worth of debt and low-income countries. Compare this to the multi trillions of dollars that they have used to bail out their own economies. So I think a much fairer proposal would be to cancel in the region of $1 trillion US dollars of debt in the south right now, which is what's the UN conference on trade and development has demanded.
And that is an essential way of making sure that you effectively put money in the pockets of global south governments, and they can use that to build public health care systems, expand ICU capacity, roll out testing, and do everything possible to mitigate the effects of this crisis. To me, that's urgent, and so I see debt cancellation as a form of reparations for the destruction that has been wrought on global south public health care systems and economies since the 1980s.
So that's that, now your other question about de-growth and impacts on the south. So again, just to clarify for listeners, de-growth is only about high-income countries that are overshooting planetary boundaries. The vast majority of global south countries are within planetary boundaries, and so it does not apply to them, but it's an interesting question. If, given the integration between the global north and global, if global north countries do scale down parts of their economies, such as resource use, since most resources come from the south, is that going to negatively impact global south countries that are dependent on resource exports?
And the answer is that, yes, if all else remains the same, but we're not calling for all else to remain the same. We are calling for a shift in global south countries along the lines of a school of thought called post developments, which would see global south countries shift from being primarily exporters of cheap labor and raw materials to the north, to economies that are much more regionally integrated and focused on independence, economic sovereignty, and human welfare and wellbeing. That's the kind of shift that has to happen.
Now, it's interesting that people will say, global north countries need to keep growing and keep extracting resources from the south so that we can reduce poverty in the global south. This, to me, is a bizarre argument that really does have strange colonial overtones. It's basically saying that the plunder of the south, because that's the present arrangement, the plunder of cheap resources and labor from the south is necessary in order for the south to develop. It's this discourse of colonialism is for the good of the colonized, slavery is for the good of the enslaved, et cetera, et cetera. We must reject that discourse.
The idea that the only way for the south to improve human welfare and human development and et cetera is to be plundered by the north, that's ludicrous, we must reject that. So yeah, no, it requires a kind of shift in the economies of the south, for sure. And this has been something that progressive economists in the global south have called for decades, at least since 1960s. It actually goes back to Gandhi, it goes back to Frantz Fanon, Aimé Césaire, virtually every anti-colonial leader was pointing out that the key to post-colonial developments is that we unhinge our economies from extractivism by the north.
The thing about if people in the north stop buying clothes that are made by Nike or Primark and therefore reduce demand for sweatshop labor, on the face of it, yes, that is a disaster, and there is a discourse out there. This is recently promoted by Nicholas Christophe in the New York Times who wrote a piece called two cheers for sweatshops. And his argument is basically, we might think that sweatshops are bad, but sweatshops are a lifeline for impoverished workers in the global south. There are key to getting out of poverty. And again, I'm struck by the coloniality of that logic. Exploitation is the best way to reduce poverty. And it's ludicrous.
The best way, in this instance, if you want to maintain these global supply chains and international trade and labor effectively, then what you need is you need a global minimum wage. And this is actually relatively easy to do. It could be governed by the International Labor Organization. They've indicated their willingness to do this, and it could be pegged at 50% of each country's median income. So it does not disrupt existing patterns of comparative advantage and labor, and a simple intervention like that would ensure that workers in the global south get paid a fair, decent wage for the labor that they render to the global economy than they presently do. And that would be a game changer.
We don't need development, aid and charity to solve the problem of poverty in the south. It is a problem of injustice and it demands political economic response. A global minimum wage would be an essential first step in that direction. So that's the kind of level of intervention we should call for, not that we should keep mindlessly consuming such garments, but rather that we should rally around a call for a global minimum wage. Again, something that economists in the global south have been calling for a very long time.
Post Growth - Life after Capitalism (Podcast with Prof. Tim Jackson - CUSP) - Circular Metabolism Podcast - Air Date 4-28-21
[01:02:41] TIM JACKSON: There was no sense in which I could write the book without thinking about the pandemic, even though I started writing before, it inevitably seeped into the way that I was thinking about the book. And also because it's had some really extraordinary lessons for the way that we think about the economy, it's really turned so many things on its head.
First of all, most obviously I suppose, that when push comes to shove, it's not wealth that matters so much as health, and that's a change in viewpoint. It's a real switch in viewpoint, and it happened a year ago. We stopped prioritizing wealth and we began to prioritize health. And governments did what they had to do, and they did it more or less overnight. They did it without any restrictions, and they paid for it through mechanisms that they denied had ever existed. So, in a way, it was it was giving us lessons about a post-growth economy in a way that no book ever could. So inevitably, I think there were lots of very key influences there.
And then there was also this other thing, which about the pandemic, I think, which is that it's taught us, sort of, something at least about ourselves as human beings, and not just about the things that matter, but also about the things we struggle with. The lockdown, in some sense, is a kind of huge metaphor for our own mortality and the temporality of our lives, that there are certain kinds of limits on us, and the way that we respond to those limits is really almost like our existential task. It isn't an accidental thing that comes just because we have a pandemic and because we have to suddenly deal with an unexpected situation, there is a sense in which, and this was this is obviously my learning out of the pandemic, it's not everybody's, but it was certainly reflected back at me in a sense that, ultimately, our battle against limits is an existential one.
And we have a choice in that. We either bounce our way out of it and bound free, in one bound it was free, and pushing at the frontiers of, I don't know, anything from overseas holidays to Mars if you are of a certain kind of understanding about the frontier of human ingenuity. And yet there are still limits to that, and there are limits to how many people can participate in that. We might get, if we're lucky, a few people to build a colony on Mars, but that's not about the lives and livelihoods and health of 8 billion people on planet earth. And it's not about the quality of our environment.
If we retreat from that frontier mentality and draw our sights back towards earth, towards ourselves, towards the inner parts of the human psyche, what do we find there? And it's one of the most extraordinary things is that we've lost sight of that journey, that inner journey, it seems to me. We've been so focused on that outer journey, we've been so focused on that innovation, we've been so focused on the outer frontier, that we've neglected parts of what it is to be human.
In a way I think it's the same process that we've neglected our own history. If you're continually innovating, you're continually searching for the new, you're not looking back anymore. You're not looking at the understandings of our grandparents and therefore we're losing the wisdom of the history itself brings to inform our lives.
There's two sides of the same coin in a way, those things. That continual innovation loses sight of history and continually bursting for the frontier loses sight of the inner game, if you like. Part of what I wanted to do is to lay before people the possibility of that inner journey. It doesn't cost anything, it isn't material intensive, it doesn't give you instant gratification, but it's a part of our, almost a part of the soul of society.
Final comments on the climate legislation currently in negotiations and how to win a Rivian EV
[01:06:53] JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with Double Down News explaining that infinite growth on a finite planet is nonsensical. The Conversation Weekly looked at GDP as a terrible measure of human wellbeing. The Taxcast described why growth is not necessary for wellbeing beyond a certain point. Upstream discussed the Red Deal and tackling environmental degradation from an Indigenous perspective. Rupture Radio looked at the dangers of depending on techno optimism to save us. Politics Theory Other described the insufficient global agreements to reduce emissions and the conflict between the global north and south. The David Pakman Show looked at policies like universal basic income that could realign our thinking on value, and the political structures needed to think long term. And The Conversation Weekly described the kind of utopian thinking needed to inspire people to action.
That's what everyone heard, but members also heard three bonus clips. The first from Our Changing Climate looking at the alienation of consumerism as a product of capitalism. Then Upstream debunked, some ideas well-meaning people endorsed to maintain exploitative, colonial economies with the excuse of helping the poor. And finally Circular Metabolism looked at how the pandemic gave us a window into our existential battle against limits and the inner journey we leave behind.
To hear that and have all of our bonus contents delivered seamlessly to the new members-only podcast feed that you'll receive. Sign up to support the show at bestoftheleft.com/support, or shoot me an email to request a financial hardship membership, because we don't let a lack of funds stand in the way of hearing more information.
And now, if you'll recall, in the last episode we talked about calling your Senators to make sure that an historic affordable housing investment will be included in the budget reconciliation bill, now under negotiation. Today, talking about the same bill, we want to emphasize the climate investments that are also under negotiation, with the exception of $7.5 billion for a nationwide network of EV charging stations, most of the climate parts of the bipartisan infrastructure bill last year were put on hold in order to get Joe Manchin's approval, obviously.
Now, thankfully, up to $550 billion in climate investments are on the table, including tax credits for wind, solar, electric vehicles, and more. Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer are in negotiations right now and maybe Manchin is willing to cut a deal, we just don't know what kind of deal yet. And so, right in the thick of it is my old employer, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, also known as CCAN, they're helping to lead the charge to put pressure on the Senate to get the most from this bill, including tax credits ranging from $8,500 to $12,500 for people who buy electric vehicles. And this credit could potentially double the number of people who choose to buy EVs over fossil fuel powered cars. In terms of public transportation investment, that is currently a tenuous issue since there was some transit investment included in the infrastructure bill, but we can and should push for more of that as well.
With midterms just a few months away, this really might be our last chance to pass this kind of historic climate investment for a really long time, so use the call for climate campaign number to get in touch with your senators. The number is (202) 318-1885. That number will ask for your zip code and then immediately direct you to the two senators in your state, first one and then the other, and then connect you with Chuck Schumer's office as well. Again, that call for climate number is (202) 318-1885. And for more information on this budget reconciliation bill, you can go to CCANactionfund.org or check out the link in the show notes.
And finally, as I said, CCAN is helping lead the effort on this legislative push right now, as they have been for almost 20 years of their organization's existence, all from the home base inside the beltway, of Washington, DC. But they are not funded by corporate profits, you will not be surprised to hear, the way other lobbyists are. They are funded in large part by people like you, which is why CCAN is holding a fundraising raffle right now to give away a brand new Rivian electric truck, or, if you prefer, a Tesla of any model up to a Plaid Model S.
Now I do have to say, in light of today's topic, it is important to recognize the slight irony of promoting a new vehicle like this, but as CCAN's Executive Director has been stressing about the current legislation on the table, it is not perfect, nothing is perfect, we are in a situation that is imperfect, and we are all trying to make the best with what we have. So in terms of generating much needed funding for much needed climate activism and capital hill lobbying, that means attracting donors with relatively climate friendly prizes, such as a fancy new EV truck.
So the driving message of today's show is that a brand new electric vehicle is not likely to make you measurably happier or more satisfied as a human being, but you should still support this good cause anyway. So go to CCANactionfund.org/ev-raffle, of course there's a link in the show notes for that, and buy your raffle ticket today. There are only 5,500 tickets available, so your odds are actually pretty decent and don't worry, CCAN will be paying the taxes on the car when you win. So again, go to CCANactionfund.org/ev-raffle or use the link in our show notes, and to have your voice heard in support of the climate legislation under negotiation, call your senators at (202) 318-1885.
That is going to be it for today. Of course you can send your comments into me. You can send them my email to [email protected] or into our voicemail line number, which should not get confused with the capital switchboard, our number is (202) 999-3991. Thanks everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show and participation in our bonus episodes. Thanks to the Monosyllabic Transcriptionist Trio, Ben, Ken, and Brian for their volunteer work, helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work on our social media outlets, activism segments, graphic designing, web mastering, and bonus show co-hosting. And thanks to those who support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships at bestoftheleft.com/support, through our Patreon page, or from right inside the Apple Podcast app.
Membership is how you get instant access to our incredibly good bonus episodes, in addition to there being extra content and no ads in all of our regular episodes. And of course, don't forget to join in with our new and growing Best of the Left Discord community, where you can discuss other podcasts or this podcast, or interesting articles and videos, or recommend things to me, which is the other thing I wanna encourage you to do. I'm always on the lookout for interesting recommendations, so if you have seen, heard, read, or otherwise experienced something and you think. "Hmm, Jay! would be interested in that, he should check that out. It might give him an idea for a new episode topic," send those my way. Those will also get popped into the discord community for community discussion. And of course, links to figure out how to get into the discord community are also in the show notes.
So, coming to from far outside the conventional wisdom of Washington, DC, my name is Jay!, and this has been the Best of the Left Podcast coming to you twice weekly, thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show from bestoftheleft.com.