Despite the lack of policy progress on climate change and ecosystem degradation there is no shortage of solutions currently on offer. While the specifics may differ, those getting most attention share one characteristic—they focus on technological change. Whether it’s Pacala et al’s wedges, Jeffrey Sachs’ plan to reduce carbon emissions through plug in hybrids and carbon capture and storage, McKinsey’s cost abatement curve approach, or Jacobson and DeLucchi’s 100% renewables by 2030 plan, the emphasis is on technology. Most conspicuously lack a number of obvious changes that would reduce emissions and footprint. They barely address households’ lifestyles and “behavioral” changes (the first McKinsey report calls these too “difficult”), ignore changes in distribution of assets and structure of enterprises, and are light on the conditions of knowledge generation and dissemination. Furthermore, with the exception of the green jobs literature, they generally fail to integrate their analyses with... (read more...)
The economic news of the last week has been mostly bad. The predictions I included in Plenitude, which I wrote about a year ago, are unfortunately looking all too right. The first point is the view that we could expect unemployment to continue at high rates for quite some time. How long is that time? Now even mainstream pundits are saying years. There’s little dynamic from within the private sector to create the numbers of jobs that would be needed to reduce the pool of people looking for work. Just to keep up with population growth, the economy needs to add about 100,000 jobs a month. The private sector only created 83,000 in June, and state and local government lost 10,000. So not only are we not in an employment recovery, we’re not even running in place. Other signs of weakness in the economy included a reversal of the workweek (reducing), and wages in decline. All these developments on the labor market side further reduce consumer demand, by reducing incomes. That in turn means companies don’t have the incentive... (read more...)
Nearly twenty years ago, the world came together in Rio and recognized the urgency of changing our destructive patterns of consumption and production. George H.W. Bush famously declared (or didn’t, there’s some debate about that) that “The American way of life is not up for negotiation.” But he was forced to attend Rio, after months of stonewalling. And the formulation that came out of Rio remains relevant today–the South will reduce its population growth and the North will reduce its consumption impact. The latter hasn’t happened, for the most part. The footprint of the North has continued to increase, with the United States being the most profligate with the earth’s precious resources and in terms of carbon footprint.
Now we’re approaching Rio + 20. It’s an important opportunity to revisit the failures of these twenty years, and to re-direct this debate in productive ways. The global North must get its act together. As the wealthy countries we can afford to stop de-stabilizing... (read more...)
Plenitude has made it into electoral politics! I’ve just heard from Cristina Vasquez, who is running for the North Carolina house. She is speaking about the ideas from the book, and interested in bringing them into her campaign. She shared this story with me: Democrat Cristina Vasquez focuses on middle class in run for NC House District 74. If any readers are from her area, you may want to be in touch with her as she tries to change the debate in NC.
With election season in full swing, we need to get the discourse around to serious efforts on joblessness and ecological restoration, of climate and especially now, ocean ecosystems. It’s time to demand our leaders get out of denial.Read More →
For BP it was a cynical branding ploy, to rename themselves from British Petroieum, and try and get consumers to believe that they were going beyond petroieum. If only. We’ve at nearly 50 days of this horrific oil gush, and the failures at all levels are increasingly apparent. The inability of the President, his admnistration, or the Congress to stand up to big oil is transparent, even if the oil in the deep ocean isn’t. Big Oil has bought and paid for the govt for so long, it’s hard to remember there was a time when excess profits skimmed off in this monopolized industry earned them an “excess profits tax.” Why not now?
One of the main messages of my book is that we need to get off fossil fuels. It won’t be easy, but it’s not impossible, as many in the mainstream insist, nor will be be as hard as others suggest. There are a growing number of credible plans for phasing in renewables, and getting us off fossils over the next few decades. Australia just opted for a smart grid. Here in the... (read more...)
Will the oil disaster in the gulf help us to see that the dominant approach to economics and the environment–which is a technological fix–will not help? There’s a lot of talk in the press and on the blogs about the loss of absolute faith in technology that the ongoing inability to stop the gushing will cause. At the very least, let’s hope that this situation takes the wind out of the sails of geo-engineering and nuclear energy. We need to trust small scale, decentralized, safe technologies not the centralized ones favored by the large corporations.
While we’re on the question of technology, I’m on one of the world’s great ones, the train, where I’m heading down to Washington, DC to do the Diane Rehm show. (It’ll be live this morning at 11 am). I wanted to let you know about a new piece I’ve written which is at changethis.com, an interesting site that features business books about change.Read More →
I’m back from my west coast book tour, where I spoke to a variety of audiences. In Seattle I did a talk at Town Hall, and Todd Boyle producer a great video of it. Todd is an example of a Plenitude creator. Todd emailed me before the talk and asked if he could film, edit and upload this high quality video. He does this, gratis, for people and subjects he finds interesting, as a way of contributing to the community conversation. Thanks to Todd. It’s the full monty for the book, with the slideshow and full Q&A. I hope you like it.
Here’s the video:Read More →
Welcome to Plenitude: the blog and my new website. I’m here to plant a stake in the heart of the Business-As-Usual economy and its bankrupt politics. As I write, oil is spewing out into the Gulf of Mexico, at the rate of perhaps 70,000 barrels a day, and a deadlocked Congress has produced an energy bill that calls for expanded offshore drilling. It’s true madness.
It’s one more example that the Business-as-Usual economy (to borrow a term from the climate discourse) has become profoundly dysfunctional. That conclusion is becoming widely accepted. But we’re having trouble moving beyond it. Plenitude is a vision for doing just that—getting us on a path that reverses the rampant destruction of the planet caused by BAU and restoring true well-being to people and communities. With the political system unable to reign in the corporations that drive emissions and economic activity, Plenitude starts in another place: with people. Its strategy is to say let’s get going on the path of reconstruction now. And it explains why it’s not only... (read more...)