The I-732 Carbon Tax: Responding to Critiques

In response to my previous post, in which I voiced my strong support for I-732, I’ve heard back from several friends who echoed and applauded my position.  I’ve also heard from three respected friends who have voted against, or are considering voting against the initiative.

This is the WA state tax swap ballot initiative that Sightline Institute has declared “would give Washington the continent’s, if not the world’s, most potent, persistent, and comprehensive incentive to move swiftly beyond dirty fossil fuels and to a carbon-free future.”

It’s an initiative that has the support of over 50 climate scientists at UW, as well as numerous economists.

So why would some of my climate change concerned friends consider voting against this initiative? Allow me to address the concerns my friends raised with me.

Argument # One is that a recent report coming out of British Columbia has shown in the ten years of having implemented a carbon tax, emission have actually gone up in the province.

My Response:

The “recent report” was not referenced to a source, so I performed a quick online search.  I found a December 2015 report by the Carbon Tax Center, British Columbia’s Carbon Tax: By the Numbers.  This report found that “The 12.9% decrease in British Columbia’s per capita emissions in 2008-2013 compared to 2000-2007 was three-and-a-half times as pronounced as the 3.7% per capita decline for the rest of Canada. This suggests that the carbon tax caused emissions in the province to be appreciably less than they would have been, without the carbon tax.

British Columbia's Carbon Tax By the Numbers

British Columbia’s Carbon Tax By the Numbers

Note that the chart above provides not only the change in emissions in BC after the tax went into effect, but puts their numbers in context, comparing to the rest of Canada, and also giving us emissions per capita, AND per GDP.

A caveat in the report tells us that “GHG emissions increased in British Columbia in 2012 and again in 2013, not just in absolute terms but also per capita. This suggests that the carbon tax needs to resume its annual increments (the last increase was in 2012; its bite has since been eroded by inflation) if emissions are to begin again their downward track.”

This means not that emissions were increasing beyond the pre-tax levels, but, as the other chart here makes clear, that the downward trajectory had reversed course and was beginning to creep up again.  Note the reason: The BC tax was frozen at 2012 levels. The proposed initiative for WA state does not have this defect – see below.

After more digging online, I think I found the report my friend was referring to.  The report above was prepared by an organization biased in favor of the carbon tax approach.  This second report, by Food and Water Watch, has a bias against market based solutions to climate change.  You can find their report, “The British Columbia Carbon Tax: A Failed Market Based Solution to Climate Change,” here.  This report skews the numbers a bit by ignoring the dramatic drop in emissions that occurred during the first 6 months of the tax, because it was not a full year, and because they attribute the decline to the recession rather than the carbon tax.  So it comes down to what period of time is measured, as they admit: “It largely depends when the change is measured: The taxed emissions decline was more than 10 percent from the 2004 peak to 2012, but that includes many falling years before the carbon tax was enacted; the decline was 2.2 percent from 2008 to 2014, but the tax was in effect only for the second half of 2008.”

In addition, this second report does not give us the context against the rest of Canada, nor the per capita and per GDP numbers.

I’ll admit that I haven’t spent a lot of time comparing the validity claims of the two contrasting reports, but the links are there for those who want to dive deep.  What does stand out to me is that the first report (“By the Numbers“) gives us a long trend comparison between BC and the other Canadian provinces, and I think this mitigates other factors such as the recession and is a more robust and fairer overall report.

However, there are others much more skilled at analyzing data than I, and they devote much more time and resources – we’re lucky to have the Sightline Institute in the Pacific Northwest for this purpose.

Like the “By the Numbers” report, Sightline agrees that the real weakness of the BC tax is that it was frozen in 2012.  In contrast, according to Sightline, the CarbonWA plan of “setting the price’s rising trajectory all the way to 2059 would vault Washington to the head of the North American pack on climate leadership. Other North American carbon prices are not yet high enough nor sustained enough to achieve climate-stabilizing pollution reductions…I-732 would give Washington the continent’s, if not the world’s, most potent, persistent, and comprehensive incentive to move swiftly beyond dirty fossil fuels and to a carbon-free future.”

“…Unlike the British Columbia carbon tax, which froze its price in 2012 pending further legislative action, I-732’s tax would continue increasing by 3.5 percent plus inflation every year until 2059 and by the inflation rate thereafter. This price trajectory sends a clear signal that clean energy is the smart choice in the Evergreen State for the rest of the century.”

The second argument from my friends is in two parts: a) oil and gas companies are supporting this initiative because it would give tax breaks to corporations and instead (b) will put the burden of a carbon tax on the low income working class (and the rest of the public consumers).

My Response:

a) I have found no evidence that oil and gas companies are supporting I-732.  Again, according to Sightline, the tax “covers pollution from burning fossil fuels, including gasoline, diesel, aircraft fuels, refinery and industrial operations, natural gas, and coal or natural gas burned in power plants in-state, and in plants out-of-state when they deliver electricity to Washington homes and businesses.”

b) Will the tax unfairly burden low income Washington residents? No. It actually makes the WA state tax system less regressive and more progressive, and has provisions to benefit those of lower income. It does this by reducing sales tax by 1%, and provides a Working Family Tax Rebate of up to $1500 to low income families. It also lowers the B&O Tax on Manufacturing so that manufacturing jobs will not be lost. Here is yet another quote from Sightline:
“I-732 hews closely to this principle [of mitigating costs to communities with lower incomes], yielding the biggest gain in tax fairness in Washington in nearly four decades, with thousand-dollar net benefits for hundreds of thousands of low-income families. I-732 does nothing procedural to increase the influence of low-income families on decision making. It does, however, put most of them ahead financially. Indeed, has any reform in the last decade, aside from the Affordable Care Act, increased many low-income working families’ annual income in Washington by more than $1,000 apiece in a single stroke?”
If you’re still unsure, read the whole meticulous analysis by Sightline (fyi, they refute the supposed “budget hole” that I-732 would create):
Cliff Mass has a good overview response to many of the other objections raised to I-732, here: Why I-732 is a Win-Win.
Are We Going to Let the Perfect Be the Enemy of the Good?
You might want to check out the conversation Thom Hartman had with Vien Truong, representing opposition to I-732. Hear the perspective of the ‘No’ campaign, along with Hartman’s own reflections, i.e. Does It Have to Be Perfect?.
On that score (does it have to be perfect?), blogger John Michael Greer has a very trenchant critique of climate change activism as a whole, partially attributing it’s failure to gain traction to 4 points he calls 1) piggybacking,  2) the partisan trap, 3) purity politics, and 4) pandering to the priviledged.
1) Piggybacking: “This is the insistence that any movement for social change has to make room on its agenda for all the other currently popular movements for social change, and has to divert some of its time, labor, and resources to each of these other movements.”  The ‘No on I-732’ campaign is guilty of this charge. Many Washington Sate environmentalists actually oppose the measure and want to kill it because it does not include some of their “climate justice” concerns. Greer gives the same-sex marriage campaign as a contrasting success, where they were able to keep their eye on the ball with their single issue and not tie it to every other issue on the left (however important they may be in their own right).
2) The Partisan Trap: “The Democratic Party is the place where environmental causes go to die,” according to Greer. “This isn’t accidental,” he says. “Both US parties have perfected the art of reducing once-independent movements for social change into captive constituencies, which keep on working to elect candidates for one or the other party, while getting essentially nothing in return.” I-732 attempts to avoid this trap by making I-732 revenue neutral and enlisting the support of fiscal conservatives who care about the environment.
3) Purity Politics: “…movements for social change must exclude everyone who fails any of a battery of tests of ideological purity. It’s been pointed out, and truly, that the Right looks for allies to attract while the Left looks for heretics to expel; this is one of the reasons that for the last forty years, the Right has been so much more successful than the Left.” Greer also observes that “capacity to bridge ideological divides and find common ground on a single issue isn’t a guarantee of victory, but refusing to do so is almost always a guarantee of defeat.”  I-732 may not be perfect, but it is a very well crafted, and sincere effort to put together an initiative that bridges ideological divides and has actually gained support from both the left and the right in true bi-partisanship. It is a practical and pragmatic approach that actually has a chance to be implemented.  It will likely be too late if we think we can wait for something better.
4) Pandering to the Privileged: “Since the early 1980s, most activists have framed their appeals and their campaigns as though the only audience that mattered consisted of affluent liberals, and as often as not went out of their way to ignore or even insult the great majority of Americans—you know, the people who would have had to be on their side if their cause was going to achieve any kind of lasting victory.” It is here that the I-732 campaign might have done a better job in engaging with advocates for the poor, minority coalitions, and climate justice folks. But the reality is that I-732 will result in a larger increase of income for low income working families than any other reform of the last decade.
“In summary,  I-732 is a chance for citizens of Washington State to make a meaningful step towards reducing carbon emissions, will make our State tax system fairer and less regressive, will foster business and economic activity, and will serve as a positive example to the nation of environmentally effective bipartisan action.” – Cliff Maas

WA State Carbon Tax Initiative: I-732 Needs a Vote from You

I-732 is an initiative on the ballot here in Washington state calling for a revenue neutral carbon tax (it lowers other taxes at the same time it raises a tax on fossil fuels), and it needs and deserves your support.  Here’s how it reads on the ballot:

This measure would impose a carbon emission tax on certain fossil fuels and fossil-fuel generated electricity, reduce the sales tax by one percentage point and increase a low-income exemption, and reduce certain manufacturing taxes.

And here is how the NY Times summarized it in an Op-Ed written in support of this initiative:

[I-732] would impose a tax on greenhouse gas emissions generated by fossil fuels like petroleum, gas and coal. The tax would start at $15 per metric ton next year, increase to $25 a ton in 2018 and then rise gradually over a few decades until it hits $100 a ton in 2016 dollars. (A typical passenger car emits about five metric tons of carbon dioxide in a year.) The money raised by the tax would go to lowering the state sales tax, effectively eliminating a business tax on manufacturers and giving up to $1,500 in tax credits to low-income residents.

Climate scientists and economists have long said that one of the best ways to fight climate change is to put a price on greenhouse gas emissions and raise that price over time, which would encourage the switch to cleaner energy sources, like solar and wind. The initiative’s approach is based on a carbon tax that British Columbia put in place in 2008. Ireland and Sweden also have such taxes.

The Washington proposal would be the first in the country and could well set an example for other states.

James Hansen, perhaps the most respected and famous climate scientist and activist, has said for years that a carbon tax and dividend program is the best way to fight climate change – much more effective than the common “cap and trade” schemes politicians like to promote. Hansen is a very strong supporter of the WA state initiative.  From his op-ed in the Seattle Times:

…The most efficient way to phase out fossil fuels is a steadily rising carbon fee collected from fossil-fuel companies and distributed uniformly to the public. The public should support this “carbon fee and dividend.” Wealthy people will pay more in increased prices than they receive in the dividend. However, economic studies show that carbon fee-and-dividend spurs the economy, increases the gross national product, creates millions of jobs and rapidly reduces fossil-fuel use. Most people would come out ahead.

So why did nations from Australia to Europe and states such as California adopt an ineffectual and bureaucratic cap-and-trade system? In a word: politics. Seven years ago, then-U.S. Sen. John Kerry admitted to me that a fee-and-dividend policy was a better approach. But in words that still ring in my ears, he said, “I can’t get one vote for that.” Instead, liberals pushed for Waxman/Markey cap and trade, with votes bought and paid for by giveaways to special interests, the bill stretching to more than 2,000 pages.

Conservatives — and I, in congressional testimony — brand cap and trade as “cap and tax,” because it raises the price of energy for the public with the money used to grow government. Australians dumped the government that adopted cap and trade and rescinded the bill. California’s bureaucratic program, after 10 years, has had a vanishing effect on emissions — worse than the average of the other 49 states.

I-732 has not been compromised by special interests. Instead of giving the funds collected from fossil-fuel companies to the public, it would reduce the sales tax 15 percent — from 6.5 percent to 5.5 percent — and funds a Working Families Tax Credit for low-income families. Energy prices would rise, but the measure would induce investments in clean energy, giving Washington a head start in technology competition.

I-732 is the product of a lean group of committed people who gathered 350,000 signatures, even in the absence of support from certain “Big Green” environmental groups that remain eager to work with special interests that benefit from cap-and-trade and tax-and-spend schemes.

For the sake of government transparency, and to provide an example for other states and the rest of the world, but most of all for young people, future generations and nature, vote “yes” on I-732.

To conclude, I’ll share a portion of an email that has been going around a bit, and that perfectly expresses my thoughts (and my frustrations) around this issue. Note the reference below to the analysis of Sightline Institute. If you have any doubts about whether or not to support this issue, please delve into the Sightline analysisFrom Kristy Royce:

“…I want to make sure you hear the whole story. We are within striking distance of passing this! And this is a BIG DEAL!

So … a carbon tax. Under normal circumstances, no email would be required. Carbon tax? Yes, of course! We’ve been waiting decades for this! We’ve known for years that this is the single most effective policy to tackle climate change.

But this is not a normal time.

You may have heard that many of the progressive and green groups are not supporting I-732. You may have seen Fuse’s Progressive Voter Guide that advises a No vote on I-732. How is this possible?

That is some crazy talk!

The politics around I-732 are complicated*, but the short version is this: The groups opposing I-732 oppose it for one main reason: it is revenue neutral. In other words, it’s a carbon tax that won’t bring in any additional revenue, because it lowers other taxes at the same time it raises a tax on fossil fuels.

These groups are so committed to the idea that a carbon tax should raise new revenue that they’re willing to kill the strongest climate policy in North America over it. They’re even willing to trot out the same lies that right wing opponents always use against environmental initiatives: in the official Voters’ pamphlet, they have the audacity to call it a “job killer” and say that “it will not significantly address climate change.”

Here’s what Sightline, the Pacific Northwest’s premier progressive think tank had to say about I-732:

“I-732 would launch Washington to a position of global leadership on climate action. By implementing a pollution price, rising steadily for four decades and keeping pace with inflation thereafter, I-732 would reorient Washington’s economy away from fossil fuels and toward low-carbon options. The price would be simple to administer and would cover most of the state’s pollution. By reducing Washington’s regressive state sales tax and funding tax credits for working families, I-732 would make the state tax code more progressive.”

“Taken on whole, for us at Sightline, and judged exclusively on the basis of policy, not politics or political strategy, the policy’s flaws are cause for concern but are dwarfed by I-732’s potential benefits.”

If you’re still unsure, read the whole meticulous analysis (fyi, they refute the supposed “budget hole” that I-732 would create):

Weighing CarbonWa’s Tax Swap Initiative
Does I-732 Really Have a “Budget Hole”?
Weighing the Critiques of CarbonWA’s I-732

You can tell from the way they wrote the piece that they’re bending over backwards to avoid pissing off all their allies on the left. But facts are facts.

Please join me in supporting I-732 and helping to spread the word. Please vote YES for climate action!

Cheers,
Kristy

* The complication is mainly around the involvement of environmental justice, climate justice, and social justice groups representing communities of color. I’m not in any way minimizing the importance of the issues they’re raising. But I deeply believe that opposing I-732 over these issues is a huge mistake. As so often, perfect is the enemy of good, and I believe that to be the case here.”

In Praise of Peter Paul Pogany, an Integral Economist

I’ve just completed a new page on my website dedicated to promoting the work of Peter Pogany, which you can find here, and I’d like to use this post as a way of alerting everyone to this new page, and to provide a brief summary of what you’ll find there.

Peter Paul Pogany (1936-2014) was born in Budapest, Hungary, and later moved to the U.S. to continue his education and begin his career. He worked as an Economist for the U.S. International Trade Commission (where he contributed to many high-profile U.S. government studies on foreign economic issues), and was an Adjunct Professor at George Washington University.

My impression is that it may have been after his retirement that he felt free to more deeply explore and begin writing, relating his expertise in economics to thermodynamics, history, philosophy, and other big picture ideas.

It is my belief that Pogany’s work is essential for anyone wanting to grasp the implications of integral economics, of which I’ll be writing more about in the future.

In 2006 Pogany’s major work was published: Rethinking the World, “the result of several years of full-time, independent, transdisciplinary research.”Rethinking the World

In Rethinking the World, Pogany delved deep into his understanding of history as a thermodynamic process.

From the  blurb about Pogany’s book:

“The still expanding human biomass and mindlessly pursued economic expansion are straining against the planet’s physical limits. Oil! Energy! Ecology! Growing vulnerabilities in hyperlinked national economies! The transformation of the current global system, “mixed economy/weak multilateralism,” into a radically new one, “two-level economy/strong multilateralism,” looks like the only way to avoid drifting toward extinction…

His 2006 book does not once mention Jean Gebser, but from 2009 to 2013, Pogany wrote a number of insightful articles and essays relating ideas from Gebser’s magnum opus, The Ever-Present Origin, to the predicament the world is now facing, and the ways in which Gebser’s ideas about stages of consciousness, especially the yet to come stage of the integral structure of consciousness (a universal “intensified awareness”), support Pogany’s own program of New Historical Materialism.  Many of these essays were prepared for presentation to the International Gebser Society at their annual conference.

HavocSadly, Peter Pogany passed away on May 25, 2014. His final book, Havoc, Thy Name is Twenty-First Century! Thermodynamic Isolation and the New World Order was published posthumously in 2015.  This work is a slight alteration and expansion of a paper published in 2013 (see below).

Here is the blurb for this book:

“Just to maintain our standard of living, we need to grow the worldwide economy at an unsustainable rate.

As we seek to hit such lofty targets, we’re bound to deplete our resources and cause environmental crises on a scale that we have never seen before. Revolutions, terrorism, and wars will follow.

Peter Pogany examines the problems we face and argues that human culture is governed by thermodynamic cycles of steady states interrupted by chaotic transitions. Specifically, he postulates that a steady state was interrupted by World War I, with a chaotic transition following World War II, which has led us to the current world order.

His theory predicts that global society is drifting toward a new form of self-organization that will recognize limits to demographic-economic expansion – but only after we go through a new chaotic transition that will start sometime between now and the 2030s.

Havoc, They Name is Twenty-First Century, delivers sobering thoughts on where the world is headed, but it also offers a glimpse of a bright future that we can embrace once we get through the darkness to come.”

With the two books above, and the essays linked below, you’ll obtain a good understanding of Peter Pogany’s ideas, which I believe are unique, timely, insightful, important, broadly considered, and with wide application. Even better if you can read this material alongside Gebser’s The Ever-Present Origin, and other works and ideas presented on this website (see here and here).

Below are a list of important essays and longer papers that I would like to highlight. Check the Pogany Page if you’d like to see descriptive summaries for each essay. 

Presentations to the International Gebser Society Conference:

“Fifth Structure” – emergence in economics: Observations through the thermodynamic lens of world history (presented October 2009) [Download pdf]

New scientific evidence confirms Gebser’s concerns about technological overreach (presented October 2010) [Download pdf]

Gebser’s relevance to the global crisis (presented October 2011) [Download pdf]

Reprinted as chapter 6 in “Filling the Credibility Gap” edited by Algis Mickunas and John Murphy

An Aperspectival Opinion on the Future of “Smart Money” (presented October 2012) [Download pdf]

Tributaries to Gebser’s Social Thought (presented October 2013) [Download pdf]

  • Longer Papers at Munich Personal RePEc Archive (MPRA):

What’s Wrong with the World? Rationality! A Critique of Economic Anthropology in the Spirit of Jean Gebser (2010)
[Available here: https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/27221/]

Value and Utility in a Historical Perspective (2012)
[Available here: https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/43477/]

Thermodynamic Isolation and the New World Order (2013)
[Available here: http://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/49924/]

[This is the paper that the book Havoc, Thy Name is Twenty-First Century! is based upon.]

Washington State Could Enact the Nation’s First Carbon Tax

Will Washington State have the nation’s first carbon tax?

by Kurt Cobb, Resource Insights

“Yoram Bauman is the world’s only “stand-up economist.” He makes his living poking fun at his own profession. But he’s dead serious about fighting climate change, and he’s the intellectual force behind a climate-related initiative that seems likely to appear on Washington state’s November 2016 ballot, an initiative that would implement the first carbon tax in the nation.

The purpose of the measure, dubbed Initiative 732, would be to motivate households and businesses to cut down on the burning of fossil fuels, the major source of man-made emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas. By raising the price of fossil fuels it would encourage conservation and efficiency and the substitution of low-carbon and carbon-free sources of energy by making these energy sources more cost-competitive.

The organization pushing the initiative is Carbon Washington. The principle behind the proposal is simple: Raise taxes on what you want less of and lower taxes on what you want more of.”

Read the entire article here.

And then, if you’re in or near Bellingham, WA, come out tonight (9/30/15) to WWU’s Arntzen Hall:

Join CarbonWA and SRE (Students for Renewable Energy) for a FREE night of stand-up economics and climate solutions, a discussion and Q&A with Yoram Bauman PhD.

Cartoon Climate Change

Yoram Bauman is a PhD economist, author, the word’s first stand up economist, and founder of CarbonWA the organization backing I-732, a ballot initiative to tax carbon emissions.

This discussion will cover a number of topics including but not limited to I-732. It’s the perfect space for students and community members to learn more about climate change and ways they can take action in their community and beyond.

Not only will there be food and a raffle with excellent prizes (think Mallard’s and Boundary Bay), but this will be a great opportunity to learn more about how we can tackle climate change! Bring your friends, impress a date, get some extra kudos in a class, or expand your environmental economics horizon!

Come share some laughs and learn more about clean energy policy, Wednesday, Sept. 30th, 6pm in AH 100!

CarbonWA Bellingham Facebook Event Listing Here.

Transition Whatcom Event Listing Here.

Pogonomics and Pope-onomics

The worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings. – Pope Francis

Pogonomics

Pogo was a famous comic strip written by Walt Kelly, that ran from the late 1940s through the early 1970s.  In 1970, Kelly designed a poster to celebrate the first Earth Day, using the slogan “we have met the enemy and he is us.”

pogo-1970_earth_day_poster

On Earth Day 1971, Kelly used the slogan once again, this time in the comic strip itself:

Pogo_Earth_Day_1971_poster

In the 1980s, Joe Dominguez began teaching courses on financial integrity, and later co-wrote with Vicki Robin the best selling book Your Money or Your Life. He framed his teaching around what he called “Pogonomics.”  In a 1990 column on the subject “What is Enough?” Dominguez wrote,

While no one was paying much attention, economics replaced religion as the touchstone of human life. Like religion, economics has priests and rituals. The purpose of these priests and rituals is to interpret the meaning of events while keeping the people in confusion. Any effort on the part of the masses to connect directly with the realities behind the rituals is considered a sacrilege.

Dominguez’s concerns are well expressed in this excerpt:

The purpose of money is to consume resources. Any time that you spend money, you are consuming resources. Since you have traded a piece of your life to get that money (through your employment), you are also consuming your own resource (your life-energy) when you spend money. The new resource you bought with the money now belongs to you – it is not available to others. It is now your right to use it up, to prevent others from getting it, to hide it from other people in your closet, to make other people feel bad because they don’t have it.

When you want to consume more resources than you can get with the money you got by selling your own resource (your life energy) through your employment, you can sell your future and your children’s future. This is called “trading futures,” or debt. You have to use up even more resources when you are consuming via debt – the extra amount being called, interestingly enough, “interest on consumer debt.” This is a very efficient way to “use up, devour, destroy, waste and squander.”

While you are in employment, acquiring money and debt, and consuming, you are creating the environment. All along the way, from when that resource was taken from the Earth to the time you have consumed as much of it as you want and then thrown it “away,” it has been creating environment. The mining equipment that got to the resource had to create environment by removing trees and topsoil that were in the way, had to burn (consume) fuels that created a different recipe for the air environment, had to run a lot of water to take the used-up chemicals into the river environment. Then the resource had to be transported to the refiner, creating a lot of environment along the way, and the refiner created more environment, and then the manufacturer created still more environment, and then the shipper had to create lots more environment to package the resource so that it would appeal to the consumer, who would pay the money that it cost for all that environment (and employment and resource). The consumer often uses the new resource to create more environment as well, and then throws it “away” – creating even more environment.

Hence, the concept of Pogonomics is indeed summed up as “We have met the enemy and he [or she] is us.”

Pope-onomics

Pope Francis has a very similar analysis, which we are here referring to as “Pope-onomics.”  This article by Nathan Schneider (thanks to theurj for the link) outlines some of the Pope’s economic ideas which argue against free market growth at all costs, monetary policies that encourage crippling debt, and  of “a financial system that rules rather than serves.”

Popenomics

Rush Limbaugh is wrong when he characterizes the Pope’s economics as “pure Marxism.”  However, neither is it pure capitalism, which comes as a shock to the mainstream view that our current “business as usual” economic order is non-negotiable. Schneider comments, ” It’s not an economics of the right or left, of Democrats or Republicans, but an economics of cooperation.”

Like Pogonomics (and permaculture), Schneider also points out that “The future Francis hopes for is one that comes chiefly from the bottom up.” He told a group of activists in Bolivia, “The future of humanity is in great measure in your own hands, through your ability to organize and carry out creative alternatives.”

Here are a few comments from the Pope Francis Encyclical, Laudato Si‘ (yes, it is worth your time to set aside an hour or two to sit down and carefully read through the pdf of this entire document):

“In a word, businesses profit by calculating and paying only a fraction of the costs involved. Yet only when ‘the economic and social costs of using up shared environmental resources are recognized with transparency and fully borne by those who incur them, not by other peoples or future generations,’ can those actions be considered ethical.”

“A change in lifestyle could bring healthy pressure to bear on those who wield political, economic and social power. This is what consumer movements accomplish by boycotting certain products. They prove successful in changing the way businesses operate, forcing them to consider their environmental footprint and their patterns of production.”

“Obsession with a consumerist lifestyle, above all when few people are capable of maintaining it, can only lead to violence and mutual destruction.”

“Since the market tends to promote extreme consumerism in an effort to sell its products, people can easily get caught up in a whirlwind of needless buying and spending.”

Pope Francis seems to resonate with Joe Dominguez’s moral and ethical concerns about economics having replaced religion as the touchstone of life. In 2013, in his first major written work,  Evangelii Gaudium, he specifically asks us to say “No to an economy of exclusion” and “No to the idolatry of money,” which he said could lead to “a new tyranny.” “Money must serve,” he says, “not rule.”

 

we-have-created-new-idols

What Pope-onomics does encourage is self-governing economies and cooperative enterprise, which are owned and controlled by the people who depend on them (workers and customers), and are not set up to maximize profits. Co-operatives have a long tradition in the catholic tradition and indeed in the very roots of the very earliest Christians.

Acts 2:42-47: The Fellowship of the Believers

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, ghey gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. they broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Schneider references the 1916 book Distributive Justice by priest-economist John Ryan, and quotes his conclusion about the Advantages and Prospects of Co-operation: “Co-operation is a golden mean between individualism and socialism. It includes all the good features and excludes all the evil features of both….[cooperatives cultivate] a greater development of the altruistic spirit than is possible under any other economic system that has ever been tried or devised.”

The Permaculture City: Toby Hemenway’s New Book and Tour of the Pacific Northwest

The Permaculture City

The Permaculture City: Regenerative Design for Urban, Suburban, and Town Resilience by Toby Hemenway is a welcome articulation of permaculture applied to cities.

For those of you who’ve read Gaia’s Garden, Toby Hemenway’s first permaculture book (which is the best-selling permaculture book in the world), you know that Hemenway writes in a straight-forward style that is easy to follow and digest, and a pleasure to read. While Gaia’s Garden was a practical permaculture book applied to home-scale gardening, the new book emphasizes from the very beginning that permaculture is not to be understood as a style of organic gardening.

He writes, “Urban permaculture is only slightly about gardening, and mostly about people. The human ecosystem that is the city is rich, and it includes much more than food. To understand, work within, and enhance that ecosystem, we need to understand not just how we feed ourselves in cities and towns but how we meet all our needs. How do we build, move about, use water and energy, feel secure, make decisions, solve problems, sustain ourselves, develop policies, live together?

…We’re not just gardening plants but people, neighborhoods, and even cultures.”

Toby

Hemenway defines permaculture as:

“applied ecology; that is, it is a design approach based on finding and applying to our own creations some of the guiding axioms at work in natural ecosystems.”

And as:
“a set of decision-making tools, based on natural systems, for arriving at regenerative solutions to design challenges of all kinds.”

Contents
Introduction: Looking at Cities through a Permaculture Lens (read online here)
1. The Surprisingly Green City (read online here)
2. Permaculture Design with an Urban Twist
3. Designing the Urban Home Garden
4. Techniques for the Urban Home Garden
5. Strategies for Gardening in Community
6. Water Wisdom: Metropolitan Style
7. Energy Solutions for Homes and Communities
8. Livelihood, Real Wealth, and Becoming Valuable
9. Placemaking and the Empowered Community
10. Tools for Designing Resilient Cities

“Many people who are searching for a more fulfilling life, wanting to reduce their ecological footprint and buld resilience for uncertain futures, grasp that permaculture might be part of the solution but are often unsure how it applies to their particular situation. For residents of towns and cities in the modern affluent world, The Permaculture City shows how permaculture design makes common sense.”
– David Holmgren

If you’re in the Pacific Northwest, come out to hear Toby speak about the new book. 9/9 Eugene, 9/10 Corvallis, 9/11 Portland, 9/12 Portland, 9/13 Olympia, 9/14 here in Bellingham (our Transition Whatcom event listing is here, and on Facebook here), 9/15 Seattle, and 9/16 Ashland.
More info: http://tobyhemenway.com/speaking/

Here is an excellent interview with Toby about his new book, posted at Resilience.org.

Below is another excellent interview from The Permaculture Podcast with Scott Mann.

I echo Mann’s observation after the interview:

“To me this book and the interview you just heard are vital to changing the conversation about permaculture away from just the landscape and growing food, as these are problems that are technically solved. We know how to raise up plants from seed, cutting, or graft. We understand the techniques to use in a wide variety of situations in any climate, even if that means making modifications to the land through ponds or swales, or creating physical structures such as greenhouses or stone walls as thermal mass. Conventional and organic agriculture have a lot of information for us to pull from, as do the rapidly growing fields of agro-forestry and agro-ecology. Where things go sideways is in reaching a larger audience with these ideas, not just in mainstream culture, but also in the permaculture community at large.

…But now, 40 years since the beginning we need to go back and dig through Mollison’s big black book of permaculture and remember Chapter 14: Strategies for an Alternative Nation. We need to learn how to build and work in community with one another. Now that the thorny pioneers have blazed a trail into the depths of the jungles, plains, and cities, and there set down roots, we have flourished in the shade of their experience and the work that came before us long enough. Now the specialists can come in. The growers, the builders, the organizers, and the communicators, to fill in the gaps and expand to reach all aspects of human life. We have the potential for permanent human agriculture, now let’s work on building that permanent human culture, and retain the aspects of civilization that matter to us.”

 

Patterns for Navigating the Transition to a World in Energy Descent

Integral Leadership ReviewIntegral Leadership Review (ILR) has published the paper I presented to the recent Integral Theory Conference 2015, “Patterns for Navigating the Transition to a World in Energy Descent” in their August-November 2015 issue.

Also in this issue is Tim Winton’s reflections on the conference that is worth reading: “A Note on the Field: Thoughts on Integral Leadership Post ITC 2015.”

Jeremy Johnson also did a great job as the official conference blogger. Some of you might be able to identify me in the first photo on this page (Jeremy and Tim were two of my five suite-mates, which also included Chris Dierkes, Gaby McDonald, and Trevor Malkinson).

 

ILR headingILR Patterns for Navigating Intro

Abstract

This paper considers current concerns about resource depletion (“energy descent”) and the unsustainability of current economic structures, which may indicate we are entering a new era signaled by the end of growth. Using the systems thinking tool of PatternDynamics™, developed by Tim Winton, this paper seeks to integrate multiple natural patterns in order to effectively impact these pressing challenges. Some of the Patterns considered include Energy, Transformity, Power, Pulse, Growth, and the polarities of Expansion/Contraction and Order/Chaos.

We tend to have horrible visions associated with downturns and “collapse.” Can we even entertain the possibility that we might be entering a period of decline in energy and standard of living?  Can we re-examine our assumptions about “growth” and “development”? Jean Gebser’s emphasis that every mutation of structure is preceded by a crisis is considered and Howard T. Odum’s ideas about energy as the basis of man and nature informs the discussion. Edgar Morin’s dialogic Method of active inquiry in regards to the interplay of polarities assists in our understanding and response to the complex challenges we face.

Read the paper here.

About ILR, from their website:

Integral Leadership Review – the world’s premier publication of integrated approaches to leading and leadership.

Integral Leadership Review is a bridging publication that links authors and readers across cultures around the world. It serves leaders, professionals and academics engaged in the practice, development and theory of leadership. It bridges multiple perspectives by drawing on integral, transdisciplinary, complexity and developmental frameworks. These bridges are intended to assist all who read the Integral Leadership Review to develop and implement comprehensive shifts in strategies by providing lessons from experience, insights, and tools all can use in addressing the challenges facing the world.