The Green New Deal has gotten more coverage than any other plan in decades. To fix unemployment and climate change, it will guarantee Medicare-for-All, Housing-for-All, and student loan forgiveness, as well as propose the greatest economic development in human history. The latter, however, hits an obstacle. The development of all forms of energy helps to damage nature and human life. The world’s quality of life can be increased at the same time that fossil fuels and other energy sources can be used less. A “deep” GND would therefore focus on reducing energy, otherwise called energy conservation. The reduction in total consumption of energy is a prerequisite for human existence.
Recognizing True Dangers
The danger of fossil fuel (FF), including the destruction of life through global heating, is well-known. FF problems also include land grabbing and destruction of the earth and water life from spills from indigenous peoples, farmers and communities throughout the globe. Yet the climate change focus tends to minimize the very real risk of other energy production types. A first step in developing a genuine GND is to recognize “alternative energydestructive “‘s potential (AltE).
Nuclear power is a safe and reliable source of energy (nukes). Though the risks of nuclear disasters like Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima are terrifying, the problems with the rest of the nuclear power plant’s life cycle are often overlooked. Mining, milling, and shipping radioactive waste to provide fuel for nukes and “dispose” of it poisons whole populations, resulting in a number of cancers. Though nuclear power emits few greenhouse gases (GHGs), massive amounts are emitted during the manufacturing of steel, cement, and other materials used to construct nuclear power plants.
They must be located next to water (for cooling), meaning that their hot water discharge is a water life attack. Radioactive waste from nuclear waste, stored in caps for 30-50 years, is threatening to poison mankind for millennia, which makes nuclear waste at least as dangerous as fibers. It is not the slightest green thing that nuclear power is included in a GND. How to eliminate nuclear power as quickly as possible and do the least harm to the energy and income dependent on nuclear power. Nuclear power is the only solution.
Solar power requires processes of manufacturing with highly toxic chemicals for those who work with it. Many minerals must be mined and processed even before production begins which put workers and communities at risk while wildlife habitat is being destructed. Further minerals for batteries must be obtained. After the use of solar systems, large toxic dumps are discarded. While few GHGs are created when solar panels are being used, large quantities are generated during their life cycle.
For those who live near “wind farms,” wind power has its own condition of nerve-wracking vibrations, as well as broader problems with disposal of 160-foot blades. Wind farms, like solar farms, degrade habitats in the areas where they are built. To achieve circular rotation of blades, the wind power life cycle involves toxic radioactive elements.
The dams’ Hydro-power harms both earthly and aquatic life by changing the flow of the water. Dams are undermining communities whose water and animals culture center. Dams are killing farms. They are exacerbating international conflicts as rivers cross multiple countries, putting builders’ lives at risk and leading to crashes that can kill over 100,000 people at a time.
Multiple AltE systems cause several problems:
Despite claims of “zero emissions,” every form of AltE consumes a significant amount of FFs over the course of its lifetime.
Attacks on civil rights, land grabbing from indigenous peoples, and/or murders of Earth defenders are all profoundly entangled with any kind of AltE.
Many have cost overruns that wreak havoc on the finances of the communities that were duped into funding them.
Transmission lines require further land grabbing, squashing of citizens’ and community rights and increased extinction of species;
- Because most resources available (like uranium for nuclear weapons, sunny land for solar arrays, wind farms’ mountain tops and dam rivers) are used first, each expansion level requires greater use of resources than the previous one, meaning that harvesting AltE is more and more dangerous in the long term.
- Taking into account the severe problems that any form of energy extraction faces during its life cycle, the following criteria for a genuine GND emerge: Nuclear power must be phased out as rapidly and safely as possible, with job creation. FF extraction should be drastically reduced right away (perhaps by 70-90 percent of 2020 levels) and then reduced by 5-10 percent every ten years for the next ten years. Other types of energy production should be decreased rather than increased (perhaps 2-5 percent annually).
- Honesty requires recognition of the more destructive nature of energy in time, the critical question for a profound GND is: “How can we cut energy use while enhancing employment and the necessities of life?”
The Naming of Things
But it is necessary to clean up a greenwash language which has grown common in recent years before exploring how to increase employment while reducing production.
Decades ago, Barry Commoner described how firms formulated a word or phrase to hide the true nature of an ecological obscenity with the phrase ‘languistical detoxification.’ The term “spent fuel rods” of the nuclear industry is one of the best examples, implying that once used, fuel rods aren’t radioactive when they are indeed so deadly that they have to be kept for ever. The term “irradiated fuel rods” would be exact.
The classic example may be the way agro-industry has developed biosolids to rename animal waste waste sludge that contains dioxins, asbestos, lead and DDT. The industry convinced the Environmental Protection Agency to reclassify hazardous animal waste as a “Class A engraving” biosolid to enable it to be released in fields where food is cultivated, as described by John Stauber and Sheldon Ramptron in Toxic Sludge Is Good For You (1995)
Many contemporary advocates of AltE use the words “natural” and “renewable” to describe energy that is neither clean nor renewable, rather than preserving the practices of early environmentalists. Due to numerous GHG emissions during the life cycle of all forms of resources, as well as assaults on habitats and human health, AltE is not “clean.” Although the sun, wind, and river power are infinite, products that must be mined are finite, which means that no source of AltE is renewable.
An honest GND will never call AltE “clean” or “renewable.” Such a GND proposal would advocate reducing FFs but would not propose an aim of 0% of FFs by that date, as this cannot be achieved. All AltE types need FFs. Although it is possible to manufacture certain steels and cement by AltE, massive amounts of energy cannot be produced by AltE all over the world. Instead, a real GND would explain that cleaning energy is the only way that less energy can be utilized and the quality of life improved.
A true GND never implies that FFs are the sole source of unbelievably negative effects. Prioritizing AltE companies over FF companies, the choice of one clique of capitalists over another will resolve the environmental problems. This means (a) that all mining, milling and production processes for the produced material required for AltE should also be nationalized if the FFs are to be nationalised and (b) that all components for the operation of nuclear plants, dams, solar installations and wind farms must remain in the ground if the FFs should remain within the ground.
A Shorter Work Week for All
The biggest inconsistency in existing iterations of the GND is calling for environmental improvement while seeing the world’s largest rise in production ever. These two objectives are entirely incompatible. A radical GND will solve this conundrum by shortening the work week, reducing environmental harm while consuming less electricity.
It is quite odd that GND versions call for a “Medicare-for-All, Housing-for-All.” But none of these versions suggest a “Shorter Work Week-for-All.” It is very weird. The absence of this old gradual demand could be caused by the wrong neoliberal assumption that increasing production is the best way to solve joblessness.
Long-term growth in employment cannot be achieved by increased production of goods. (The WW II was consistently increased and not Roosevelt’s New Deal.) From 1913 to 2013, US production grew 300fold. Everyone would be working dozens of jobs today if employment had grown in the same rate.
Recent disruptions such as the 2008 financial crisis and Covid’s increase in unemployment in 2020 have caused an incapacity to transfer work from certain sectors of the economy to others. Planned economic decline would require all employees to decide to move from negative to positive employment.
Producing According to Need Instead of According to Profit
Any group of employees should assess what it does, how labor is organized, and how jobs should be redefined in order to maintain full employment as the work week is reduced. The only aspect of this concept that is new is making democratic changes – job definitions change all the time, with certain forms of work decreasing (or disappearing entirely) and others growing or emerging. Economic shrinkage need not exacerbate unemployment if the work week is reduced, just as economic growth does not guarantee rises in jobs.
But, if accompanied by a “intensification of labor” a shorter work week will not achieve environmental objectives (such as requiring workers at Amazon to handle more packages per hour or increasing class size for teachers). This means that a genuine GND calls for the formation of strong workers’ syndicates that play a central role in defining what is produced and working conditions.
When a core part of a GND becomes a shorter work week (without speed-up), then it comes down to the question, “Will production reduce the number of people who do not need basic life?” It is important to understand that profit production results in the production of goods that do not make a difference to our lives.
Current GND versions rely on the neoliberal assumption that more payments for purchases are the best way to provide for living needs (ie, market economics). A progressive GND would argue that guaranteeing them human rights is the best way of providing the necessities of life. This is often referred to as “social wages” substituting individual wages. For example, medical insurance provides the neoliberal approach, while progressive medical care is a direct approach (without giving a cut to insurance companies)
Current versions of the GND are based on the neoliberal assumption that the best way to provide for necessities of life is through increased payments for purchases (ie, market economics). A progressive GND would advocate that the best way to provide the necessities of life is by guaranteeing them as human rights. This is often referred so as replacing individual wages with “social wages.” For example, the neoliberal approach to healthcare is offering medical insurance while a progressive approach is to offer medical care directly (without giving a cut to insurance companies). Likewise, a neoliberal GND would offer cash for food, housing, transportation, education and other necessities while a progressive GND would provide them directly to people. Green economics must be based on making dollar amounts less important by replacing individual wages with social wages.
Current versions of the GND seek to provide necessities by increasing the quantity of products rather than focusing on creating things that are useful, reliable and durable. A massive increase in production is an unnecessary attack on ecosystems when there is already much more production than required to provide essentials for everyone on the planet. Needs are not being met because of production which …
… is negative, including war materials, police forces and production which destroys farmland and habitat (all of which should be reduced immediately);
… is wasteful, which includes both (a) playthings of the richest 1%, and (b) things which many of us are forced to buy for survival and getting to work, the most notable being cars;
… requires unnecessary processing and transportation, the most notable example being food which is processed to lose nutritional value, packaged to absurd levels, and shipped over 1000 miles before being consumed; and,
… involves planned obsolescence, including design to fall apart or go out of style.
One crucial aspect of reducing productivity is often overlooked. A repairability index must be included in any product produced. At the very least, the index’s requirements should include (a) the availability of technical documents to help in repair, (b) ease of disassembly, (c) the availability of spare parts, (d) the price of spare parts, and (e) repair issues unique to the product class. Each year, the index should be used to improve production requirements. A durability index should be established and improved on an annual basis.
As manufacturers are more likely to know how to make commodities reliable and durable than owners or stockholders, they must have the right to make their knowledge public without management repercussions.
In what is needed versus what is simply wanted there are always differences of opinion. A gradual GND should indicate how decisions are to be taken. A major source of unnecessary production is that decisions about production and standards are made not by local residents and workers producing them, but by investors and corporate employees. A genuine GND would face problems with what all citizens, not only the richest, are involved in economic decision-making.
The problem of reparations to oppressed communities in Africa, Latin America, and Asia that have been victims of Western imperialism for 500 years is perhaps the least likely to be related to the GND. This correlation forces us to ask, “Will rich countries continue to loot their wealth, exterminate what remains of indigenous cultures, force people to work for a pittance, jail and kill those who resist, ruin farmland, and leave the country a toxic wasteland for generations to come, because most minerals required for AltE are found in poor countries?”
Planned expansions of electric vehicles (EVs), for example, jeopardize the much more efficient method of urban redesign for walkable/cyclable communities. Plans would result in the production of electric vehicles for the wealthy, while the mining of lithium, cobalt, and thousands of other materials needed for these vehicles would harm poor and working-class communities.
Africa may be the continent with the most mineral resources. Apart from cobalt from the Democratic Republic of the Congo for EVs, Mali provides 75 percent of the uranium for French nuclear power plants, Zambia provides copper for AltE, and thousands of other minerals are sourced from dozens of African countries.
Who will be with those agreements, if there are agreements with companies looking for AltE minerals? Will the agreements be between Western Empire’s ultra-rich owners and its marionette governments? Otherwise, will extraction agreements be concluded with villages and communities most affected by mineral extraction for energy production?
This is where the other sense of the word “deep” enters the image. When people hear the term “deep green,” they usually think about how human activity has a significant impact on ecosystems. Deep regard for disadvantaged communities whose lives are most affected by extraction can also be referred to as “deep.” If you won’t consider a “No” to an offer for exorbitant, profit-driven extraction, you don’t have much respect. People all over the world may decide that, after receiving so little for so long, it’s time for wealthy countries to share the wealth they’ve stolen and dig up new wealth more slowly.
Discussions of relationships between rich and poor countries make much of having “free, prior and informed consent” prior to an extraction project. Such an agreement is far from reality because (a) corporate and governmental bodies are so mired in corruption that they contaminate bodies which define and judge the meaning of “free, prior and informed,” (b) no prediction of the effects of extraction can be “informed” since it is impossible to know what the interaction of the multitude of physical, chemical, biological and ecological factors will be prior to extraction taking place, and (c) affected communities are typically bullied into accepting extraction because they fear that families will die from starvation, lack of medical care or unemployment if they do not do so. Thus, the following are essential components of a socially just GND:
- Reparations which are sufficient to eliminate poverty must be paid prior to signing extraction agreements; and,
- Every community must have the right to terminate an extraction agreement at any stage of the project.
A New Green Culture
The fundamental question about the extraction of material required for AltE is: “Will rich countries continue to plunder minerals underneath or adjacent to poor communities at a pace determined by corporations?” Just to make sure it is transparent and not overlooked. Will they expect poor communities to be content with a vague hope that great things will happen after the plundering for the first time? Will past and current plundering be completely compensated, with poor communities determining how much and how fast they will enable extraction?”
A new green culture that asks every billion people on the world to share their ideas to obtain the necessities of life while using less energy is essential to building a New Green World. This kind of culture aims at an idea to spark a number of ideas that all strive more to coexist than to invent energy-sparkling gadgets.
A number of things must take place in order to build a new green culture that shares the wealth above personal greed:
- To bring billions of people out of economic misery, every country should establish a maximum income which is a multiple of the minimum income, with that multiple being voted on (no less than every five years) by all living in the country.
- Every country should establish a maximum wealth which is a multiple of the minimum wealth, with that multiple being voted on (no less than every five years) by all living in the country.
Global reparations, including sharing wealth and technological know-how between rich and poor countries, is essential for overcoming past and ongoing effects of imperialism. Establishing maximum incomes and maximum wealth possession within countries must be quickly followed by establishing such maximum levels between countries.
- Current iterations of the GND have a major flaw in that they propose to fix housing, social justice, and energy problems by increasing demand, which is not needed to address any of these issues. Attempts to solve problems by rising wealth feed the corporate culture of greed and serve as a roadblock to the development of a New Green Culture. Increasing production beyond what is needed exacerbates environmental issues that endanger the planet. It instructs those who are already wealthy to take more, more, more. It teaches those who aren’t wealthy that happiness is contingent on material possessions.
Humanity’s continued survival depends on the construction of a green culture that preciously shares.
(A Greener New Deal webinar on 5 May 2021, 19 hrs CT, will explore issues with alternative energies, the need for global reparations and how a better and less energy-efficient world can be created. For details, email the author’s address below).
Source: Dissident Voice