Red Lines / Green Lines
The Pact for a Green New Deal is a coalition with the participation of over 100 groups. It organized over 150 town hall meetings across Canada since May 2019 with the participation of over 7000 people. The topic of discussion was a Green New Deal (GND) for Canada. The meeting results are summarized at the Green New Deal website.
At these town hall meetings the participants developed a series of Red Lines – things that should definitely not be in a GND and Green Lines – things that should definitely be in a GND. The results of the town halls had a broad focus and “… did reach beyond the ‘green bubble’…”. In fact the results read much more like a socialist manifesto than a demand for environmental action. Social justice in cultural and economic terms with a particular emphasis on indigenous rights, justice and sovereignty was the overall theme. So much so that there is a risk of obscuring the overarching issue – the role of economic growth – which is fueling the runaway environmental crisis as well as exacerbating social issues. In fact a strategy of green growth could be implied by some of the proposals; this is dangerously off track and shows a grievous misunderstanding of the fundamental issues. This glaring omission in the report – no mention of economic, population and consumption growth – is the focus of the Qualicum Institute (QI) and its efforts.
Below are some Red / Green Lines that would represent the QI’s position in such a town hall undertaking:
1. Economic growth — the government(s) should acknowledge the relationship between increasing economic growth and both increasing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing biodiversity losses. Because of this, economic growth should not be a priority nor should GDP be used as a measure of progress, prosperity or well-being. Historically, income growth (GDP) has always correlated highly with throughput growth (i.e., increased energy and material consumption and therefore increased exploitation of the earth’s ecosystems and their biodiversity). Further, there is no evidence real decoupling of energy and resources from GDP is taking place as claimed. Thus, global economic growth equals throughput growth equals further eco-degradation (i.e., economic growth is incompatible with the ‘environment’). Increasing economic growth also increases global inequality. The government should back away from growth-promoting policies including economic based immigration or even domestic migration to remote areas which serve to promote economic growth.
2. Fossil fuel expansion — A recent warning from 11,000 scientists argued, “We should leave remaining stocks of fossil fuels in the ground [our emphasis] and should carefully pursue effective negative emissions using technology such as carbon extraction from the source and capture from the air and especially by enhancing natural systems.” The government(s) should acknowledge the existential threat of the global environmental crisis driven by fossil fuel emissions. Canada should cease all efforts to expand fossil fuel extraction including all fossil fuel infrastructure expansion and all financial incentives/subsidies that support fossil fuel expansion.
3. Pollution — Canada must stop pollution and excessive waste generation from all sources. This includes the recent focus on “one time use” plastic packaging and includes many other sources of toxic pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and waste created through planned obsolescence.
4. International trade rules and regulations — governments must rescind existing free trade arrangements in which the economic power of corporations can over-ride the political power and democratic rights of citizens to protect their environments. International trade agreements must pass the test of environmental sustainability.
5. Get the money out of politics — political campaigns must be financed with public funds. No individual, corporate, union or other privately sourced funds can be used to distort and manipulate the democratic process in favour of the rich and powerful. Funding formulae must insure the political neutrality of the source of funds while ensuring fairness and liberty of political expression.
1. Tell the truth — government(s) must be rigorously honest about the causes and the nature of the global environmental crisis by following and propagating the scientific information. In so doing it can and must develop public support to mobilize the forces and actions required to reduce emissions, protect biodiversity, and the natural ecosystems that support it and humanity.
2. Promote education — government(s) must actively promote ecological economics to help educate its citizens understand the role of over-development, over-population and over-consumption in creating the environmental crisis. One area of particular importance involves female education and family planning, especially in areas where population growth is particularly high.
3. Expand the democratic process — government(s) must expand the democratic process at home and abroad by incorporating greater involvement, feedback and guidance from citizens. This also means that partisan politics must be replaced with cooperative governments that can mount a warlike effort to maximize human well-being by shifting towards a steady state economy within safe ecological operating limits. Citizen forums and proportional representation are two such approaches.
4. Ensure adequate supply of ecosystem services, the life-support services of the planet — governments must secure and protect from any development at least 50% of each ecosystem type within a region in accordance with the latest science coupled with the re-greening and re-wilding of degraded ecosystems.
5. Protect biodiversity – governments must include a full recognition and support for the protection of biodiversity in all ecosystems. So much of the current discourse is focused on climate change and greenhouse gas reduction that we risk overlooking the extreme risk to planetary health posed by the loss of biodiversity and the extinction of species that are vital to survival of life as we know it. Economic growth drives habitat destruction, pollution of land, air and water, all critical elements of biodiversity loss. A broad approach to the protection of all natural ecosystems is required.
6. Slow down – from driving our cars to building our physical infrastructure we do everything too fast. Slow down, save fuel, save resources, save lives, save our future. What’s the rush?