Ecology = Economy

How I overlooked this post at DeSmogBlog last week, I’ll never know. The following documentary is absolutely brilliant and makes a point shared by many of us, and is one of the main focuses of Hank’s work at Ekos squared, that economy resilience is ecological resilience. We simply cannot avoid massive hardship without fundamentally shifting our markets and political systems to those that properly value ecology.


20 thoughts on “Ecology = Economy

      1. Granted, I suppose, I mean, if I hated the poor, because the poor will suffer the burdens of a flat tax disproportionally as it raises the costs of their food, clothing, shelter, the heating of their homes, commuting to and from work whether by car or by bus–could we not develop a more humane way of pursuing your climate change goals that does not deprive people of comfort or opportunity? I’m just saying. Follow up question: Why do you hate the poor so much?


      2. What a silly and nonsensical question.
        It’s just as bazaar as Christopher Monckton’s attack on climate change science through biofuels (which few seriously thinks can become mainstream).
        To conclude that I “hate poor people”, you obviously didn’t listen to presentation by William Rees in this post or Annie Leonard’s presentation on cap and trade that I linked to in my previous comment and haven’t spent any time looking around the work I do hear on this blog. That, or you simply don’t understand any of it.
        Rees makes the point that affluent countries need to lower their per capita resource foot-print by more than half, while developing nations need to have their foot-print increased, in some cases doubled. This can only come through via tax.
        Leonard makes the point that cap and trade is an unfair system that is likely to do nothing but make the rich richer and the poor poorer – dumping them with the costs.
        I make many many points throughout my work on inequality of resources and of poor management (especially of waste and exploitation of cheap labour in poor nations at the expense of their sustainability).
        Yours is what any opposing political party uses when the other pushes for reform – “it’ll hurt families..”
        I suggest you look up Lifeboat Cities by Gleeson. It’s an Aussie look at the past 30yrs of neolibertarianism which hasn’t improved the lives of many (contrary to the common perception). Accelerated consumerism and material aspiration has made the shareholder wealthier, most of the time, but at the expense of the individuals standard of living (eg. longer work hours, less rights, contract / unreliable job security etc), plus sprawl (eg. car dependence, environments of little connection) all while leaving masses in perpetual poverty. Before defending the status quo by assuming those who challenge it are anti-humanitarian, I suggest you do your homework. I assure you, we lucky few hate humanity and the supporting ecology if we do anything but support change and reform.


  1. And yet you support a regressive tax that unfairly burdens the poor. So you’re anti-consumerism. Take a number. So is everyone else. It requires no moral courage to be anti-consumerism. What I’m not getting is the part where you don’t hate the poor.


    1. Yet another individual who requires continuous repetition of answer instead of actually doing a little work. You clearly have just disregarded the references and based on very limited evidence make broad (and absurd) conclusions.
      I’ll only bother go as far as giving you one example because there simply is no point my repeating various previous posts or re-writing Rees’s presentation etc.
      To repeat (guh) what I wrote in the previous comment;
      “Rees makes the point that affluent countries need to lower their per capita resource foot-print by more than half, while developing nations need to have their foot-print increased, in some cases doubled. This can only come through via tax.”
      How do you raise the standard of living of people who cannot afford it themselves – the same way that you assist adaption of new paradigms of greater sustainability in countries that cannot afford it themselves – through tax.
      Taxing carbon causes a number of shifts – including addressing the various pits of forgotten people in richer areas. Fast food, being heavy on fossil fuel input would not remain the norm in such places for instance, because it will not be so cheap. Improving the lives of the poorer inherently means greater commonwealth rather than individualism. Taxing carbon attacks high end usage, stimulates innovation and provides revenue that can be used to address inequality. It all goes hand in hand and is nothing like cap and trade – which is little more than a CO2 wolf in sheepskin. Did I walk you through it enough yet?
      I really suggest you take up my advice and look further into the references that I have provided as well take a good look at my own work before making ridiculous comments, such as suggesting that I hate poor people, which I take great offence to. Nothing could be further from the truth and by suggesting that tax is a bad idea, I argue that you selfishly want to ignore climate change, growing inequality, increasing extinction rates and reducing sustainability. You cannot get something for nothing and we have been running the tab up quite high for decades. Money is the only way to stimulate change and commonwealth taxing of carbon can address many of the issues addressed in my comments and discussed elsewhere.


      1. But your continuous repetitions do not address the issue. You seem to believe that the revenues from your regressive flat tax get buried in a hole somewhere. They do not. They enrich who, precisely? Why, that’s right, the state, so you’ve only transferred the benefits of a high or higher-gain energy production from the secondary class of consumers to a primary consumer, the political classes. It follows with iron logic that deep inside you despise the poor because you want the poor to pay more than anyone else to satisfy your conscience and, strangely, to enrich the state, therefore making the state a primary beneficiary of policies that harm the environment, which means you’re not only oppressing the poor, but you’re environmental goals are a complete scam as well.

        Please forgive me but you just haven’t thought through your position. You’re repeating to me what others have told you uncritically, without any investment of reflection on your part.


      2. Boy you’re a one note wonder. “Tax = poor hater”. I suspect I’m chatting to a brick wall?
        “…you despise the poor because you want the poor to pay more than anyone else…”
        Ah, where did I say this? I don’t think I laid out any methodology. And to go on to strange claims that this is to enrich the state and ultimately not only hurt the poor but further risk the environment is ludicrous. The work by Rees and even suggestions made by the IPCC are aimed at wealth transfer into environmental and standard of living improvements.

        I disagree – I have thought through what I’ve written and again I suggest you look into my references.

        I don’t think anything I say can alter you’re single note. C’est la vie.. So, instead I’ll ask you a question. How else do you think we can address environmental degradation and financially support poorer nations and inequality in developed nations without money? Do you honestly think in the neoliberal, market based paradigms that individualism and weak willed governance are able to address these issues?

        Obviously so – I mean, they’ve done a wonder job over the last half century!


  2. Please forgive me. Apparently I wasn’t clear. I don’t mean tax = hate the poor. I mean regressive tax = hate the poor. ( Your flat carbon tax is a regressive tax as it disproportionately affects the poor.

    Calling me names and calling my argument “ludicrous” may be emotionally satisfying to you on some level, but it hardly answers the questions that I raise. And who said anything about neoliberal market based policies—you’re the one arguing for a regressive flat tax, not me. And you’re the one who wants to fill the states coffers at the expense of the environment, not me.


    1. Where did I actually call you names? I said that making such a far leap that tax on carbon lead to increased environmental degradation and the poor paying more than everyone else was ludicrous. Sorry if that upsets you, however you’ve been rather quick to assume that I hate poor people so I wouldn’t be so hypocritically offended (I’ve not claimed you to hate anyone or made personal remarks yet).

      You’ve not answered my question. How else do you think we can address environmental degradation and financially support poorer nations and inequality in developed nations without money?

      To subsidise goods and services for developing nations as well as the forgotten people in developed nations, you need money – and a redirecting of wealth from overconsumers to underconsumers. How do you achieve this if not through taxes?

      We’ve taken ecological services and non-renewable resources as free goods and services for many centuries, but over the last couple and especially the last, we’ve become very good at extraction – so much so we’ve caused a growing deficit, visible in environmental degradation. How do we address this problem, unless we develop proper valuation of ecological goods and services, which will in a large part be in the form of tax, and also repay this growing environmental tab, which will entirely be in the form of tax?

      You cannot simply put your head in the sand because it’s a massive issue – these points need to be raised and if we’re going to stimulate equality across and within all society, there will be extra tax on high consumers to both reduce their consumption and provide money that can be used to assist the poor.

      I have answered your question time and time again – I simply do not hate the poor. Now answer my questions stated above – how else can we improve the lives of the poorer communities whilst reducing overconsumption in affluent communities if not via tax?


  3. It may surprise you to learn that I don’t have an answer to your question, nor did I ever claim to have one, and I do not need an answer to your question to know that the regressive and reactionary solution you offer places the burden for your conscience on the backs of those who are in the worst possible position to bear it, the poor, and benefits a system completely indifferent to it, the state–here in BC Canada, for example, we have a regressive carbon tax that burdens the poor, has had no net effect on consumptions other than to redistribute it in unintended ways, enriches the state, and precisely none of the proceeds benefit our brothers and sisters in developing countries.

    Here is what you don’t seem to get: THE STATE ITSELF IS A CONSUMER!–did you know that the BC government buys more pens, leases or uses more office-space, owns and operates more fleets of vehicles, buys more paper and paper products than anyone else in BC?–where in your misguided plan do you address the primary consumer, the state, other than to enrich it at the expense of the environment?–why do you want to reward the system that, were you to be consistent with your values, most generally violates your own principles!? Hence, my hypothesis that you have either not thought your position through, or you really, really hate the poor, but I suppose both could be true, and more besides.

    You need to wake up. You’ve been duped. You’re a pawn. And the tether used to constrain you is your misguided and under-developed conscience. Learn to discern, my brother. Learn to discern.


    1. So, in short, you have nothing beneficial to offer here.. You what, just wanted attention? Disappointing that I wasted my time – live and learn.

      Okay, well I’ll wake up from this stupor provided in this conversation; “brother, understand IT’S THE MAN! You’re a pawn feeding THE MAN!”

      Think what you like of me – I prefer discussion / Dialogue. No-one claims to have the answers, but at least we’re being constructive, rather, as you offer, nothing short of brick-wall insults attempting to pass itself off as valid criticism. Again, I suggest the previous references – Gleeson’s book being a really good start. Obviously a lot would need to change – government office supplies and fleet vehicles, quite frankly, are the least of our problem (I refer you here to ICLEI).

      You can call me a ‘duped poor hater’, but at least I’ve demonstrated understanding and relevant resources provided by experts and practical applications – you’re simply not helpful.


  4. I don’t know what sort of game you’re playing but you’re certainly not being constructive when you sacrifice the poor for a plan that on its face does not work, and by that I mean your regressive carbon tax.

    Let me give you yet another example from my very own province of British Columbia where we introduced a regressive carbon tax forces the poor to choose between food or heating their homes. Do you know what the provincial government, the beneficiary of the carbon tax intends? Nothing short of an environment depleting extraction-based re-industrialization of the province that includes the Site-C Dam, a network of new mines, forest tenures, liquified natural gas production combined with export facilities in the form of huge shipping terminals, and all the roads, power-lines, and pipes needed to connect these new elements of our industrial landscape to the existing logistical hubs and energy grids. (I’m quoting Tom Fletcher.)

    Who do you think develops roads and infrastructures for industrial development? THE STATE. Who do you think develops the industrial policy that supports our consumer economy? THE STATE. Why do you want to enrich the state at the expense of the environment and make the POOR PAY FOR IT ALL would be my question!? I was wrong: you’re not anti-consumer–you simply want the poor to pay for the industrial base for your consumer dream-land and I want no part of that!

    Where I can find people who GENUINELY want to fight for a better planet instead of non-thinking dupes who want to oppress the poor to enrich the rich and call it environmentalism?

    Tell me truth. You’re really just a shill for some corporation that wants to pretend to be green, right?


    1. One note again…

      You clearly have no natural or social science training and selectively choose evidence that confirms you bias. Anything that challenges it – regardless of well informed – is simply wrong. You demonstrate it all too well – both by sheer ignorance of expert opinion, based on many decades of work (only discussed in minor detail here) and this continuous assertion of what I stand for – regardless of what I’ve said in this comment thread or the bulk of work available on this blog.

      What is even more hysterical, is your readiness to be offended when I call your non-stance leap of faith ludicrous and yet time and time again you resort to childish insults. All of this, coupled with your inflated claim that you don’t need to answer my questions to take the “moral high ground” makes it clear to me that you really don’t offer anything constructive and simply have constructed a punching bag for some internal nameless frustration.

      Unlike you, I am a working scientist, with ecological and environmental monitoring training and experience and the last private company I worked was based on photogrammetry – hardly working for THE MAN, as you would like to think.

      Non-thinking dupes? How pathetic; no, what you really mean is people that think like you – who don’t have the answers, or want to develop any, but claim that any educated person who is willing to debate about practical reform is a shill, a poor hater, a pawn and a dupe. I’ve provided any good references for you of people and groups who have been working on this problem for many decades (Rees, a ecologist and economist for over 30yrs, ICLEI which has been improving the efficiency of local governments for nearly 20yrs, for instance), but of course, you know better – you want people who are fighting for a better planet, well I bet I’ve planted more trees, provided more money to non-profit organisations, helped more child groups (I’ve been a leader of a cubs group and assisted in environmental awareness programs in schools), done more professional environmental education reports, around NATA standard data collect that I also assisted in and provided, solely in my own time for no money, more reports on this blog, based on up-to-date peer-reviewed literature (that I read solely for this project), including the 20,000 word report in the Innovation series and my current Human Island series (which will also be about as long), in the past couple years than you have done in your entire life – who’s the dupe?

      I’m sorry to hear that a poorly designed reform where you live made life difficult for many, but to take that as the be-all and end-all is nothing but a straw man. Take, for instance, Gleeson’s book that I continually refer you to. The economical structure of many western countries of the previous 30+yrs has done little but increase inequality. Put simply, if you were born in a low-socio-economic community, that was pretty much where you were likely to die (and at a younger age than more privileged people, generally through preventable causes). There has been a retraction of services to rural and outer suburb communities – especially where housing is state provided. In such places, fast food is about all that’s on offer (fresh market food is twice to three times as far away). Over the past 40 yrs, income to nation wealth has nearly halved yet shares to national wealth have more than tripled. Worker rights have reduced and many people have to work longer just to get by. As much as the Aussie gov have said that they going, for instance, just recently they’ve developed a rating system for schools and hospitals and are planning to award the good performers with extra funding and who perform best – those hospitals that have the best facilities and are in the inner suburbs – the richer areas. The gov say it’s to create incentive to perform better, but it’s solely to further the gap – leaving the poorer community with even less services. It also makes care services act increasingly like a business – cutting overheads (ie. care and patient happiness) to maximise profits. My fiancée tells me how horrible it can be in childcare and in age care, when you’re understaffed (as they usually are – maximising profits) – it’s like a conveyor belt where it’s difficult to provide adequate dignity. Surely, the poor have been suffering horribly up to date.

      Talking about roads – one of the biggest components of road construction is a fossil fuel. To construct infrastructure requires a ridiculous amount of fossil fuel – and this horrible tendency to sprawl makes us ever more reliant on personal vehicles. Oil is about peak. The US has hoarded a fair amount so they will suffer slower than the rest, however, within a decade or two, petrol, which has over the past decade become equal to food shopping in household expense, will become the single most expensive component of most households – and a trap that they cannot escape because sprawl means that their house is miles away from services and work. (I’m not going to bother discussing coal to petrol because it just won’t be very viable). The GFC demonstrated just how in debt most westerners are and how susceptible they are, therefore, to fluctuating petrol prices (which will become the norm). Many home loans defaulted with the GFC and many people are still very close to default. Continuing this addiction to carbon will lead these people to be tomorrows additional poor. Sprawl also covers many of the previously used local agricultural land – therefore meaning that food will have to be continually shipped in most larger populated areas and with oil prices on the rise – shopping will also increase.

      If we don’t change our behaviour, we’re simply blindly heading to collapse. Decarbonising most practices as much as possible, removing fossil fuel subsidies, carbon tax revenue – which all go into assisting reform and community resilience is the most important subject over the coming decade – much of this will automatically increase sustainability and reduce CO2 emissions as well as provide financial support for developing nations as well as poor communities and if we can push the point enough, will hopefully lead care-services to be non-profit based. But all of this requires over-consumers to slow down and reduce their foot-print, much of which starts with good governance.

      But all of this I’ve said before among my work on this blog. I’m not pretending to be green. I’m concerned about inequality and resilience (both ecologically and economically). If you cannot see that, then you’ve simply ignored everything I’ve written above and merely confirm my suspicion that you don’t really know what you’re talking about and indeed are not interested in what others say, if it is contrary to your views – you just want a punching bag.


    2. Btw, I figured I might link you to this recent post by Prof. Corey Bradshaw – a highly respected ecologist.

      ‘Hartwich also employs the increasingly popular tycoon’s mantra of saving the poor, and that we the ‘disciples of Gaia’, are ‘completely oblivious to the needs of the people in poorer places”.’

      He goes on to discuss this further, more or less coming to many of the same conclusions as I’ve stated here and among my other work as well in the references I’ve provided you. Any way you look at, maintaining business-as-usual has and will continue to hurt the poor and what people like myself are talking about is a shift in social paradigms that promise greater stability and sustainability.

      I can’t help but feel, as I stated earlier, that it is you who has been duped by an industry delusion – like the political hot air that follows talk of reform, “it’ll hurt families / the working class / the vulnerable /etc”, when if anything, it threatens profits.


  5. casuist hi , who is this STATE you talk, about is it not the people the poor included that vote for the who runs the STATE , I think what is needed is a reinvigoration of democracy if people want change they have to vote not give up and not vote at all .

    The poor need to care about the enviroment before you tax them as well as everyone else to fix it (a bit late to fix now but) its a bit hard to cop a higher electric bill and then be told the moneys being spent on poor Africans when you yourself cannot afford to keep your kids warm .

    I think I understand a bit of what casuist is saying in that Governments or States tend to spend our tax money wastefully and carbon tax subsidies tend to flow to the big employing industries who threaten to shut down and there by throw thousands out work ensuring the Govt loses the next election .

    I agree that we need a shift in social paradigms to develope a better balance between the ecology and the economy but I can tell you where I work which is mainly working class climate change is seen to quote Tony Abbott as a “load of Crap” a plan by the greenies to stop us driving our 4WD and to tax us more .

    So if a shift in social paradigms is to happen how our we going to shift the views of these people to vote for a Govt that will radically change the way they want to live .

    Tim it seems you and casuist want the same thing “fight for a better planet” but casuist is so disgusted with the Govt he has in BC that he probaly sees no possibility of ‘good governance” arising in the near future , I think this is a valid point to the problem of creating a better world .
    casuist do you have TAR Sand mines in your area ?


    1. I totally agree – most importantly that with the currant market based political mindset, any transfer of wealth will be undermined. That’s not to say we shouldn’t do it, nor should we look into other options.

      I worked for a state gov department which was supposed to look after the environment and air and water quality for populations, but I saw all too often industry being put first. ‘We need wealth growth to remain viable!’ is the mantra in all departments of the government.

      Where I am, professionally, currently I work with scientists and industrial groups and certain government dept, in which anthropogenic climate change is a given – the main questions this group is how are we are going to adapt landscape use to meet these changes under way. The land users are like many of the people that surround my personal life – in climate change denial. It all really comes back to the same thing – transfer of wealth and addressing climate change/sustainability threatens a system that wants endless growth.

      Surely it doesn’t take a genius to realise that the only organisms that exploit resources as quickly as they can are plague populations which always collapse – for resources are finite and / or limited by certain replenishment rates. Look at human history – we’ve gone through many of these and in recent years, such collapses have been relatively mild compared to what can occur if we do not meet changing energy supplies and climate, but they have hit us hard – think the GFC and the boom-crash 80’s. This is largely what Rees is discussing in the presentation above.

      We don’t have a predator or disease that keeps our population in check, so we need to do it ourselves. The market cannot be about wealth accumulation, but commonwealth creation. We also need to decarbonise our energy use (I think gas turbines need to continue until we employ alternatives however). We need new paradigms and good leadership/governance which is in short supply in a market zombified political structure. This is the point being made by Rees and others.


  6. Why does tax have to be regressive? A carbon tax designed to tax carbon dioxide production provides revenue – what to do with the revenue? Well you could redistribute it on a per capita basis. So the wealthy who spend more on carbon based products and services will get back less than they spend, their choice. The poor who can’t afford much of anything might well get back more than their expenditure on these items. Both groups have the choice of using less of the now more expensive carbon affected goods and services. The rich have financial resources to spend on improvements to their homes and other items. The poor do what they’ve always done, but with less financial pressure because they’ve been recompensed for increased costs of carbon based goods and services.

    Personally I’m fairly keen on a scheme of this kind, but that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that this is just one example of the many ways that a carbon tax does not need to be regressive.


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