By Roy Morrison* – EcoCivilization
Ecological economic growth is something new under the sun. It’s key to stopping and reversing climate change and building an ecological civilization based on the pursuit of social and ecological justice. We have the tools to respond effectively to climate change, humanity’s gravest challenge, while building a prosperous and sustainable ecological civilization that will long endure.
If the term ecological economic growth sounds like an oxymoron, just consider the benefits of investing trillions in the total replacement of fossil fuels with renewable energy resources. Zero fuel costs. Global pollution and ecological damage would plunge. Another coal or natural gas plant never built. Renewable energy swiftly become a leading sector in the global economy. Why not?
Ecological economic growth is the accessible path for our economic and political systems to respond quickly to the ecological threats confronting us. It means using the power of global production and investment to make economic growth mean ecological improvement.
Ecological economic growth will arise, not by magic, but by establishing market rules that make the market price system send clear profit signals for sustainability supported by the laws, regulations, monetary, fiscal and investment policy to guide ecological markets in attaining ecologically sustainable and transformative ends. These ends include the pursuit of social and ecological justice as inescapable concomitant of a prosperous, just, and peaceful ecological future.
Ecological economic growth, at bottom, expresses a collective refusal to continue along the path of global ecological self-destruction. Global ecological economic growth is the kind of idea, a radical reform, that is not a matter of replacing markets, or abolishing capitalism, or jettisoning democracy.
Ecological transformation will reflect a great global rising from below. Organizing and implementing local plans for sustainability are models and guides for the global. Local action and organizing will cohere into a decentralized and diverse global movement, of many millions in the streets, that will define the diverse politics and policies for ecological economic growth.
It is crucial to understand that action on the local level has planetary importance. We feel impotent to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions from a current 50 billion (gigatons) tons a year to a sustainable 21 gigatons more or less keeping carbon dioxide levels in balance. But it is very much in our power to make and implement plans to take steps overtime to cut our carbon emissions to a sustainable 3 tons of carbon dioxide equivalents per person per year, or 21 gigatons globally for a population of 7 billion. Global ecological economic growth is all about making these local reductions become the basis for a sustainable global total.
This is globalization led from below, similar in scope to the way the industrial revolution arose from the development of new energy and production technologies and the development of a welter of market rules, laws, regulations monetary and fiscal policies that supported the development, growth and spread of industrial capitalism. A transformation based on the pursuit of global ecological economic growth is our best chance, in steps and stages, to preserve civilization and the quality of the ecosphere upon which it depends.
Ecological economic growth means the concept of value is not reduced to cash exchange value and instead value includes consequential use value and moral value. Moral value means some things are not priced, but forbidden, like slavery or activities leading to mass extinction. All corporations will, in effect, become B corporations for defined public benefit in pursuit of ecological ends in a market system, part of the solution. Business and pollution as usual means ecological collapse and the great dying.
Given our recent experience, a saving ecological turn will not be provided by agreements in Paris, or proclamations from the President. Instead, there will be a movement supporting a contagious global ecological transformation that becomes irresistible in its pursuit of social and ecological justice with the necessary desperate intensity to stop and reverse climate change.
Global ecological economic growth means much more income and much less pollution, depletion,and ecological damage. It means many more jobs in sustainable local communities. It means economic growth within the context of justice and fairness. It means the embrace of sustainability entrepreneurship and balancing the right to use the global commons with a responsibility to preserve, protect and defend the global commons form ecological damage. It means economic growth meaning by practice and by law ecological improvement and the revitalization the ecosphere.
Global ecological economic growth is predicated on the understanding that, we have to do more than implementing reasonable, necessary, and largely commendable series of steps outlined in the recent Designing Climate Solutions: A Policy Guide for Low -Carbon Energy. These all could be part of the policies of the Green New Deal advanced by Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez and allies. These policies could be, like the Paris Climate Accords, if really implemented, part of the energy tools for keeping climate change below 2 degree celsius. No small thing. It can be done and done in a fashion not to overly inconvenience too many too much and not change the basic structures of business as usual. Perhaps this will be what emerges post Trump, or even sooner, and we will be all the better for it. Facing climate catastrophe, the G-20 rose as one woman and behind Angela Merkel and aggressively implemented carbon reduction policies, and, after a few decades of dynamic effort, all was well.
I suggest four things. First, that the market and political failures that have placed us on the road to ecological catastrophe will almost certainly not be remedied by good government policy books alone. Second, the scope of the short and long term ecological threat extends beyond energy into all sectors such as agriculture, forestry, aquaculture, industrial production. Third, we must get off the tracks we are driving along to escape the speeding climate change train headed for us. Fourth, we must transform business and pollution as usual to become part of an ecological civilization that will long endure.
Roy Morrison’s next book is Ecological Economic Growth: A Guide to Stopping Climate Change & Building an Ecological Civilization forthcoming in 2019.
Global Carbon Dioxide Emissions
TRENDS IN GLOBAL CO2 AND TOTAL GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS 2017 Report J.G.J. Olivier, K.M. Schure and J.A.H.W. Peters December 2017 PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency
Designing Climate Solutions
Designing Climate Solutions – Island Press by HalHarvey with Robbie Orvis and Jeffrey Rissman, Nov. 2018 https://islandpress.org/books/designing-climate-solutions
Green New Deal
*Roy Morrison is director of the Office for Sustainability at Southern New Hampshire University. He is working on the development of renewable energy hedges and on a new utility revenue model to encourage efficiency and distributed generation. His books on ecological transformation and economic development include We Build the Road as We Travel: Mondragon, A Cooperative Social System (1991), Ecological Democracy (1995), Ecological Investigations (2001), Eco Civilization 2144 (2005), and Markets, Democracy and Survival (2007). roy.morrison114@EcoCivilization.info – www.EcoCivilization.info
A new social contract for an ecological transition
Francine Mestrum* – Global Social Justice
While different countries in Europe are living a period of social unrest and thousands of people reclaim the streets for social and climate justice, the IMF is proposing a new social contract and ‘re-imagining social protection’… The question then clearly has to be: do we allow international financial institutions to debate our social future or do we want to reclaim this very important topic?
We know the problems: the threats of climate change and loss of biodiversity, pressure on wages, persistent poverty and unacceptable inequalities.
Activists of social movements for the climate and for social justice know that both go hand in hand: environmental justice is not possible without social justice and vice versa. Nevertheless, in both movements, many activists still have problems to combine the two.
In ecological movements, studies have been going on to examine how the ecological transition can be realized in socially fair terms, that is, how to fairly distribute the burden – if there is one – of change over different population groups.
One might of course reverse this reasoning: what social policies do we need to achieve ecological justice? All those who work for social justice necessarily have to be concerned about the need for potable water. Those who work for decent housing will inevitably also work for better isolation and lower electricity consumption. And those who want better public transport will want to reduce the use of private cars.
There are many more examples to find in the health sector, because all those who work for preventive health care will have to fight against toxic pesticides or in favour of clean air in our cities.
Even those who want to help poor people with better incomes, can contribute to more consumption of organic food and less cheap junk food from the very polluting meat sector.
In other words, social justice and social protection can directly contribute to a better environment. Sanctions and moralising messages often do not help to make people change their behaviour, while a concrete proposal for more welfare can bring about the necessary changes.
That is why I want to make a plea for a new social contract for an ecological transition.
Everyone knows that the welfare states many rich countries have developed after the second world war do not respond anymore to the needs of the 21st century, let alone to the emerging robotization and introduction of artificial intelligence. So we know we have to renew our thinking. Our social security systems were the answer to a fordist economic model, while today’s new technologies need new answers. However, this does not mean we have to abandon the values of our welfare states.
It seems obvious to me that we have to think of better anti-poverty policies, as we have to examine how to tackle the precarization of work in the platform economy where many people now work without social security and without rights. The discussion about the shortening of working time has started already. Work will certainly not disappear, though wage labour may sharply be reduced. We need new solutions for all of these new circumstances.
To defend social protection does not mean we are clinging to the past but that we do want to maintain solidarity mechanisms and collective rights. The way we can do this will have to be looked at, and we certainly have to stay away from empty anti-capitalist slogans as well as from soft calls for empathy and ethics. It is no longer sufficient to make a call for more redistribution, we need to look at the relationship between labour and capital as well as at company law. We need to redefine ownership. Corporations and capital have to be at the service of society. The emerging commons movement already gives some interesting answers, though it has to get out of its localist straitjacket.
In sum, people and societies do still need security and protection, but we have to look at it in new terms.
The social protection we need will be more than just social security, it will be assistance, public services and labour right. It will have to fully take into account the environmental needs and rights. By giving participatory rights to people one can also promote democracy. And another important element at the eve of 2019: peace. It is exactly one hundred years ago that the ILO was founded, after the first world war. In its constitution it states that ‘sustainable peace is not possible without social justice’.
In this way, social protection can be emancipatory and transformative, that is contribute to the system change we so badly need.