Sunday 28 December 2008

PROTEST Israel's massacre in Gaza

US Consulate, Customs Street, Auckland 4-6pm, Tuesday 30th December Organised by GPJA and Students for Justice in Palestine
Palestinians carry the body of a victim of an Israeli air strike in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, December 27, 2008. (Hatem Omar/MaanImages).

Today, the Israeli occupation army committed a new massacre in Gaza, causing the death and injury of hundreds of Palestinian civilians [latest reports place the death toll at more than 200], including a yet unknown number of schoolchildren who were headed home from school when the first Israeli military strikes started. This latest bloodbath, although far more ruthless than all its predecessors, is not Israel's first. It culminates months of an Israeli siege of Gaza that should be widely condemned and prosecuted as an act of genocide against the 1.5 million Palestinians in the occupied coastal strip.

Israel seems intent to mark the end of its 60th year of existence the same way it has established itself -- perpetrating massacres against the Palestinian people. In 1948, the majority of the indigenous Palestinian people were ethnically cleansed from their homes and land, partly through massacres like Deir Yassin; today, the Palestinians in Gaza, most of whom are refugees, do not even have the choice to seek refuge elsewhere. Incarcerated behind ghetto walls and brought to the brink of starvation by the siege, they are easy targets for Israel's indiscriminate bombing.

For more info on the situation and the international response, see

Wednesday 24 December 2008

Deflation virus is moving the policy test beyond the 1930s extremes

by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard from The Telegraph 9 December 2008 We are beyond the extremes of the 1930s. The frontiers of monetary policy are being pushed to limits that may now test viability of paper currencies and modern central banking.You cannot drop below zero. So what next if the credit markets refuse to thaw? Yes, Japan visited and survived this policy Hell during its lost decade, but that was a local affair in an otherwise booming global economy. It tells us nothing.

Why New Zealand Labour is no longer social democratic

This article originally appeared in UNITY journal issue 2, in February 2006. The conclusion of the article reflects hopes for the Workers Charter as a political project which did not pan out as we hoped. Nevertheless, we think this article's analysis is still sound, and deserves reprinting as a contribution to an ongoing debate on leftist blogs. All those who support social and environmental justice have to be careful not to be sucked into the quicksand of the Labour Party's ongoing capitulation to neoliberalism, even when they're in opposition. The journey to social liberalism by Daphne Lawless and Grant Morgan Over the past century, socialists worldwide have often called for a "class vote" for social democratic and Labour parties. That's because these mass reformist parties, while elitist and pro-capitalist, were profoundly influenced by the union hierarchy and did in a distorted way embody workers' hopes for a better world.


If the cell form of capitalism is the commodity, the cellular form of a society beyond capital is the common. Nick Dyer-Witheford discusses the circulation of commons and the conditions they would create for new collective projects and waves of organising. Note: this article was written before the financial crisis exploded, so its concepts on the stability of capitalism seem a little dated now. by Nick Dyer-Witheford from Turbulence It has been eight lean years for the movement of movement since its Seattle high point of 1999. Since September 11th 2001 many activists’ energies have been directed to opposing the invasion and occupation of Iraq, other conflicts in Afghanistan and Lebanon, and abuses of civil liberties and media truth. But the war on terror has also had a deadening effect on oppositional hopes and imagination. Or so it seems to me, an academic in Canada whose political energies have recently been absorbed opposing his university’s making tanks for the US Army. Comrades are engaged in labour organising, post-carbon planning, the self-organisation of the homeless, municipal elections and other projects. But the optimistic sense of another world as not only possible but probable, imminent, has given way to something more sombre. Even in this no-longer-frozen North, the upsurge of popular movements and governments in Latin America is an inspiration. Otherwise, however, horizons have contracted.

Friday 19 December 2008

Meeting of leftists against fire at will law

Around 30 Auckland leftists from a number of parties and unions gathered at the Unite union office on Thursday 18 December for a joint meeting against National's 90 day fire at will law. There was a good atmosphere and unanimous agreement about the need to build a united campaign against a law which strips away workers rights. Mike Treen, national director of Unite, gave the introduction. He reported that the top leadership of the Council of Trade Unions is meeting on 20 January to decide on the shape of a union campaign against the law, which apparently will now come into force a month earlier than originally signalled (on 1 March). Here are the main decisions of the meeting: *Leftists set up a broad network to run a united campaign against the law In tandem with the CTU campaign. *The broad left network will meet again on Thursday 15 January to set a date for an Auckland demonstration and finalise publicity material. *The broad left network will convene a conference in Auckland to which international speakers (like US socialist John Bellamy Foster) be invited. *The broad left network will promote a workers pledge not to sign away their rights. The broad left network will organise direct actions to support workers sacked under the law. Grant Morgan Chair of RAM - Residents Action Movement 021 2544 515 PO Box 13-157 Auckland

Thursday 18 December 2008

Broad Left Strategy in action: first seats in Québec

by Paul Kellogg from Amir Khadir, one of the two spokespersons for Québec solidaire (QS), has won a seat in the Quebec National Assembly. Among the many excellent aspects of the Québec Solidaire platform is a call for the Quebec government to pass a motion opposing "any Canadian imperialist intervention in Afghanistan." The QS success represents an important advance for the social justice and anti-war movements in both Quebec and English Canada. Khadir's victory was not just the victory of one individual. In his riding [parliamentary constituency seat] of Mercier, QS won 8861 votes, 38.06 per cent of votes cast, defeating Daniel Turp, a star candidate of the Parti Québécois (PQ) by 872 votes. But in the ridings surrounding Mercier, QS also did extremely well. In Gouin, the other co-spokesperson for QS, Françoise David, came a very close second to the PQ winning 7987 votes (31.95 per cent). QS was formed in February, 2006. Institutionally, it was the coming together of l'Union des forces progressistes (UFP) and Option citoyenne (OC). What this fusion accomplished was to provide a space for the expression of the hopes and dreams of two generations of struggle in Quebec. Those who attended the 1000-strong opening rally, will never forget the emotion - a video showing the history of struggle in Quebec reaching back through the tumultuous decades of the 1960s and 1970s, from the War Measures Act of 1970 and the general strike of 1972, to the women's movement of the 1980s and 1990s, and the anti-globalization and anti-war movements of the 21st century. There was a feeling of history being made. With a seat in the National Assembly, QS has a new tool to add to the historic commitment of the UFP to be a "party of the street and of the ballot box." The visibility that comes from having a sitting member will propel QS into the public eye in a new way. There were some other encouraging results from the election. In particular, the right-wing Action Démocratique du Québec (ADQ), which had soared to second place in the 2007 election, saw its vote collapse by a stunning 694,487, leading to the election night resignation of leader Mario Dumont. But there remain many challenges, of which QS members are very aware. Celebrations of Khadir's victory were tempered by disappointment over Françoise David narrowly failing to join Khadir in the National Assembly. In addition, the overall result was a majority government for Jean Charest and the Liberal Party, a leader and a party who are a known commodity in Quebec politics - committed to defending the interests of corporate power. The story of QS needs to be given much more visibility. Our sisters and brothers in Quebec have taken up the challenge of forging a united alternative to the traditional parties of politics, and have had some real success.

Helen Clark's greatest achievement

by Auckland union activist Two valedictories: 1. Paul Holmes gave his last ever morning breakfast show this morning before retiring. Special guest of honour was his mother. After hamming it up at the mike and asking in her best little old lady voice, "is this the thing I have to speak into", she claimed that Paul didn't inherit his ability with the spoken word from her, before she went on to disprove it. She spoke of the hard times her son had experienced when he first moved to Auckland to host the morning show for 1ZB. For the first few months of his new job 1ZB radio morning ratings were their worst ever. To loud applause from the live audience, she said, that if the 90 day bill had been in existence then, her son Paul's career would have probably been ended there. 2. On the same day, Helen Clark was asked on TV1 what was her greatest achievement of her 9 years as head of the Labour government. She seemed quite stumped. After some classic waffle, that there was just too many things to put into a book, she finally came up with the return of the unknown warrior to his tomb in Wellington. What? No ground breaking advances in human welfare, or justice, or social, or labour rights policy? No world leading initiatives to protect the environment? No raising the standard of living, for the majority, at the expense of the privileged minority? Nope, nothing like that comes to mind. Instead, one single overblown act of jingoistic pageantry. This belated effort to glamorise a historic imperial conflict was a popular move with militarists, army officers, jingo nationalists, war on terror supporters, military historians and Herald editorialist's. Unfortunately for Helen Clark these people's votes don't amount to a hill of beans and they probably all vote National or Act anyway.

Sunday 7 December 2008

Who caused the great crash of 2008?

by Lee Sustar from Socialist Worker (US) 5 December 2008 There are plenty of people who should be held accountable for turning an ordinary recession that began a year ago into a global catastrophe. Topping the list is former Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan, who fed the bubble by keeping interest rates at rock-bottom levels, urging home buyers to take on adjustable-rate home loans and refusing to use the Fed's powers to oversee a mortgage industry rife with fraud.

Wednesday 3 December 2008

Monbiot: One Shot Left

by George Monbiot
28 November 2008
George Bush is behaving like a furious defaulter whose home is about to be repossessed. Smashing the porcelain, ripping the doors off their hinges, he is determined that there will be nothing worth owning by the time the bastards kick him out. His midnight regulations, opening America’s wilderness to logging and mining, trashing pollution controls, tearing up conservation laws, will do almost as much damage in the last 60 days of his presidency as he achieved in the foregoing 3000(1).

Drafting of new Bolivian constitution - a spur towards social transformation

In the following article the vice-president of Bolivia, Álvaro García Linera, explains his interpretation of the changes that were made in the draft constitution as a result of the recent negotiations involving the parties represented in Bolivia’s National Congress. The original constitution was drafted in December 2007 by the country’s constituent assembly. A popular referendum on the new draft constitution is to be held on 25 January 2009. Álvaro García Linera also discusses the role constitutional change has played in the social transformation of Bolivia.

Alvaro Garcia Linera

Bolivia's vice-president Álvaro García Linera: ‘We are going through the most radical social transformation’

by Álvaro García Linera (translated by Richard Fidler) from LINKS – International Journal of Socialist Renewal 22 November 2008 Synthesis of the constituent process The demand for a constituent assembly emerged at the very point when the majority of the country, the Indigenous sectors, were moving or beginning to move from being a demographic majority to a political majority — the awakening of an Indigenous, campesino and popular movement that for centuries had been excluded from the power structures of the state. It was the Indigenous sectors who at that point invoked once again their right to participate in the definition of what is common to all Bolivians — common institutions, common resources, common rights.
See also


by Ben Block from WorldWatch 19 November 2008 Members of Everglades Earth First!, a Florida-based environmental group, block the construction site of a natural gas-fired power plant in February. Lynne Purvis and seven other members face charges next month for trespassing onto the site.

Breakdown of the Global Monetary System by Summer 2009

by GEAB (GlobalEurope Anticipation Bulletin) from Information Clearing House 1 December 2008 The G20-meeting held in Washington on November 14/15, 2008, is in its essence a historical indicator that the Western - above all Anglo-Saxon - monopoly on global economic and financial governance, is coming to an end. Nevertheless, according to LEAP/E2020, this meeting also clearly demonstrated that this kind of summits is doomed to inefficiency because they concentrate on curing the symptoms (banks’ and hedge funds’ financial difficulties, derivative markets’ explosion, financial and currency markets’ dramatic volatility) rather than the fundamental root of the current crisis, i.e. the collapse of the Bretton Woods system based on the US Dollar as sole pillar of the global monetary system. Without a complete overhaul of the system inherited from 1944 by summer 2009, the failing of the current system and that of the United States at the center, will lead the whole planet to an unprecedented economic, social, political and strategic instability, and more specifically to a breakdown of the global monetary system by summer 2009. In light of the technocratic jargon and calendar of the declaration released after this first G20-meeting (totally disconnected from the speed and scope of the unfolding crisis (1)), it is more than likely that the disaster will have to happen for the fundamental problems to be seriously addressed and for the beginning of a reply to be initiated.
See also

Monday 1 December 2008

Every Trick in the Book

by Mike Whitney from Information Clearing House 29 November 2008 "Conditions have deteriorated on a scale and with a speed that no one could have predicted just a few months ago. Market conditions of unprecedented strength are roiling the world's financial markets. The global economy is either in, or close to, recession and 2009 is not likely to be a year of great recovery."
- Brett White, chief executive officer of CB Richard Ellis, LA Times
Without any public debate or authorization from Congress, the Federal Reserve has embarked on the most radical financial intervention in history. Fed chairman Ben Bernanke is trying to avert another Great Depression by flooding the financial system with liquidity in an attempt to mitigate the effects of tightening credit and a sharp decline in consumer spending. So far, the Fed has committed over $7 trillion, which is being used to backstop every part of the financial system including money markets, bank deposits, commercial paper (CP) investment banks, insurance companies, and hundreds of billions of structured debt-instruments (MBS, CDOs). America's free market system is now entirely dependent on state resources.

Ending the siege, freeing Palestine, BDS (Boycott/Divest/Sanctions)

Message from a Canadian activist from Global Peace & Justice Auckland newsletter People and groups wanting to stand in solidarity with Palestine during the current crisis should be careful not to simply fall into the trap of only reacting to the latest crisis. We need to work instead toward building a movement that can effectively challenge Israeli apartheid over the long-term. Part of this strategy is lifting the siege on Gaza, another part is imposing BDS on Israel until it recognizes fundamental Palestinian human rights. These rights are spelled out by Palestinian organizations spearheading the BDS campaign, they include: the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes; the right of Palestinians living in Israel to be treated as equals; and the rights of all Palestinians living under foreign military occupation to be free of the racism, fear, repression and the impunity that are all necessary for Israel to maintain its racist foundations. Calling for an end to occupation, while important, only means we're standing in solidarity with a portion of the Palestinian people. It does nothing to back the struggles and demands of Palestinians living in refugee camps or as nominal “citizens” in an Israeli state that refuses to acknowledge fundamental Palestinian rights. Along these lines it is necessary not to counterpose our immediate, short-term demands with the longer-term strategy of BDS. Rather BDS provides a tool or mechanism through which to win these demands. For example, it makes little sense to raise a demand like “Lift the Siege of Gaza” without a concrete strategy to make this happen. The best and most effective strategy – as the experience of the Palestine solidarity movement has shown over the last few years – is to concretely cut ties with Israel apartheid in spaces where we have influence. Every step taken toward isolating Israel for its violations of Palestinian rights, even if symbolic, makes it more likely to win short-term demands such as lifting the siege on Gaza. BDS, in other words, is not a demand. It is rather, a course of action designed to ensure that demands are met. Over the long-term the collective impact of pushing these demands through an effective strategy of BDS will ensure that the broad and inclusive vision of justice that Palestinian social movements continue to struggle for. To maximize its impacts those wishing to stand in solidarity with Palestinians should coordinate their actions with the organizations in Palestine that are spearheading this campaign. As the crisis in Gaza continues any form of opposition is helpful. Everything from direct action, staying visible on the streets, occupying consulates, constituency offices, etc. needs to continue. Fundraising, teach-ins, etc. education, grassroots media work, etc. are all important for those moved in solidarity with Palestine. Each action has the potential to help. However, to magnify the impact of our grassroots individual or group actions, to ensure that after a successful event or action we don't go home and feel defeated by the latest news on our TV screens or inboxes, it is important to find ways of plugging into an already existing global solidarity movement that is responding directly to the BDS call from Palestine. Go to Global BDS Movement and The Boycott Israeli Goods Campaign Aotearoa

See Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions by Naomi Klein

Production-Side Environmentalism: Can we produce less and consume more?

by Don Fitz from Climate and Capitalism 12 January 2009 Corporate “environmentalism” is consumer-side environmentalism. “Make your dollars work for the Earth.” “Buy green!” “Purchase this green gewgaw instead of that ungreen gadget.” “Feel guilty about driving your car.” Consumer-side environmentalism is loath to discuss production. Consumer-side environmentalism does not challenge the manufacture of cars. Rather, it assumes that producing more and more cars is a sacred right never to be questioned. Production-side environmentalism places blame on the criminal rather than the victim. It looks at the profits oil companies reap from urban sprawl rather than demeaning people who have no way to get to work other than driving a car. Production-side environmentalism looks at an agro-food industry which profits from transporting highly processed, over-packaged, nutrient-depleted junk thousands of miles rather than the parent giving in to a child bombarded with Saturday morning pop-tart-porn TV. Production and consumption: A broken connection Okay. Corporations are the root of environmental evil. What’s the point of differentiating between production and consumption? Aren’t they just two parts of the same process? Production goes up so consumption can go up — right? Since the United States is a “consumer society”, environmentalists typically assume that decreasing consumption would force a decrease in production and these two steps would merge into an integrated whole. Through more than 99% of human history, this simple connection characterised economics. If people wanted more, they produced more, they had more, and they consumed more. During the last century, this connection has been increasingly broken. It has become possible to steadily increase the amount of production (about 2-3% annually) with little to no increase in meaningful consumption. 'Meaningful' consumption The word “meaningful” is key in understanding whether consumption goes up, goes down or stagnates. If a stove is manufactured to last 10 years instead of 50 years, a couple may purchase five stoves instead of one during a 50-year marriage. This is an increase in consumption in only the most frivolous, non-meaningful way. In the world of real people, as opposed to the fantasy world of economists, there has actually been a decrease in meaningful consumption. There were four times when the couple was without a stove. Since WWII, and especially since the 1960s, the United States has witnessed a massive overproduction of what is profitable and an obscene shrinking of what is needed. There has been a mushrooming growth of nuclear weapons and other war toys that nobody can eat, wear or live in. Being able to get from here to there has been replaced with traffic jams and commercials telling us how happy we are to consume individual automobiles. The construction industry has shot up as buildings last fewer years. Food epitomises simultaneous overproduction and underconsumption as Americans are increasingly obese and less nourished. Clearly, production can go up while [meaningful] consumption goes down or stagnates. But, could the opposite be true? Is it possible to decrease production while increasing consumption? Yes. Society can reduce the total amount of time spent manufacturing objects at the same time individuals in that society have more to consume. While this was not true for our ancestors, it is the most important principle of environmental economics at the dawn of the twenty-first century. This basic principle pervades all aspects of climate change, peak oil, toxins and species preservation. The reason why it is an economic rule now, but not previously, is simple. Some time after WWII there began to be sufficient production to meet the basics of food, clothing, shelter and medical care for every person on the planet. The only way the market has continued to expand during recent decades has been through the expansion of goods and services that do nothing to improve the quality of life, often worsen it, and always put profitability before human needs. By reducing and fundamentally changing entire areas of production, it is possible to reduce the overall mass of stuff while having zero effect on meaningful consumption. Dramatically reducing production would profoundly reduce CO2 emissions, extend the use of available oil by centuries, and eliminate human expansion into species habitat. If people working at and living near manufacturing facilities were the ones making decisions about production, it would become possible to eliminate toxins that poison humans and other species. Preaching to people that they “have to learn to do without” what a corporate society forces them to purchase will accomplish little more than antagonising them. In contrast, organising people to make corporations “learn to do without” the profits from destructive production is an essential for confronting ecological crises. Let’s look at a few economic sectors. Militarism The military is the only sector of the economy where emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) can be reduced by greater than 100%. This is because militarism is the only type of activity whose primary purpose is destruction. When a road is bombed in Serbia, energy is used to rebuild it. Energy usage translates to the emission of GHG, primarily carbon dioxide (CO2). When a home is leveled in Afghanistan, reconstruction requires energy. Every hospital brought down and every person maimed in Iraq means CO2 emissions during the treatment of patients and construction of new treatment facilities. Military production is unique. If it were halted, GHG emissions would be reduced by an amount equal to (a) GHG emitted from repairing what the military bombed, plus (b) GHG produced during its regular activities of building bases, using weapons and transporting troops and equipment. Though the official figure for the US military budget is US$623 billion, the War Resistors League [1] calculates total military-related spending at $1118 billion by including NASA, Department of Energy nukes, vet benefits and interest on past military debts. Another $110 billion should be tacked on for extra spending on the war in Iraq. The gross domestic product (GDP) is $13,246.6 billion. [2] Putting these together leads to an estimate that just under a tenth of the US economy is military-related spending: [$1188B + $110B] / $13,246.6B = 9.80% This only accounts for military sales to the Pentagon. Since US arms manufacturers are major providers for regimes throughout the world, military spending actually accounts for considerably more than 10% of the GDP. Militarism may contribute more than any other 10% of the economy to oil depletion, creation of toxins and habitat destruction. Yet, the one area of the economy where a greater than 100% reduction in greenhouse gases is possible is the area least likely to be discussed in connection with climate change. Food The most basic necessity is food. It illustrates what “decreasing production” of a commodity means. It does not mean decreasing the amount of the commodity produced. The “production of food” encompasses the labour and other inputs that go into what Americans eat, including: * huge agricultural equipment, its manufacture, and the oil to operate it; * chemical fertilisers and pesticides, research to create them, and everything to transport and store them; * genetically engineered seed, its research, and Monsanto’s legal team and seed police which perpetrate criminal trespass to steal plant samples; * the entire chain of food processing and packaging (up to 99% of the cost of some products); * transportation of 1400 miles from “farm to fork” for the average morsel of food; * manufacture of trucks, boats, planes, roads and docks to transport food; and, * growing eight to 10 times as much grain to produce a pound of beef protein as would be contained in the grain itself. Adding everything together means that it could be possible to produce as much or more food than the United States currently consumes with less than 10% of the inputs that currently go into agro-industry. It would greatly increase the amount of “meaningful” food we eat. Clothing Until the last few decades consumer goods were designed to endure. Post-WWII corporations faced the dilemma that increasing the durability of products would mean that people would have what they needed with little reason to purchase more. By the 1960s planned obsolescence had slammed clothing, appliances and household items full force. People of my generation and older can tell dozens of stories of things that “used to last” — shoes, dishes, coffee pots, desks, furniture, everything bought for the home or office. The most vile form of commoditisation is the disposable bag, bottle, cup, plate and camera, designed to be used a single time and then spend centuries contaminating groundwater or choking distant aquatic life. Business is not immune to the ever-decreasing durability that plagues consumers. Computers and computer software suck capital from industry as they drain family budgets with their out-of-date-by-design formatting. Take all the useless junk that people are persuaded that they need, add it to those useful goods with a premeditated plan to fall apart, and ask “How much manufacturing is truly needed for the consumer goods that make for a quality life?”. The answer has to be that production could decrease by at least 70% (maybe 90%) with zero decrease in the quality of life and the increase in mental health that would come from knowing that you probably don’t have to fix or buy something tomorrow. Shelter Current standards for urban planning anticipate that 2% of buildings in the US will be replaced every year. That means the average house is expected to last 50 years. Does that make a 50-year-old home an old building? Many European buildings went up 500 years ago. That proves, again beyond any doubt, that 500 years ago architects knew how to design buildings that would last for 500 years. Unless lead poisoning has irretrievably damaged the brains of architects, they should be able to replicate that in the 21st century. Or maybe the problem isn’t individual architects, but a building sector pushing to have each generation of homes constructed to worse standards than the generation before. After I spoke about global warming at an area high school, the principal privately challenged my figure that US buildings are designed to last 50 years. “I went to a city council meeting last week”, he told me. “And they were approving construction of a new government building that the architect said would last 20 years.” “And did the architect promise it would be covered with eco-gadgets?”, I wanted to know. “Solar panels. Double-flush toilets. It would have everything.” The amount of energy saved with green gadgets is lost many times over by erecting new buildings when existing ones will do fine. What could be more absurd than building tens of thousands of new eco-homes at the height of the 2007-08 real estate collapse when more homes are clearly not needed? Imagine a “green building” plan that said: 1. No building could go up unless there was an absence of unused comparable building space within 50 kilometres; and, 2. Any new building would have to be constructed to a 500-year standard. It should be obvious that if buildings were constructed to last 10 times as long we would need one tenth as many new buildings. Intelligent planning should be able to ensure a home for every family (increase in consumption) at the same time there is much less construction (decrease in production). Health care The life expectancy in the US is 78 years. The life expectancy in Cuba is 78 years. The annual cost of health care in Cuba is $193 per person. The cost of health care in the US is over 20 times as much, more than $4500 per person per year. A reasonable American could conclude that when s/he spends $100 on health care, less than $5 goes to keeping her/him healthy and over $95 goes to the cancerous bloating of the sickness industry. [3] This suggests that the US could decrease health care costs by 90% and still spend twice as much per person as does Cuba. Just how could the US make such incredibly deep cuts in the cost of “medical production” without damaging (and even improving) the quality of health care? Eliminate health insurance companies. This parasitic growth diverts billions of dollars to enormous office buildings, their construction and maintenance, and labour wasted judging who gets treatment and who is left to die. The entire industry should be surgically removed. Focus on community preventive care rather than hospital care. Hospitals are necessary for many emergency treatments. Childbirth and locked mental health wards are examples of what the industry has medicalised in pursuit of profit. Eliminate most medications. Require physicians to document that available non-medication treatments have been exhausted prior to writing a scrip. I dumped my last primary care physician after he started yelling at me for refusing to take meds for blood pressure (which is now under control by changes in diet and exercise). Replace most specialists with neighbourhood primary care physicians. Everyone living in a US city should be able to reach a primary care physician by walking or cycling for less than 15 minutes. The fact that the medical establishment cannot conceptualise this shows its contempt for preventive care. Demanding that the government increase funds for a bad healthcare system will make insurance and drug companies richer but it will not make people healthier. That can only happen by totally redesigning health care into a much smaller system than it is now. Transportation The automobile industry would have us believe that improving transportation means increasing the number of cars on the road. Corporate environmentalists nod in agreement, accepting the car culture as an Act of God but wishing it would be based on hybrid, electric or hydrogen cars. Shallow green plans to cope with transportation are consistently devoid of any thought of reducing the production of cars. A deep green approach to transportation would focus on eliminating [at least] 95% of cars in US cities. Such a plan might look something like this: * Redesign cities to rebirth local businesses so that people can make 80% of their trips by walking or cycling. * Ensure that frequent and cheap mass transit allows for people to use it for 80% of other trips. * Establish car sharing or ride sharing for the 4% of trips remaining. * Only after the above are adopted, eliminate parking spaces except for emergency, construction and car-shared vehicles. Would this increase or decrease the “consumption” of a transportation system? Orthodox economists would insist that it would not be increasing consumption because people would not be driving in ever-increasing circles. This rigid mindset fails to realise that transportation means getting from point A to point B, or from all the points A to all the points B you need to get to. The more that destination points are spread apart by urban sprawl and the more that roads are choked with cars, even “green” cars, the longer and more miserable trips are. Despite what economists might tell you, this is increased consumption of agony, not increased consumption of transportation. Try this way of thinking about it. On your lunch break, you want to run over and say “Hi!” to your mom and pick up your shoes from the repair shop. But each is 20 kilometres away from where you work, so you can only do one. In a deep green city redesigned so that everything is closer together, they are each 1 kilometre away and you can bicycle to do both. In the minds of corporate economists and shallow green environmentalists, you would be consuming more of the transportation system if you do one trip of 20 kilometres. In the minds of rational human beings you would be consuming more transportation if you met both goals in two short trips. Not necessarily a good thing to do Though I am one of many who have misdiagnosed environmental problems as being rooted in over-consumption, consumption is not the primary issue. The source of the disease is overproduction. Resolving environmental problems requires us to stop seeing them as the same. Nevertheless, just because you have the ability to so something does not necessarily mean that it is a good thing to do. As a society, 21st century United States has the ability to simultaneously decrease production and increase consumption. But the fact that we can do it does not necessarily mean that consuming more or even the same amount is a good idea. A quick glance at the designed waste and destructiveness of the US economy suggests that we can reduce production by 50-80% (perhaps by 90%) while the average person would have more consumer goods at any one time. If getting serious about addressing climate change and related catastrophes became the norm and if reducing production were to be seen as a virtue, people might think, “Now that shirts last four times as long and only cost a little more, I can afford to have 80 shirts instead of 30. But do I really need 80 shirts?” [4] Once production for human need replaces production for corporate profit, it becomes possible to reconnect production and consumption. When people again produce what they need, reducing what they consume means less will be produced. Multiply 80 shirts by 1000 commodities and hundreds of millions of consumers and we have Phase 2 of the reduction of production. Phase 1 was the reduction of production with an increase of consumption. Phase 2 is an intensified reduction of production based on a reduction of consumption and an improvement in the quality of life. How might it look? Phase 2: Less production, less consumption and a better life Militarism. With the US having a military budget greater than the rest of the world combined, 800 military bases on which the sun never sets, and enough nuclear weapons to disintegrate every person many times over, it could reduce its spending by over 90% with zero threat to national security. A Phase 1 reduction in military production by 90% would be accompanied by spending some of that money at home in useful areas of the economy and some abroad to repair the damage done. Phase 2 reduction would begin if people asked, “If we are already providing the basic necessities of life with other economic changes, instead of using military savings to produce additional goods, why don’t we produce nothing extra at all and use the savings to reduce the work week?” [5] Food. There might be as much as a 90% drop in food inputs by reducing meat, transportation, pesticides, fertilisers, equipment, processing, packaging and genetic contamination. As people watch this happen with no decrease in the quantity but a huge increase in the quality of food, the stage will be set for Phase 2. Wes Jackson, Stan Cox and their colleagues at The Land Institute have provided brilliant guidelines for developing hybrid lines of perennial food plants that would reduce the amount of land tilled, leading to less erosion and less land being needed for food production. Add this to the expansion of numerous techniques of organic and indigenous farming throughout the world to yield continuous ways to reduce agricultural inputs. [6] Consumer goods. Core to the concept of increasing consumption while decreasing production is requiring consumer goods to be manufactured to standards of life expectancy that are many times what they are now. During Phase 1, people could well see their work week getting shorter while they accumulate even more stuff than they have now. Railing against people for personal accumulation does little good for many reasons, one of which is if this person buys less, then that person (or that government, that business or that bank) buys or invests more. It is only when production as a whole drops that reductions in personal consumption can lead to further drops in production. In this context, people might well decide to share tools and washing machines and children might enjoy clothes passed down from older siblings, which, multiplied millions of times, intensifies the downward trend in production. Construction. When we ask how many centuries instead of how many decades a new building should last, it is also time to start thinking about the second phase of decelerating construction. The question for that phase is: If we focus on retrofitting existing structures, how close to zero new construction can we get? How do we modify what we already have to create housing collectives, co-housing communities and urban ejidos [communal land]? In a post-market economy, new social relationships in living would become the dominant factor in architecture. More dense living and a smaller space per person would be the “sine qua non” of deep green urban redesign. Transportation. The great transportation contradiction is that the more people who own cars, the longer it takes to get from point A to point B. As mentioned, increased car ownership increases the distance between destination points as well as obviously putting more cars on the road. The drive can take a dive only if people can get there without four wheels. Phase 1 of transportation reformulation means designing communities for walking and biking in order to reduce car ownership. Phase 2 begins when people collectively identify needs that can be met without their going anywhere. For example, imagine food warehouses replacing supermarkets. Households combine electronic grocery lists into a neighbourhood order that the warehouse delivers and is then disaggregated by neighbours. Instead of thousands of cars each filling a massive parking lot, a few dozen delivery trucks fill orders. Health care. A big reason for bad health care is the industry organising itself separate and apart from communities. If neighbourhood health centres were to replace distant offices, insurance companies, quick fixes, drugs, hospitals and overpaid specialists, people could then ask how else they could chip away at the sickness business while improving the quality of their lives. Though redesigning neighbourhoods so people can walk to their doctor and kicking softdrink machines out of schools are part of this, changes can be much bigger. Communities could ask: How can a neighbourhood share the care of severely disabled people rather than constructing more nursing homes and treatment centres with three shifts per day and a management team that answers to insurance companies? Democratic economy The greatest barrier to coping with climate change, peak oil, toxins and habitat destruction is the total mass of production. This mass is increasing; its increase vastly outpaces any real or imagined increase in consumption; and its increase is made worse by peddling green gadgets as some sort of solution. A deep green view understands that too much production is the core problem. Necessary changes do not require any reduction in “consumption”, at least in any meaningful sense of that word. If a corporate economy cannot allow production to decrease, it only makes sense that preserving the Earth requires replacing corporate power with a democratic economy. A knife going into a person’s stomach can be the death blow of a thief or life-saving surgery. Which is to say: An action can have opposite effects, depending on its context. A plea to replace or reduce individual consumptive habits in a society where market forces dictate that every decrease in energy here is offset by an increase somewhere else is a plea falling on deaf bank statements. But if we could replace production for profit with production for what we need and want, people would have the power to alter society to change its wants and even redesign its needs. With the link between production and consumption restored, lowering consumption would indeed affect production — but only in a deep green society. This is production-side environmentalism. [The article is based on a talk Don Fitz gave on June 29, 2008 at the Surviving Climate Change roundtable in St Louis, USA. It was published in Synthesis/Regeneration: A Magazine of Green Social Thought ] Notes 1. 2. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the US Department of Commerce, (Table 3). 3. Dresang, L.T., Brebrick, L., Murray, D., Shallue, A., & Sullivan-Vedder, L., 2005. Family medicine in Cuba: Community-oriented primary care and complementary and alternative medicine. Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, 18 (4), 297-303. 4. While there could be a 90% or greater reduction in several economic sectors, economies of scale may mean that a much smaller drop in basic industry could be achieved, perhaps meaning that less than a 90% overall decrease would occur. 5. If militarism accounts for 11% of the GDP and it were reduced to 1% of the current GDP, that would be a reduction of the GDP by 10%. That could translate to 10% more goods being produced or it could translate to a reduction of the 40-hour work week to 36 hours, or it could translate to 5% more goods being produced and shipped abroad as reparations for US war crimes simultaneous with a 5% decrease in the work week to 38 hours. 6. Cox, S. Sick planet: Corporate food and medicine. Ann Arbor: Pluto Press, 2008. Glover, J.D., Cox, C.M., & Reganold, J.P., August, 2007. Future farming: A return to roots? Scientific American, 297 (2), 82-89.