Saturday, January 16, 2016

Dawn of a World Economy not so Far Beyond Belief

Last week I was part of an audience to the best, most complete-sounding plan imaginable for steering the global economy freer and freer from those toxic fundamentals, oil, gas and coal. As a person who gets back and forth across the middle of North America by gasoline car I mostly draw a blank on what reduced reliance on my own time-tested car would look like. Eric Enberg of Citizens Climate Lobby, who spoke to the Duluth, MN chapter of the Izaak Walton League on January 6th, may not have furnished a specific plan to those of us long-distance drivers wondering how else we'd get to all our sites and marketplaces, but he certainly, with a brisk and smiling verve, delivered a sweeping proposal that even a non-logical mind could track, a win/win that would serve everybody but people stubbornly invested in fossil fuels.

The Carbon Fee and Dividend proposal is explained here at Citizens Climate Lobby's website. Essays about large-scale risk to the balance of nature including our atmosphere have used the term externalities for the  too-obvious environmental costs of business that conventional economic systems have failed to account for. The Carbon Fee and Dividend would build those costs in, as a central principle fostering what would seem to be the whole subsequent economic order.

The carbon fee would apply to all sources of atmospheric carbon at the source--oil wellhead, coal mine, shipping port--would increase over time, and would be subject to adjustment at international borders so industry would be discouraged from dodging it by moving abroad. As a fee, not a tax, its revenues would be distributed to households directly, a subsidy and stimulus that everyone would welcome, compounding the benefits of local and federal tax refunds. According to Mr. Enberg, the greatest personal impact each of us has on the climate comes about not through what we drive, considerable though that may be, but through what we buy--all kinds of goods and services. Adopting a fee and dividends would recognize that. The carbon fee would force business, both manufacturing and service, to review and overhaul all their processes, including raw materials, in a way that would trim out more and more fossil-fuel-related costs, since prices in all sectors would rise in consequence of the fee assessed early on for anything brought to us by gasoline, petroleum derivative or coal. Renewable energies and non-petroleum principle materials would filter into place as affordable substitutes with the passage of time, steadily lowering carbon emissions while easing countries into the parameters endorsed by the Paris Agreement last fall.

Gaps between how economic policy is written, how it's administered under differing bodies of law and how it's put into practice by all the relevant businesses never-the-less are all too likely if we implement rules, from one national or regional governing body to the next, based on this paradigm. There have always been self-serving personalities as well as desperate ones with talents for bending rules, supplying under-the-table markets and using diversionary tactics. Cynical schemes of fee avoidance and manipulation will doubtless come to our attention, as well as price wars plus out-and-out physical competition for superior raw materials, whatever they might be, known to be in limited supply, and for water and for real estate. Conflicts and mismanagement must increasingly remind societies that everything we need proves finite if we insist on perpetually growing consumer demand, out of a fanciful belief in ever-expanding prosperity for a customer base as vast as the expanding universe.

In a trust that enough of us know we have to make way for future generations in another age, innovating by using the laws of mechanics, by alchemies now little understood and by our own insertion in the flows of earth's own ancient forces, I recall this 1999 watercolor that shows a coexistence briefly traced on a brown, distantly-peopled beach, with snow flurries like a kind of yearly omen.

                        Snow Buntings on a Wintry Beach   - original watercolor 12 x 8.25" unframed,  $95.00

I had seen the snow buntings, whose arrival from the Arctic seems to demarcate early winter from late fall, and remembered episodes of biking in wide-open air. Whose might be the wheels that made the tire marks, and what blends of musculature, mechanics--even electronics--might drive them there in a habitat for brown bird survivors? There always deserve to be earthly enchantments and the soft tracks of our passage following where the other creatures go.

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