Sunday, March 23, 2014

two nagging questions

The point of the previous post is that the maladaptation of the North American society to biophysical constraints is not inevitable. Something can be done. Specifically, the needed transformation of consumerism to sustainability, and from the fossil regimen to a postcarbon economy, turns on four stakes: power grid, transit infrastructure, energy efficiency, and green pricing.

However, this perfectly doable, fourfold transformation would require government intervention. And this brings the core problem into view. The climate crisis is the biophysical result of market failure. There is no evidence to suggest that market dynamics will ever behave otherwise but to deepen the crisis. All evidence points to the need for an activist government that directs the sustainability transformation; that finances postcarbon projects with income, corporate, and carbon taxes; and that legislates appropriate endeavors, such as a “green gap year” for high school graduates to build a postcarbon America.

Such a shift could be financed, in the U.S., by downsizing the military budget to a fraction of its current size, and by implementing a progressive income tax to redistribute wealth from the top to the middle, and from the margins to the center. This is how we could pay for saving the future. But this solution leaves two questions open. One: how can this shift be done without putting the market on a leash? And two: how could the package of outlined solutions be sustainable in the long run without a way of decoupling economic security from economic growth?