This letter to the editor of The Denver Post appeared in today’s paper (February 5, 2021).
Re: “Moves on energy, climate need to be smart,” Jan. 31 letters
In a recent letter to the editor, someone said that the President’s suspension of oil and gas leases had put him out of business and had failed to stop one CO2 molecule from being released. Good points! To be consistent, we need a “cap-auction-trade” system restricting both the production and consumption of oil.
Yes, this would put even more people out of business. But our economy is in the toilet because we’ve been overusing resources for the past 50 years. We have far overshot planetary boundaries, and not just with climate. What about peak oil, mass extinctions, soil erosion, and deforestation? Real wages in the country have been stagnant for 50 years. Even this tepid economy was only possible with vast environmental destruction and mountains of debt.
Radical measures are now absolutely necessary. We need a much smaller economy. We need a Universal Basic Income and need to heavily tax the wealthy so that no one is destitute. Besides a cap on oil consumption, we need a cap on use of other metals, minerals, and land. Returning all the vast tracts of grazing land to wilderness or forests would naturally sequester vast quantities of CO2. If consumerism isn’t dead, we need to kill it. Without drastic action, we won’t have a future at all. We must unite to address this problem.
I keep looking with disgust at a number of new houses being built in our area. These are enormous houses – bigger than anyone but a multi-family household would ever need.
The ironic thing is, several of these houses have solar arrays on their rooves. And I am sure many people go by and thing, “how wonderful is that!” But I think, what is the point in simply supplementing overconsumption with a lesser evil? People don’t seem to realize we simply need to consume less, not just “consume better”.
Hopefully it will start to sink in for people before it’s too late.
I know you avoid the word “socialism” so I’ll just say healthy amounts of government intervention are needed. Some resources will continue to be plentiful and consumable; but it needs to be regulated (fully orchestrated) by the government. We can pretend it isn’t socialism if that makes people feel better.
I do, from time to time, talk about socialism (in a basically favorable way). The problem is that no one can really agree on what it means, and even if they do, you then have the problem of what the government is going to do with all this power once they have it. Because of something called “Baumol’s cost disease,” the role of government tends to expand even in capitalistic countries like the United States. And no matter how I use the term, someone who’s already “socialist” will probably criticize me because what I’m advocating isn’t “true” socialism. So my approach would be, let’s just say what we mean and then figure out what labels to apply to it later.
I think direct democracy politically and economic democracy are essential to avoid communism.
On the other hand, here’s an article arguing for degrowth from a socialist perspective.
Thanks. I’ll read it
I’d like to see a resurgence of the simple living movement. A few years back, a lot of people followed the ideas in the book “Your Money or Your Life”. In the early days on the internet, there was a good site called the Simple Living Network. John Robbins showed that by giving up a fortune (Baskin Robbins), and focusing on the basics, he was able to reverse a serious medical condition and reclaim a normal life. His book was a top seller. But these movements seem to fade away. But I’m always hopeful that we will wake up, and focus on what’s really important.
In the 1990’s we found a set of tapes (the audio book, I think, but I don’t remember precisely) on Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez. It really changed our approach to personal finance, and I retired a few years later. But as you say, the movement seems to get steam and then fade away. Simple living should be easy, but our society has made it complicated. Our society needs to make it as easy and pleasant as possible to live simply. Then we’d doubtless see a natural growth of simple living.