wellsharp has covered a lot of ground since November 2007, summarising and reflecting upon the work of many insightful people. We’ve learned a lot from writing wellsharp; hopefully it provides some interesting food for thought for you too.
But it’s time for a break. We’d like to bring things to a close* in a suitable manner with a few appropriate words:
Ask the powerful five questions:
- What power have you got?
- Where did you get it from?
- In whose interests do you exercise it?
- To whom are you accountable?
- How can we get rid of you?
Only democracy gives us that right. That is why no-one with power likes democracy. And that is why every generation must struggle to win it and keep it – including you and me, here and now.
Tony Benn (2005) quoted at http://www.bennites.com/
we find that the prime human obligation is to act fearlessly and publicly in accordance with one’s beliefs; that one should withdraw cooperation from destructive institutions; that this should be done without violence …; that means are more important than ends; that crimes shouldn’t be committed today for the sake of a better world tomorrow; that violence brutalizes the user as well as his victim; that the value of action lies in the direct benefit it brings society; that action is usually best aimed first at one’s immediate surroundings, and only later at more distant goals; that winning state power, if necessary at all, is a secondary goal; that freedom “begins with myself” … is oriented to love of truth, and only then discovers what it hates and must oppose; and that state power not only should but actually does depend on the consent of the governed.
Jonathan Schell (2003)The unconquerable world: Power, non-violence and the will of the people. New York: Metropolitan Books. p.201.
* Never say never, of course – if we have something burning to say, or if circumstances change, we may post again, but it isn’t in our plans for the foreseeable future.
Brief notes and (and links to) a few studies providing evidence in favour of some of our suggestions, and one looking at the case for a Financial Transactions Tax.
Frustrated by the polarised debate on human-caused climate change Gareth Morgan and John McCrystal set out to evaluate the evidence for themselves. On the basis of this book, they apear to have been relentlessly open-minded in this quest…and in the end, they conclude that yes, we do need to be concerned. It is totally against the spirit of the book to point this out – but Gareth Morgan is noted for coming to his views independently and skeptically, plus he is an economist and – all other things being equal – reasonably fond of economic growth – so if he thinks human-caused climate change is an issue we need to take seriously, it really is most likely that we do. But read the book – it ought to be convincing for anyone with an open-mind.
Morgan and McCrystal also take some shots at greenies and environmentalists for taking an irresponsible role in this debate, muddying the science with their keen-ness to use it when it suits to butress attacks on consumerism and capitalism that are primarily ideological (don’t worry they also take aim at fossil-fuel industry-funded deniers).
I think this criticism raises some valuable points for the green/environmental movement.
We’ve done a fair bit of criticising contemporary capitalism in this blog. One of the follow-up questions we have been asking ourselves all along is: “if not capitalism, then what?’
Well yes. If not life as we know it, with all its enormous ‘reality’, complexity, and slow-turning, apparently unstoppable power and momentum – then what? And how do we get from here to there? It’s quite a topic for a couple of part-time bloggers to tackle. The hubris! But then we’re not tackling it on our own – human society is always and inescapably a collaborative venture – we’re hitching a ride with the thinkers whose work we’ve commented on, hopefully in return bringing it to some who would not otherwise have met it.
So where have we got to so far, in our hitching, in our answer to this big question?
The collective wisdom of capital markets is probably still ‘in some doubt’ in many peoples’ minds at the moment. Interestingly though, from a green perspective, capital markets appear to have been estimating the likely costs of climate change to be higher than those predicted by cost-benefit analyses (such as the Stern Report) that have been much maligned by some industry lobby groups. And, of course, this implies that – even from a purely economic point of view – there is a case for stronger climate change mitigation policies than have been suggested by the cost-benefit analyses.
With all the buzz and anti-buzz about the climate change talks in Copenhagen, it’s easy to get caught up in the dis-empowering idea that a global Emission Trading Scheme (ETS), agreed upon top-down, at Copenhagen (or maybe at the next conference…) is the only hope for meaningful action on climate change. After all, climate change is a global problem, with huge free-rider risks, so it must require a global solution, right?
Nobel prize-winning economist Elinor Ostrom makes the case, in her working paper “A Polycentric Approach for Coping with Climate Change” that a better response to the problems of climate change is ‘polycentric’ with a diversity of responses occurring simultaneously in different geographical locations and at different levels of government and society.