Jul 012019

Back in 2010, I wrote ‘Planet Fret’, where I worried about the impact that humans are having on our home. I worried about oil usage and plastic usage and generally about the throwaway society that we live in. I worried that we were doing irreparable damage through a life-style that was at odds with any type of conservation.

Then four years ago, I revisited it with fears that we had just crossed the 1° threshold of warming our planet and that there was little to no sign of us slowing down the damage.

So, now in 2019, many things are happening, very few of them are actually pushing us in a direction that will benefit future generations though.

In the US, the president is the chief of the national climate change denial club. As such, sadly, climate change has become a political issue. The deniers all line up with one side, which happen to also be the heavily religious side. Global warming, climate change, call it what you will is now a belief issue too, if you are a god-fearing Republican, you do are by definition a climate change denier and on a mission to burn as much coal and fossil fuel as possible to any the other side.

I really worry about the impact that our modern lifestyle has on the planet, not just the insistence that everyone should own a car, which then sits around for 95% of its life, slowly crumbling to rust, not just that we still burn coal and other fossil fuels for our energy, but now also because of our appalling inability to clean up after ourselves and our fantastically appalling use of plastics and our innate inability to consider the impact on our environment. The rafts of plastic in the oceans are utterly unforgivable.

We have dumped so much plastic into our oceans that we have floating islands of the stuff, the Great Pacific garbage patch is a huge environmental disaster that is going to take a massive effort to deal with.

Microplastics are a part of our diet, a part of US, this cannot be healthy, surely ?

We personally recycle as much of our rubbish as possible. Each week we put several recycle bags out containing paper, recyclable plastics etc., we also save all of our food waste, garden wastes and then finally the small bag of ‘trash’.

What happens to it all is a little bit of a mystery, we are lucky to live in an area that has decent recycling services, much of the waste, which in our case is a lot of packaging, gets recycled, the food and garden waste is highly compostable too, which leaves only a small trash footprint for us. 

But the rest of the street does not seem to have the same level of conscience, most houses have multiples of black trash bags and almost no pink re-cycle ones each week. I think that less that 10% of our street uses the food bins.

I am very worried about the effect we as a population are having on the planet pursuing a lifestyle that is marketed to us to extract maximum cash from our bank accounts and into corporate profits.

Plastics are a huge concern, it is very, very difficult to avoid plastic-wrapped everything nowadays, my lunchtime salad is wrapped in plastic, if I make my own, each piece of the ingredients are wrapped in cellophane.

Of course this is great for freshness and it allows the supermarkets to hold product longer with longer shelf lives, but the sheer amount of packaging that is consumed is insane.

It is not really, in my view, the fault of the plastics and packaging manufacturers, it is consumer-based demand requires fresher, long-lasting products.

Then there is the convenience, when we are in the town and thirsty, it is convenient to grab some cold drinks in plastic bottles. Glass is less convenient, it is heavier and more dangerous, aluminium cans are probably a better bet.

Water selling is not about selling water, it is about selling you plastic bottles, that just happen to be a tremendously convenient way of quenching your thirst on the go.

Let’s talk about money too, because a lot of this boils down to making money at the expense of our planet. Something over 99% of the worlds wealth is hoarded by less than 1% of the population. Worse still, just 62 people, own as much wealth as the poorest half of the entire world population – or 3.6 billion people. The very same set of people that are hoarding this money are those that are refusing to do anything about the worlds problems, simply because it would impact their profits.

The richer you are, the less likely you are to consider your impact on the planet, if you are very well off, there is a high likelihood that you will travel by private plane, drive (or be driven in) an extremely fuel inefficient car, live in a large heated / air conditioned home. The richer you are, the bigger your environmental impact footprint.

In the US the coal industry funds the bribing of politicians to ensure that the concept of ‘clean coal’ is pushed and they still burn it in power stations. I have almost no idea how that can work, burning any fossil fuel will lead to additional CO2 in the atmosphere, coal is especially bad for this, but also coal burning adds adds to pollution in terms of particulates. ‘Clean’ coal is a misnomer, it should be called ‘marginally less insanely deadly coal’, then banned outright.

The US is not alone here, China and Australia burn coal too, but at least China appears to have a plan to reduce their CO2 footprint. In Australia, they are burning through prime ministers as they burn through coal, it is another sensitive political issue.

Which of course brings us back to money again, the coal lobby is powerful, they have vast amounts of money at stake and have truly vast financial backing. If the coal industry died over night, those that own the empire would be no less amazingly wealthy, they would just stop getting even more wealthy. People employed in the industry would be forced to move to alternate employment, but the industry as a whole could take the re-train everyone hit without blinking. Well, the shareholders would not get their bonus an the next Rolls Royce might need to be delayed a little, but that really should be the price that such industries need to pay.

So maybe it comes down to greed.

There are a relatively small number of people are not prepared to reduce their empires impact on the world, simply because doing so would reduce the speed of growth of their bank accounts.

So, here is an idea, lets incentivise those with the money to reverse the harm to the planet.

Let’s tax damaging industries.

  • Plastics
  • Fossil Fuels

Introduce a rule that says that ‘clean-up tax’ is set to 50% of revenue and 100% of profits – assuming that there is any money made at that point.

In addition to that, let’s stop the 1% from passing that money on, a simple 99.999% inheritance tax on all and any monies beyond, say, £1m. This will still leave more than enough for heirs, but we need to ensure that the ‘excess’ money that is collected here goes towards good causes.

  • Ocean plastic clean-up
  • waste Recycling
  • CO2 clean-up projects
  • Environmental Education
  • Clean Energy research

I guess that is a list of the things that the ultra-wealthly dislike.

The details would need to be worked out too – there are problems around transfer of wealth to be thought about, if an rich parent decides to give their child a Ferrari 250GTO, which is valued in the tens of $millions), how do we tax that ? It if not really the same as a ‘regular’ parent giving their child a Ford Fiesta – perhaps again some gifting rules are needed.

I think it is also important to ensure that this money does not find its way back into the government coffers to spend on the industrial war machines, it should be used for good.

Truly, is there a better thing to spend money on than the health of our planet for future generations ?

 Posted by at 12:00 am

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