GUEST BLOG: Bryan Bruce – Turning Adversity Into Advantage

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Make no mistake, for many of us there are tough economic times ahead. The question is do we return to the pre-covid economic policies that encouraged the rabid consumerism that has caused the climate crisis,  or do we stop and think – How can we fix our economy and address the climate issue at the same time?

A recent Oxford University study has found that government funding directed into green projects create more jobs, deliver higher short-term returns per dollar spend and lead to increased long-term cost savings, by comparison with traditional fiscal stimulus.

Professor Cameron Hepburn, Director of the Smith School of Enterprise and Environment, University of Oxford, brought together a team of internationally-recognised experts to carry out the research, including Nobel prize winner, Professor Joseph Stiglitz and well-known climate economist Professor Lord Nicholas Stern.

You can read their whole paper here:

But if you just want to know their conclusion – here it is:

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“We emerge with the recommendation of five policy items (plus one item specific to LMICs) that are well-placed to contribute to achieving economic and climate goals. These are:

1. Clean physical infrastructure investment,
2. Building efficiency retrofits,
3. Investment in education and training to address immediate unemployment from COVID-19 and structural unemployment from decarbonisation,
4. Natural capital investment for ecosystem resilience and regeneration, and
5. Clean R&D investment. 

Now is the moment to turn something bad around into something good.

While the vested interests of the wealthy 1 % would dearly love us to go back to the resource gobbling pre-covid economy in which they thrived, we have a chance to turn things around by recognising that government spending on green projects will deliver a better economy and a better world.

So..here’s my new measuring stick question for this election..

Which party policies offer the best practical way forward to creating a fairer economy that does not promote the exploitation of people and the planet ?

I’ll be offering you my analysis in the coming weeks.

Keep safe.
Kia kaha!

Bryan Bruce is one of NZs most respected documentary makers and public intellectuals who has tirelessly exposed NZs neoliberal economic settings as the main cause for social issues.

13 COMMENTS

  1. ‘How can we fix our economy and address the climate issue at the same time?’

    We can’t.

    The climate ‘issue’ (unprecedented planetary meltdown) is a direct consequence of the adoption of fossil fuels to power machinery.

    The only solution is to stop desequestering carbon -stop extracting coal and oil and gas, and stop converting them into atmospheric and oceanic carbon dioxide.

    I’ve said it more times than I can remember (commencing around 2005) and have been ignored. I’m sure saying it again won’t make a scrap of difference because our society reactive, not proactive. But I’ll say it anyway. Permaculture and Powerdown.

    That only sane responses are politically and socially unacceptable at this point of time, especially when there are so many vested interests promoting short-term maintenance of unsustainable and utterly dysfunctional energy arrangements. So we will continue on the present path of making everything that matters worse…..most likely until we can’t, judging by the energetic, environmental and political narratives promoted by the dominant media.

    When only a few people were digging up coal to run machines, and when the world population was below 2 billion, the rate of disruption of climate systems and acidification of the oceans was extremely low, due to less than 0.1 ppm per annum increase in atmospheric CO2.

    https://scripps.ucsd.edu/programs/keelingcurve/wp-content/plugins/sio-bluemoon/graphs/co2_800k_zoom.png

    By the time Keeling commenced daily observation in 1958 the rate had increased to just under 1 ppm per annum.

    https://scripps.ucsd.edu/programs/keelingcurve/wp-content/plugins/sio-bluemoon/graphs/mlo_full_record.png

    And now that the world population of humans is over 7 billion and so many of them are dependent on fossil fuels, the current rate of increase of atmospheric CO2 is approaching 3 ppm per annum.

    https://scripps.ucsd.edu/programs/keelingcurve/wp-content/plugins/sio-bluemoon/graphs/mlo_two_years.png

    ..with all the climate catastrophe ‘issues’ forecasted decades ago [if humanity remained on the same track] now manifesting horrifically.

    It is interesting that the BAU community still attempt to downplay the utterly cataclysmic future we face by describing BAU-distrupting events (like the recent inundation and washing away of infrastructure in Northland) as “one-in-500-year” or “one in 1000-year” events when the reality is such events are biennial and headed to being biannual.

    By the way, Nicholas Stern’s work was exposed as incomplete and sloppy over a decade ago.

    ‘Which party policies offer the best practical way forward to creating a fairer economy that does not promote the exploitation of people and the planet ?’

    None of them, I’m afraid. But the rate of looting and polluting under Labour is likely to be somewhat less than under National. And the care of the citizens in the short term is likely to be a lot better.

  2. In the US, the ‘green economy’ has ten times more jobs than the fossil fuel industry. This from New Scientist: US Green Economy Has 10 Times More Jobs

    That was from a year ago, but this from June this year in Aus has a similar the message: ABC A Renewable Led Recovery will Create More Jobs

    As David Suzuki says, the multiple crises we are facing mean we have to change course: Multiple Crises Signal Change Course

    Our food systems are one main area needing change, as covered by Time Mag: Rethink Industrialised Farming

  3. Further to my comment about Permaculture and Powerdown being the only strategies that will be of any use mitigating the effects of Industrial Civilisation, I would like to add that both are bitterly opposed by banks, corporations and governments.

    The production of food locally and by methods that recycle nutrients offers no opportunity for banks and corporations to exploit the populace, and reduces the tax take by government, whilst it improves the health of the general populace.

    Similarly, using ever less energy destroys the business models of banks and corporations and blows a huge hole in the perpetual growth narrative of governments, which are beholden to banks and corporations, and have made NZ vulnerable to the whims and anti-environmental policies of organisations such as WTO.

    The fact that both Permaculture and Powerdown are going to be forced on the general populace and the banks and corporations that survive the current round of financial meltdown makes no difference. Permaculture was invented decades ago by Bill Mollison (who back in the 1970s recognised the toxic and unsustainable nature of BAU) but has gained almost no traction over nearly four decades, which indicates two things: the BAU mob have sabotaged it as a movement because they recognised the threat it posed to BAU; most people would rather put their faith in failing business models and failing political models than actually do something for themselves.

    Thus, NZ society is doomed to squandering the last of its precious resources attempting to perpetuate living arrangements that have no future -just as we are seeing right now, and will continue to see until some major disturbance to the current order makes BAU completely impossible (as opposed to partially impossible we are now witnessing).

    Dismal, isn’t it?

    • ‘If you’re old enough to be out of elementary school, you’ve already seen ongoing declines in standards of living, public health, public order, the quality of education, the condition of our infrastructure, and much more. Those trends define our future. They also defined the future of every past civilization, because that’s how civilizations end, and it’s how ours will end, one to three hundred years from now.’

      That’s why I and many others stopped reading JMG many years ago.

      100 to 300 years from now???

      Try 10 to 30 years from now. That’s a lot nearer the mark.

    • JMC has been on the pulse for a while now but you will notice his reference points are mainly based on the only reliable pieced of scientific work done on the human problem and that is the LTG published in 1972 and reviewed many times since. The data graphed has shown its uncanny accuracy that establishes itself to be a more probably predictor than any political or economic analysis found today.

  4. The collapse of historic economic arrangements is gathering pace, and the ‘recovery’ will be neither V nor U but, in the opinion of tens of thousands of people with their finger on the pulse, will be much more like L, i.e. no recovery, with perhaps a saw-shaped bottom bar that slowly descends into oblivion or rapidly descends into oblivion, depending on the rate at which societies unravel.

    ‘Chevron Shares Slide After Recording Historic Quarterly Loss

    Chevron Corporation reported a loss of $8.3 billion for the second-quarter 2020, the worst quarterly decline in a generation, and warned: “COVID-19 significantly reduced demand for our products and lowered commodity prices.”

    Chevron lost $1.59 per share on an adjusted basis while recording revenues around $13.49 billion. In the same quarter last year, the oil giant earned $2.27 per share on $36.32 billion.’
    https://www.zerohedge.com/markets/chevron-shares-slide-records-worst-loss-decades

    And the bellwether of the ‘health’ of the industrial system, Caterpillar, recorded a similar bloodbath.

    ‘Caterpillar North America Machine Sales Crash Most Since The Financial Crisis

    Earlier today, heavy machinery giant Caterpillar which has been hit hard by the collapse in global industrial activity, reported earnings which came in a bit above sharply reduced expectations, thanks to aggressive cost-cutting efforts (read mass layoffs) which helped the company make up for slowing sales: total operating costs were 25% lower, the company said Friday in an earnings statement released before regular trading hours.

    The numbers outside of costs were dismal: sales fell across the company’s segments, with dealers slashing inventories by $1.4 billion signaling a market that remains glutted with equipment. And while Caterpillar declined to provide forward guidance, it sees a similar percentage decrease in end-user demand in the third quarter, and expects dealers to cut stockpiles by more than $2 billion for the full year.’

    And, of course, so-called second waves or third waves of Covid-19 are emerging in many unexpected places,

    Back on home turf, the banks are starting to get concerned because people are not borrowing ‘enough’ and their profitability, indeed their entire business model, are threatened:

    ‘Debt growth (the basis of bank earnings) is slowing. Bank mortgage debt rose +$1.2 bln in June from May and apart from the April blip, that was its smallest rise since early 2019 and the smallest June rise in five years. The year-on-year rise of +6.1% was the slowest gain of 2020.

    … AND SPREADS FURTHER

    Meanwhile, the growth in business debt has evaporated, falling -$1.8 bln since May, and that is on top of the -$1.3 bln fall in May from April. The Government’s IRD bank option (interest free and probably payment free at some point too, undermines the commercial basis of SME business lending). Year-on-year this is +2.7% and the slowest annual growth in six years.’

    https://www.interest.co.nz/news/106317/review-things-you-need-know-you-go-home-friday-many-rate-cuts-consumer-confidence-soggy

    Historically low interest rates are not going to fix the fundamentally defective (and fraudulent) system we have been enduring for so long.

    The powers that be have managed to halt the stampede into gold for the moment, with the price having surged to a new record high (just under $2000 an ounce) after many years of ‘languishing’ -being manipulated- in the $1200 to $1500 range.

    In the hierarchy of needs, gold comes way down the list, of course, unless you are hoping to use it to trade for food or water. But in times of mayhem, who is going to trade food or water for shiny metal you can’t use to make a tool or weapon?

    Meanwhile, just how depraved many of our so-called leaders and their associates have been is being revealed:

    ‘Underage girl forced to have sex with Prince Andrew, US court document claims’

    https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/jul/31/underage-girl-forced-to-have-sex-with-prince-andrew-us-court-document-jeffrey-epstein

    Are Bill Clinton and Hi Liar back under the spotlight?

    With so much economic, political and social upheaval, we should not be surprised that Americans are starting to panic-buy guns.

    ‘Fears over the Covid-19 pandemic, a perception of rising crime and worries over civil unrest and political instability in the wake of anti-racism protests have sparked Americans to buy firearms at a record pace – with about 40% being first-time buyers, according to one leading gun rights group.

    House hearing finds US no closer to plan as coronavirus is ‘raging out of control’ – live

    Pro- and anti- gun rights groups are also detailing how the stereotype of an older, white conservative-leaning male with a hoard of weaponry is being challenged by rising numbers of first-time buyers that represent sales to women, buyers from Black and other communities of color, and people from urban or suburban areas.

    According to federal statistics, gun purchase background checks are up 69% over the last year to 10m, with handgun checks up 80%. Industry analysts estimate sales of about 3m weapons since March – a rise in sales is so large it has stressed manufacturers’ supply chains.’

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jul/31/americans-guns-coronavirus-protests

    Welcome to ‘Mad Max’ America?

    As I have said many times before, it’s way past time for New Zealanders to stop watching the goggle box and get real.

  5. Further to my comment on the accelerating collapse that is underway -especially in and of the US- Dmitri Orlov (ex-Russian who observed and cataloged the collapse of the USSR, and who has resided in the US for many years) has posted an interesting article, in which he points out that the orderly collapse he speculated might occur is now definitely off the cards, and a much more chaotic and counter-productive [for the future] collapse is underway.

    I particularly like these lines:

    ‘Collapse is an inevitable eventual outcome for all capitalist economies and all growth-driven socialist ones. Infinite economic expansion within a finite physical environment is a concept that is valid only to imbeciles, the insane and Nobel prize-winning economists.’

    https://cluborlov.blogspot.com/

    Interestingly, we are not hearing much from ‘Nobel prize-winning economists’ these days, now that their bizarre theories have got us into this impossible-to-escape-from pickle.

    Sure, the imbecilic mainstream media still blather on about the need for jobs and the need to destroy those portions of the environment which are still left intact. And the political parties still talk as if there is a future for the dysfunctional arrangements that got us into this mess.

    Is that plain stupidity? Or is it ‘don’t scare the horses’ stuff, designed to keep the NZ masses complacent, compliant and calm in the absence of ANY policies that make sense long term?

    The times get more ‘interesting’ by the day, almost by the hour.

    • Afktt
      A good post.
      There are so many aspects when looking at details of our BAU driven collapse, that the main thrust can get buried in the detail.
      Energy harvesting is at the core of the rise of many things including population, a rise that will end in collapse..

      Non Renewable Natural Resources are also a finite barrier to continued BAU.

      But lack of applied intellect directing education to counter ignorance and greed, is the basic killer of human civilisation, and the wiping out of the wilderness and other species that together form the “gaia” of the biosphere to use a crude concept.

      Yes collapse is on the way and happening.
      The shape of that collapse will depend on many things but the most likely factor to dominate various phases will be pockets of humans aggressively grabbing resources which is a continuation of what we have experienced plainly in the last few centuries, only it is liable to be more intense and destructive with the use of modern weapons.
      We also have little cohesion in our communities as we have been purposefully divided on many fabricated issues and political stances designed to continue the status quo and BAU.

      At present we see the USA leading this awful denial of scientific fact as well as denial of human rights both at home with increasing poverty and abroad as resources are stolen, states violently thrown into upheaval with some millions dying in the process, while the USA blames others for its aggressive behaviour.
      .

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