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Sarah vs the Govt – thoughts after first day in court on climate targets

Sarah Thomson poses for media outside Wellington High Court. She is taking the Government to court on their climate change targets

On approaching the High Court yesterday I was first struck by the sign outside that said “System Change not Climate Change” held up by a pressure group. Why didn’t I call my book this? It’s a damn good slogan. Crowds soon gathered and the media arrived to interview Sarah Thomson, the law student taking the case on climate targets.

When a 24 year old takes the Government to court it has got to be newsworthy and important. When her lawyer Davie Salmon started up, the years of preparation showed and a very long friendly conversation between Salmon and the judge began. Huge piles of documents were behind the young woman judge and I couldn’t help thinking this judge has the power to rule that the government revisit its emission targets and she looks five foot nothing. We have to stand up when she leaves the court.

Sarah Thomson with supporters. From left Deirdre Kent, James Renwick behind, Sarah, Paul Bruce, Tim Jones (behind) Diana Shand RNZ photo

The argument that New Zealand is small therefore we don’t need to do much was thoroughly demolished, especially with Salmon’s suggestion that if the boat is sinking everybody bails, no matter how small their bucket.

He took us through the difference between the target of 1.5 degrees vs 2 degrees of warming. Reality strikes when you realise that, although he said he wouldn’t exaggerate, he used the word ‘catastrophic’. Yes beyond two degrees it is catastrophic and James Renwick had reminded us outside that it is only five years till we get to 1.5 degrees. David Salmon persuasively argued that you shouldn’t rely on technologies that don’t exist yet to take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. He said it was like telling someone to keep smoking in the hope someone would invent a cure for lung cancer. One cannot predict inventions. Therefore no real weight can be put on that hope.

System Change not Climate Change

He impressed on the judge the comprehensiveness of the AR5 summary of climate change knowledge worldwide. The sheer size and scale of the work was noted and the fact that it is always out of date before it is published. He said, “I don’t want to make you read it all Your Honour, is scary reading about floods and famines, mass migrations and conflicts and some of it is dry and detailed”. She replied, “I’ll be happy to read it”. He said,”Maybe not happy by the time you finish.”

Sarah and her boyfriend were sitting in front of me in the gallery. Occasionally she would lay her head on his shoulder. When later she put her arm around him I wondered if that couple would ever have children and what sort of world will it be for them. Will their mothers grieve for the grandchildren they wish they had? But I do know they should be immensely proud of their children and of themselves for bringing them up to have such a huge sense of responsibility.

My thoughts, as always, went to economics. Where were the economists in this court? I couldn’t see a soul.  What would they say if they were here? Yes, Salmon talked about Business-as-Usual scenario and I thought that even Helen Clark’s government did nothing to stop the intensification of dairy because it feared the economy wouldn’t grow enough and they would be out of government. And so we get agricultural emissions rising.

Sarah Thomson and Prof James Renwick outside Wellington High Court Monday 26 June 2017

And Naomi Klein realised the economy was at war with the climate.

So I thought what would it really take to change the economic system from growth dependent to a healthy one? How many really want to face up to the money system and that the land tenure system (and therefore the tax system) simply have to change. It’s a big shift for people’s mindsets. What causes the growth imperative? It is the combination of privately owned land system with an interest-bearing debt money system controlled by private banks. A match made in hell. Maybe we have to get to hell before we wake up.

We have the choice of catastrophic climate change or economic collapse. Both are horrible. Please, someone, focus on changing the political economy before it is too damn late!!

I kicked myself that I hadn’t written a flyer for my book and taken it with me.

 

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Designing a new economy without addressing money system or tax system is futile

If you want to design a political economy that works, you actually have to go to the roots. That means the money system the tax system, the welfare system and the governance system. So I was shocked to read the six winning essays in The Next System’s essay competition to discover that so few of them had addressed the money system or the tax system.

It is like an engineering professor setting out to teach students without having a course on materials. “OK just let’s assume everything is built out of this one material. I have no idea what it is but it is just a given. I have no idea of its properties, but honestly I don’t want to waste my time thinking about them. They are just here and it is what we have to work with. In fact if I have a mental block when talking about materials. I have an excuse.”

 

Full lecture in Theatre L, Newman Building, UCD

Yes that is how stupid it is trying to design a new political economy without thinking about money, the very exchange we use for trading between us.

 

Or it is like a dressmaker always having the same material available and not being in control over whether it stretches, breathes or shrinks. Dumb dressmaker always assumes that the same material in the same colour is the only one we have available.

Federal regulators are setting new rules for banks that offer deposit advances.

Yet the design of money can determine our attitudes to scarcity or abundance and our attitudes to spending or hoarding. And when you realise that the money designer is also the one who decides how much will be created it is doubly worrying. What if the creator of credit pushes out a whole lot of credit at one time and then just slows up for a while? Yet this is exactly what the private banks do because then they make the most profit.

What if the creator of money also designs new instruments for gambling in that money? And they can also steer your investments in certain directions because they are investment advisers and stand to gain if you use certain funds?  Yet this is what happens.

And how few of them have addressed the tax system. That is like saying to us, “Well we have got a tax system and honestly I can’t do anything about that. It just is. Well I do know you have to tax the rich more and I assume that means you will put up their income tax.”

Yes it is about as stupid as that. Thomas Piketty warned us to look at the tax system and said how critical it was. I have a quote from him in my book.

The winning essay in the open section mentions money once and tax once.

 

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Two books ten years apart and the theme is the commons

Today I found a photo from the launch of my book Healthy Money Healthy Planet –Developing Sustainability through New Money Systems and I post it here. It was a good book, took a long time to write and Helen has sold a great many through Living Economies shop.

Yesterday I had an email from a city councillor in a small city which started off by saying, “I read your book, Healthy Money, Healthy Planet, September 2006. I think it is one of the best books I have ever read on the money system.”

This newest book is smaller but just as important. It recognises that money isn’t the only issue in the commons. Land is critical and so we have to look at the tax system which at the moment gives rewards to those who speculate on land. And who owns the earth? Is it individuals? The Donald Trumps of the world? Na. What about the minerals of the earth? Who owns the gold in the ground? Who owns the water, the forests, the fish?

So what is the commons? It is not common land. Wikipedia says, “The commons is the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth. These resources are held in common, not owned privately.”

But it also includes money. As David Bollier said: “We need to democratize money.  Commoners must re-capture the money-creation system for public purposes and replace debt–based money.” I think he should have said “bank-created money” For if you allow private banks to create and control the public money, you lose democratic control.  In his excellent article he expands on this here.

My essay, based on this latest book, was entered into the Next System project’s essay competition. It didn’t win. So I skimmed through the six that got first or second place in their section, as did a colleague who understands both money and land issues. It seemed the essays didn’t address the money system or the tax system. I may have skimmed too fast. He quoted me a saying,

“There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.”

–Henry David Thoreau,  Concord, MA (1817 – 1862)

Deirdre Kent and Helen Dew 2005
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Book selling well and I have my first meeting arranged

Helen told me she only has 7 copies left out of 42 so that means there have been quite a few sales.

I also have a date for a meeting with Otaki Transition Towns at the end of June so that is great. I would love to arrange others and fit them in with my local work on climate change issues in waste management. I need to keep in touch with local environmental, governmental and economic issues. We also have a timebank meeting at my place on Wednesday night. I can see how it can fit in as a perfect way for the council to save money.

Phil also did an interview with me in Lyttelton about the book and I hope we can get it up on the website under Resources.

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A very successful Living Economies Expo

Margaret Jefferies of Living Economies and Project Lyttelton organised the event

Well the Expo was a huge success. Three days of intense engagement of 120 people on the topic of seeding change can only produce miracles when the person in charge is the wonderful Margaret Jefferies.

You can’t say she wasn’t challenged. Everything went wrong for her for a start. There were going to be two women working with her. One was required by immigration to get a full time job in addition to her two small businesses, the other got sick. Then the programme committee collapsed, well – more of less. Only Deirdre and Bruce seemed to be there at the end, though many others had contributed to a huge list of possible speakers. The list was unmanageable. Too big and no one seemed to follow up. Then there were Jo and Bryan, organisers of ecoshows. They came in.

Margaret just went where the energy went. No one could afford too much time, but Babs Lake came in for three weeks at the end and then there were the wonderful Lyttelton organisers. The programme details were held together by Bruce Anderson who acted as Chair for much of it, together with the brilliant Jo Pearsall.

Audio visuals were under the very competent John Veitch, all helped by skilled volunteers who attended. Peter ex TV3 has done a video of the whole event and the DVDs will eventually be sold from the Living Economies website.

Gary Flohmenhoft of Vermont, US spoke of land and money and land trusts

Anyway we ended up with two Australian speakers in person Gary Flohmenhoft, who gave a brilliant talk on land and money, and Darryl Taylor from Melbourne whose language was so wonderfully rich and insights into community development so penetrating.

Gar Alperovitz kicked us off with a great talk on the Next System, coming in by skype from Washington DC.

Nafeez Ahmed connects energy, economy,environment with security issues for a very logical understanding of the current world crises we face

The final talk by Nafeez Ahmed was a highlight for me, though it started late and went on to interrupt the next workshops. Crisis managed well by Margaret Jefferies and everyone got to where they wanted. Ahmed’s session was hosted by Invercargill engineer in transition, Nathan Surendran, of whom we will see a lot more in the future.

Why was it a highlight? Because Nafeez integrates energy, economy and environment into his world view, because he sees the decline of net global energy and its effects on the economy that depends on growing energy. But he also sees climate change and understands geopolitics to a degree that few economist do. Being an expert in security issues makes him the ideal person to contemplate the convergence of many global crises, illustrating it with the Syrian situation. But just as important was that he had figured out that Trump and Brexit were the result of misdiagnosis of the economic problems of stagnating wages and precarious jobs. The acceleration of everything during 2016 was almost more than the brain is designed to cope with. He advised not worrying about things you can’t control like freak climate events and financial crashes, but focussing on seeding new changes towards the new system. I recorded his talk on my phone, have played it again and look forward to the powerpoint and the DVD.

My session ran fairly smoothly and I have been thinking ever since about the definition of inflation and have been penning a few paragraphs on this. I was glad I practised it so often so I didn’t go overtime. It is tricky to get a book into 35 minutes! My book is duly launched.

Those involved in Savings Pools and Timebanks had plenty of opportunity to meet and connect. Thamina Ashraf an Islamist PhD student spoke, though I had to miss her talk to hear Gary F. Matthew Slater ran The Trading Floor Game involving nearly 100 participants, an exciting experience to view at the end.

Stephanie Rearick of Madison, Wisconsin initiated Mutual Aid Networks which make so much sense in communities

A popular guest was Stephanie Rearick from Madison Wisconsin. Timebanks are useful within a wider needs based program called Mutual Aid Networks, and I look forward to hearing her again in Wellington on the 10th.

One workshop I attended was on alternative retirement villages. Ruth Gherzon of Whakatane is doing good research and this will go out on the mailout from the Expo to all participants so that enthusiastic attendees can continue to work on it.

Jo Pearsall and I are keen to see the development of new land trust models in this country, much to the delight of Gary Flohmenhoft.

A timebank gathering is planned for September 2018 in Whakatane and it is hoped this may extend to a whole Living Economies hui. Meanwhile the movement has grown a stronger voice and a wider and wiser presence to form the next system.

The full programme, which had to be adapted because of plane delays due to fog, is here

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Summary of The Big Shift: Rethinking Money, Tax, Welfare and Governance for the Next Economic System

The Big Shift: Rethinking Money, Tax, Welfare and Governance for the Next Economic System by Deirdre Kent

This important little book is a very dense read. The current growth-dependent economic system is not only broken must be completely replaced with a new paradigm.

This is now critical. Conventional oil peaked in 2005 and unconventional oil peaked in 2015. It takes energy to extract energy so the global net energy is inexorable decline. Therefore the economy can’t grow with less energy from fossil fuels to drive it. Therefore the economy can’t grow without more and more debt.

Based on the discussions of the New Economics Party of 2011-2015 to develop policy, the author argues that neither monetary reform nor tax reform are possible at central government level as the banks are too powerful these days. A change from an intrusive welfare system to a basic income should come from sharing the rents from land, natural resources and natural monopolies.

To design an economic system to serve the planet in a post fossil fuel age requires new thinking on money design, land tenure and governance. Examples from history are used as evidence of stable and prosperous societies using these principles.

This leads to the conclusion that very local government should assume powers of money creation, land purchase and rule-making about taxes for trades in that new currency.

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Trapped in Wellington due to fog

So great plans to get to Lyttelton early didn’t work out because of the fog at the airport, in fact fog all over Wellington, most unusual. Lots of people going to the Expo are similarly trapped, some going tomorrow and some the day after. Here is the programme. I don’t get there till Friday now.

That gives me an extra day to practise my talk and work on this website.

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Off to the Living Economies Expo

This next weekend I will be presenting at the Lyttelton Living Economies Expo. I have a 35 min powerpoint to illustrate and summarise my book.

I am taking down books where there will be a special Expo price. From then on the book will be sold by Helen Dew.  It will  available from the Living Economies website shop.livingeconomies.nz

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