The TVA brought cheap energy, cheap fertilizer, and good jobs to a place previously known for malaria, poor soil quality, incomes less than half the national average, and alarmingly high unemployment. The problem with this scenario as a framework for the Green New Deal is that renewables are not massively cheaper than fossil fuels.
The state cannot blaze the trail to cheap, renewable energy, satisfying consumers with lower costs and producers with acceptable profits. Many once thought that the depletion of oil and coal reserves would save us, raising the price of fossil fuels above that of renewables and forcing the switch as a matter of economic necessity. Unfortunately, that messianic price point has drifted farther into the future as new drilling technologies, introduced in the last decade, have made it possible to frack oil from shale and to recover reserves from fields previously thought exhausted.
The price of oil has stayed stubbornly low, and the US is now, to the surprise of all, producing more of it than anyone else. Sorry, wrong apocalypse. Some will tell you that renewables can compete with fossil fuels on the open market. There are trillions of dollars sunk into fossil energy infrastructure and the owners of those investments will invariably choose to recoup some of that investment rather than none of it.
To send the value of those assets to zero and force energy capitalists to invest in new factories, renewables need to be not only cheaper but massively cheaper, impossibly cheaper. At least this is the conclusion reached by a group of engineers Google convened to study the problem.
Want to fight climate change? Have fewer children
It is only available when and where the sun is shining and the wind is blowing. Most will tell you that the answer to this problem is taxation of dirty energy or an outright ban, alongside subsidy of the clean. A carbon tax, judiciously applied, can tip the scales in favor of renewables until they are able to beat fossil energy outright. New fossil sources and infrastructure can be prohibited and revenue from the taxes can be used to pay for research into new technology, efficiency improvements, and subsidies for consumers.
But now one is talking about something other than a New Deal, blazing the way to a more highly productive capitalism in which profits and wages can rise together. There are 1.
This is value that oil companies have already accounted for in their mathematical imaginings. If carbon taxes or bans reduce that number tenfold, fossil capitalists will do everything they can to avoid, subvert, and repeal them. The problem of sunk costs again applies.
If you slaughter the value of those reserves, you might, perversely, bring down the cost of fossil fuels, encouraging more consumption and more emissions, as oil producers scramble to sell their excess supply in countries without a carbon tax. Like a thousand-page novel with a MacGuffin or stylistic outrage on every page, the Green New Deal presents a challenge for critics. There are just so many levels on which it will never work.
There is an infinity of worlds in which the GND fails—a million President Sanderses or, with more urgency, Ocasio-Cortezes presiding over the disaster. One might write an entire essay, for example, about its political impossibility given the complete saturation of the US state by corporate interests and a party-system and division of powers that lists badly to the right.
Another essay about how, even if it were politically possible, outlays on the order of several trillion dollars per year would most likely wreck the dollar, driving up projected costs. In each of these scenarios, on each of these sad, warming planets, the Green New Deal fails because capitalism.
Because, in capitalism, a small class of owners and managers, in competition with itself, finds itself forced to make a set of narrow decisions about where to invest and in what, establishing prices, wages, and other fundamental determinants of the economy. Even if these owners wanted to spare us the drowned cities and billion migrants of , they could not. They would be undersold and bankrupted by others. Their hands are tied, their choices constrained, by the fact that they must sell at the prevailing rate or perish. It is the class as a whole that decides, not its individual members.
This is why the sentences of Marxists and Marx so often treat capital as agent rather than object. The will towards relentless growth, and with it increasing energy use, is not chosen, it is compelled, a requirement of profitability where profitability is a requirement of existence. If you tax oil, capital will sell it elsewhere.
If you increase demand for raw materials, capital will bid up the prices of commodities, and rush materials to market in the most wasteful, energy-intensive way. If you require millions of square miles for solar panels, wind farms, and biofuel crops, capital will bid up the price of real estate. If you slap tariffs on necessary imports, capital will leave for better markets.
Lop off one head of the hydra, face another. The Pentagon is an accounting black hole, into which the wealth of the nation is ploughed and from which no light emerges. Its balance sheet is a blank. I suspect many advocates of the Green New Deal know all this. Discussion so far has largely revolved around the question of budgeting, with the advocates of Modern Monetary Theory arguing that there is no upper bound on government spending for a country like the US, and tax-and-spend leftists firing back with all sorts of counter-scenarios.
The MMT advocates are technically correct, but they discount the power that owners of US debt have to determine the value of the dollar, and therefore prices and profits. Meanwhile, critics of the Green New Deal confine their discussion to the least problematic aspects. But securing the bag is hardly the biggest problem.
Implementation is where it really dies, and few advocates have much to say about such details. The Green New Deal proposes to decarbonize most of the economy in ten years—great, but no one is talking about how.
By agitating around this transitional demand, socialists expose capitalism as an extraordinarily wasteful and destructive coordinator of human activity, incapable of delivering on its own potential and, in this case, responsible for an unimaginable number of future deaths.
So exposed, one might then safely proceed to do away with capitalism. Faced with the resistance of the capitalist class and an entrenched government bureaucracy, officials elected around a Green New Deal could safely, with the support of the masses, move to expropriate the capitalist class and reorganize the state along socialist lines. Or so the story goes.
Revolutions do begin, often, where reforms fail. But the problem is that the transitional demand encourages you to build institutions and organizations around one set of goals with the hope that you can rapidly convert them to another when the time comes. But institutions are tremendously inertial structures.
If you build a party and other institutions around the idea of solving climate change within capitalism, do not be surprised when some large fraction of that party resists your attempt to convert it into a revolutionary organ. The history of socialist and communist parties is reason for caution.
- 50 Ways to Help the Planet - Save Our Environment and Earth;
- 2 thoughts on “Education for sustainability”;
- of the Best Books for Children on Sustainability - Children's Books Daily.
- More than 100 classroom activities to help children learn about and care for the Earth.
- Counter Clockwise.
- Green Lessons Plans and Resources – Forever Curious.
- Sensory Play Ideas.
Get kids excited about being eco-friendly in your kindergarten with these tips from a seasoned kindergarten teacher. Hands on As We Grow lets kids get creative as they reuse their waste with 10 hands-on art projects that are great in the kindergarten classroom. Learn more about Earth Day and the environment with your kindergarten class using the lessons in this comprehensive list.
Patty Born Selly (Author of Early Childhood Activities for a Greener Earth)
Celebrate Earth Day. Scholastic offers a list of activities and ideas to help your kindergarten class celebrate Earth Day well. TinkerLab 50 Earth Day Activities. Find 50 hands-on activities to tackle on Earth Day. Kindergarten Earth Day Activities from Education. From taking a nature hunt to growing your own garden with some old socks, these activities will connect kids with nature to get your kindergarteners excited about going green.
Green Lessons Plans and Resources
Our Class, Our Earth. From Learning to Give, this lesson plan is geared specifically towards kindergarten students to serve as an introduction to the realities of green living and the need to protect the environment. Eco Kids Kindergarten Activities. Six different lesson plans for kindergarteners that focus on going green. This comprehensive list of resources covers everything from Dr. A wide range of ages is covered. This site covers different lessons on eco-friendly topics including green living, recycling and saving energy, with a wide range of ages covered. With fifteen lesson plans for grades K5 through 4th grade, this resource covers everything from recycling to air pollution in an age-appropriate way that involves hands-on learning when possible.
Lesson Plans for Teaching Sustainability. With activities for all grade levels, including an extensive section for elementary, Teach for America offers a list of resources for teaching about the concept of sustainability, grade-by-grade. Teaching Ideas: The Environment. This page has a number of colorful and interactive activities to teach kids about energy, waste, recycling and the environment.
Educemic: Go Green in Your Classroom. Nussbaum Go Green! Interactive, printable and hands-on activities, including e-books and computer modules, on environmental topics for elementary grades. Be a Green Kid. KidsHealth talks to kids about how to be green. This is a great resource to add to any earth-friendly unit in your elementary school classroom. This article from Scholastic. Aimed at grades K-5, this list offers a complete look at the environment with a focus on Earth Day activities. Middle School Let your middle school students start thinking more critically about the need for green living.
Simply count the sets of branches and you'll have the approximate age of the tree. Be sure to add extra years for the branch whorls the tree has probably lost at its base. If you look closely you may be able to see scars where the old branches have broken off. You'll find the best shaped young trees growing in open clearings, well away from the larger, more dominant trees. This activity only works with trees up to about 25 years old, because as they grow older, it's difficult to estimate their age.
Tell the players how a conifer tree grows - from the tip upwards. Each year's new growth grows beyond last year's new growth which stays at the same height. The youngest part of the tree is at the very top, while the oldest is at the bottom. The tree also grows from the tips of its branches and roots, as well as a little in diameter at the trunk each year. The trunk doesn't grow any higher, but stays at the same height.
To see if the players understand this, you can ask the following question: "If I nailed a board five feet high on a tree, how much higher would it be after 30 years? To begin, write down the age of everyone in the group on a piece of paper. Then as a group look for trees that are the approximate age for each of the players. After this is done, have each player spend time studying the tree to see if he can tell anything about its growth and life. For example, I was studying a twenty-year old ponderosa pine, when I discovered I could see the history of northern California's rainfall reflected in its growth.
Counting back in years from the top of the tree, I could see energetic growth between the branch whorls during rainy years, and little growth during the drought of the 80's. Other things you can look for are fire scars; places where animals have used the tree, like deer rubbing their antlers, or bird nests; where another branch has taken over for a tip that was damaged look for a bend in the trunk ; and how its surroundings may have affected the tree. After giving players time to get to know their tree, have each of them write a letter to their woodland friend.
Then have everyone share what they have learned and felt about their special tree. In addition to teaching science, this activity encourages a wonderful sense of empathy and appreciation for trees and their lives. Do you have a great activity that you would like to share?
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