Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Green Economy or an Economy Built on Sand

The three main issues of the 2008 Canadian Federal election have been, in order of importance: 1. The Economy. 2. The Economy. 3. The Economy. Leadership and The Environment were also supposed to be campaign issues but they got shoved aside by the increasingly bad economic news. That news – that the global economy is on the brink of a depression due to the sub prime mortgage meltdown in the United States – has dominated TV, newspapers, and the web for the duration of the 2008 campaign.

By the time you read these words Stephen Harper will probably still be our Prime Minister. That's a shame because what the economic news is really telling us is that Harper has got it exactly wrong when he argues that going green would hurt the economy.

For the last 25 years the economies of both the United States and Canada grew through a prolonged consumption spree fuelled by a prolonged expansion of credit. The amount of credit in the U.S. tripled while real manufacturing declined. American consumers became the motor running the global economy. The United States ran a current account deficit for years while Asian and Middle -Eastern countries contentedly built up their currency reserves in American dollars. And 5% of the world's population consumed 25% of the the world's oil.

For a long time it seemed to work well, but the American economy that was the engine of global economic growth was built on sand. And once the wind blew strong enough it proceeded to crumble.

Twenty-five years when the United States went from being the acknowledged world economic leader to the world's largest debtor. Twenty-five years when the dominant ideology was “laissez- faire”, let the market decide, and “streamline” financial and environmental regulations that fettered industrial growth. Twenty-five years when the energy security of United States became increasingly compromised by dependency on oil imports.

For 25 years Ronald Reagan, The Bushes and the Republican party have argued that going green is bad for the economy. The American way – to shop till you drop was “non-negotiable”. Now look how the mighty have fallen. The American economy is broken far beyond the imaginings of its worst critics.
What we have really seen is that 25 years of easy credit and profligate consumption have been far worse for the American economy than any carbon tax could ever have been. Yet Harper still echoes the Republican theme song that green is bad for the economy.

For ten years Europe has been going green, developing clean energy technologies and shifting taxes and they have prospered and manufacturing expertise and jobs have stayed in Europe. If we had gone green in North America the Canadian economy would have been stronger – we would have had more manufacturing jobs, the automobile industry would have made more fuel-efficient cars and would have stayed more competitive in world markets. We would have been in a better position to weather high oil prices. And we would be contributing less to global warming by emitting less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

We could have developed made-in-Canada green technologies and exported them to developing nations like China, leading the way for the rest of the world. Instead we've followed in the footsteps of the Bush Republicans, squandering our opportunity to prevent global warming and clean up the environment.

Harper has gotten it exactly wrong. By doing nothing we've made ourselves more vulnerable to the U. S. debt explosion. Going green would make our economy both stronger and more resilient than it could be otherwise.

We can hitch ingenuity and know-how to developing clean energy and sustainable technologies, and build a solid foundation for Canada's future . We can produce economic growth honestly by re-tooling to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. We can inspire Canadian youth to participate in making our Country a leading example of sustainability to the world. Or we can let ourselves become increasingly vulnerable to the fallout from the decline of the American economy.

Harper tries to scare us with nonsense about carbon taxes harming the economy while he ignores the devastation brought on by right-wing ideology. We need to move from a faith-based economy to a reality-based economy, and the only way to do that is by going green.

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