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The Growth Paradigm: Measuring Nothing

By Chad Frederick - Institute for Social Ecology, January 2018

The following essay is an excerpt from America’s Addiction to Automobiles, by Chad Frederick. The book argues that contrary to the ethos of much contemporary urban planning, simply increasing the multimodal infrastructure of our cities is not enough to free them from automobile dependency. This task requires that we change the underlying logic of city governance, away from the growth paradigm to the sustainable development paradigm, with equity at its center.

Chad Frederick is an instructor of public affairs at Sullivan University in Louisville, Kentucky and a senior research associate at the Center for Sustainable Urban Neighborhoods at the University of Louisville. Visit his new blog, Cities are the Key or connect with him via Twitter @CitiesAreTheKey. The introduction and first chapter can be read for free following this link to book’s publisher. 

THE GROWTH PARADIGM: MEASURING NOTHING

Cities are currently developed, maintained, and most importantly, governed according to the standard of growth, particularly economic growth. Despite being shown insufficient for the task of producing stable, just, and sustainable cities, the resilience of the growth paradigm is that it has become a habit; it is “normal.” It has been around long enough, and has been correlated to progress and stability well enough, to pre-empt any discussion of evolving beyond it. As Stephen Purdey (2010) writes, “The paradigm is thoroughly implicit in all aspects of the socio-economic and political life of modern human society, and as such is so transparently normal that its presence, character and consequences rarely provoke critical scrutiny” (p. 8). In this way, it is quite powerful.

The growth paradigm is based on the deeply flawed and utopian assumption that growth creates all the other good things in life, such as quality of life, stability, and opportunity. For example, it is popularly—but uncritically—assumed that as the economy grows, more people can join the middle class. Certainly, the middle class has grown since the 18th century; the Industrial Age created the conditions for the growth paradigm to emerge. But correlation is not causation. The fact that the middle class grew as the national economy grew over the past 200 years has less to do with some “natural outcome” of a growing economy, and more to do with people actively and collectively advocating on their own behalf, particularly by demanding higher wages that otherwise would not have been given.

Still, whatever the case might have been from the founding of the United States until the end of World War II, there is no correlation between the size and strength of the middle class and growth in the U.S. economy since then. In fact, from 1980 to 2014, the correlation is negative. The Center for American Progress (Miller and Madland 2014) reported that “the share of working-age households falling into the middle-class range fell from 56.5% in 1979 to only 45.1% in 2012.” In contrast, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2016) (OECD), the national economy grew from $12,500 per capita to nearly $56,000 per capita in 2014.

Clean Energy Investments for New York State: An Economic Framework for Promoting Climate Stabilization and Expanding Good Job Opportunities

By Robert Pollin, Heidi Garrett-Peltier, and Jeannette Wicks-Lim - Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) - November 2017

This study examines the prospects for transformative clean energy investment projects for New York State. Taken as a whole, these investments should be understood as a major initiative within the state to advance the fundamental goal of global climate stabilization. These investments should be undertaken by both the public and private sectors in New York State, supported by a combination of public investments and incentives for private investors.

This study builds from New York State’s existing Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) project and the New York State Energy Plan, which fleshed out a policy agenda based on the REV project. Governor Andrew Cuomo first presented the REV program in April 2014 and reaffirmed New York State’s commitments in June 2017. The primary goals of the REV program, which are targeted to be achieved by 2030 in New York State, include: 1) a 40 percent reduction in all greenhouse gas emissions; 2) generating 50 percent of all electricity from renewable energy sources; and 3) achieving a 23 percent improvement in energy efficiency in buildings relative to the 2012 level.

The REV goals and the State Energy Plan are unquestionably significant starting points for advancing clean energy policies in New York State. But they are not adequate to enable the state to achieve emissions reduction goals that meet the challenges we face with global climate change. As such, this study works from a more ambitious set of goals, both in terms of emissions reductions and in achieving broader positive impacts with respect to expanding job opportunities and raising living standards throughout New York State.

The first specific aim on which we focus in this study is to achieve, by 2030, a 50 percent reduction below the 1990 level in all human-caused CO2 emissions in New York State, along with comparable reductions in methane emissions resulting from natural gas extraction.

The second, equally important, goal is to achieve the 2030 CO2 emission reduction standard while also expanding job opportunities and raising average living standards throughout New York State. The expansion of clean energy investments will need to focus on 1) dramatically improving energy efficiency standards in New York’s stock of buildings, automobiles and public transportation systems, and industrial production processes; and 2) equally dramatically expanding the supply of clean renewable energy sources—primarily wind, solar, and geothermal power—available at competitive prices to all sectors of New York State’s economy.

In addition to these goals for 2030, this study also explores the prospects for achieving the longer-term aim of bringing CO2 emissions in New York State down to zero by 2050, while, again, concurrently expanding job opportunities and raising average living standards throughout the state.

Read the Report (PDF).

Reversing Inequality, Combatting Climate Change: A Climate Jobs Program for New York State

By J. Muin Cha, Ph.D. and Lara Skinner, Ph.D.- The Worker Institute - June 2017

Economic inequality in New York is rising. Currently, the state has the second highest level of economic inequality in the country. Unequal job growth across the state and stagnant wages in several sectors are two of the main contributors to rising inequality. While the state overall has seen several years of employment growth, there are stronger employment gains in New York City than in other parts of the state still suffering from job losses and stagnant employment levels. Additionally, in many sectors, such as construction and manufacturing, wages are not increasing at the same pace as inflation, leaving many workers with paychecks that fail to cover basic household costs.

At the same time, New York is falling far short of its necessary greenhouse gas pollution reductions. To stop catastrophic climate change, global greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced at least 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, which would require four times the current annual emissions reduction rate. By 2050, New York State’s emissions must be only a fraction of what they are now to meet the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s targets set to prevent irreversible damage. We are far from that target. In the transportation sector, emissions are actually increasing and energy sector emissions may also be increasing given likely underestimation of methane emissions from natural gas.

New York State can take action now to protect New Yorkers from the worst effects of climate change, and do our part in reducing global emissions, while also fighting against growing economic inequality. Extreme weather, such as Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, is predicted to become more the norm, not the exception. These recent extreme weather events highlighted New York’s deep inequality: some could afford to leave the city or move into hotels when their residences flooded while others were left stranded.

Adopting a bold and aggressive plan to invest in climate-addressing infrastructure can be an important step towards simultaneously addressing the crises of inequality and climate change head on and position New York as a national leader in charting the path to a low-carbon, equitable economy. The recommendations presented below aim to create good, high-road jobs that provide familysustaining wages and benefits for communities across the state. These proposals could also result in meaningful emissions reductions and put New York on the path to building an equitable clean-energy economy that can work for all New Yorkers. The authors hope this report helps spark additional research and policy development on how to simultaneously reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reverse inequality by protecting workers and creating good, family-sustaining jobs in new lowcarbon sectors. Future research, in particular, could perform a detailed analysis of the cost of job creation strategies in low-carbon sectors, how to finance these strategies, and a cost-benefit analysis that includes the cost of potential job loss and reduced economic activity in high-carbon sectors.

Read the Report (Link).

Rebel Cities, Urban Resistance and Capitalism: a Conversation with David Harvey

By Vincent Emanuele - CounterPunch, February 1, 2017

Emanuele: You begin your book Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution, by describing your experience in Paris during the 1970s: “Tall building-giants, highways, soulless public housing and monopolized commodification on the streets threatening to engulf the old-Paris… Paris from the 1960s on was plainly in the midst of an existential crisis.” In 1967, Henry Lefebvre wrote his seminal essay “On the Right to the City.” Can you talk about this period and the impetus for writing Rebel Cities? 

Harvey: Worldwide, the 1960s is often looked at, historically, as a period of urban crisis. In the United States, for example, the 1960s was a time when many central cities went up in flames. There were riots and near revolutions in cities like Los Angeles, Detroit and of course after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in 1968 — over 120 American cities were inflicted with minor and massive social unrest and rebellious action. I mention this in the United States, because what was in-effect happening was that the city was being modernized. It was being modernized around the automobile; it was being modernized around the suburbs. Now, the Old City, or what had been the political, economic and cultural center of city throughout the 1940s and 50s, was now being left behind. Remember, these trends were taking place throughout the advanced capitalist world. So it wasn’t just in the United States. There were serious problems in Britain and France where an older way of life was being dismantled — a way a life that I don’t think anyone should be nostalgic about, but this old way of life was being pushed away and replaced by a new way of life based on commercialization, property, property speculation, building highways, the automobile, suburbanization, and with all these changes we saw increased inequality and social unrest.

Depending on where you were at the time, these were strictly class-inequalities, or they were class-inequalities focused on specific minority groups. For example, obviously in the United States it was the African American community based in the inner cities who had very little in terms of employment opportunities or resources. So, the 1960s was referred to as an urban crisis. If you go back and look at all the commissions from the 1960s that were inquiring what to do about the urban crisis, there were government programs being implemented from Britain to France, and also in the Untied States. Similarly, they were all trying to address this ‘urban crisis.’

I found this a fascinating topic to study and a traumatic experience to live through. You know, these countries that were becoming more and more affluent were leaving people behind who were being secluded in urbanized-ghettos and treated as non-existent human beings. The crisis of the 1960s was a crucial one, and one I think Lefebvre understood quite well. He believed that people in urban areas should have a voice to decide what those areas should look like, and what kind of urbanization process should take place. At the same time, those who resisted wished to roll back the wave of property speculation that was beginning to engulf urban areas throughout the industrialized capitalist countries.

Transformative Climate Communities: Community Vision And Principles For A Successful Program

By staff - California Environmental Justice Alliance, December 2016

Transformative Climate Communities (TCC) is a groundbreaking new program that will develop comprehensive, cross-cutting, and transformative climate investments at a neighborhood scale to achieve multiple greenhouse gas, public health and economic benefits in our state’s most vulnerable communities. CEJA is deeply engaged in the implementation and working with our members to ensure the program truly meets community needs through a strong, transparent, and community-led process.

In our new report, Transformative Climate Communities: Community Vision And Principles For A Successful Program, we draw from CEJA’s members, partners, and allies to provide a snapshot of what TCC could look like in both urban and rural environmental justice neighborhoods across California. From transforming the goods movement in San Bernardino to comprehensive land use planning in Fresno, the wide range of community-led plans for place-based transformation are all grounded in an integrated, collaborative approach to reducing climate change while comprehensively addressing a legacy of environmental pollution and disinvestment in the most highly impacted communities.

The TCC program can help community-based organizations in crafting sustainability plans and leverage existing ones that address long-standing environmental health and justice challenges, while catalyzing equitable economic development at the neighborhood level. The program will achieve this by awarding large grants to develop and implement neighborhood-level climate sustainability plans drawing from deep resident engagement and in partnership with other important stakeholders.

In order to ensure the long-term successful implementation of the program, we lay out the key principles of the Transformative Climate Communities program in our report:

  1. Direct and extensive community engagement
  2. Equity for most impacted residents
  3. Multiple, integrated benefits
  4. Showcase equitable, sustainable land use planning
  5. Catalytic, leveraged investments
  6. Investment without displacement
  7. Creating a pipeline of communities

In addition, we provide some of the indicators for environmental, health, socioeconomic, community and political transformation that can be achieved though comprehensive, cross-cutting climate investments from the TCC.

CEJA’s work on the TCC program grows out of our Green Zones Initiative, where we recognized early on that in order for place-based models to be successful, communities need to have the power to guide development and investments. Green Zones require closely coordinated and leveraged public spending targeted to our most overburdened communities, with deep resident engagement to direct investment. The Transformative Climate Communities program is this vision come to life.

Through its community-level planning and investments, the TCC program can help to achieve a just transition away from inequitable and polluting development patterns that have plagued so many communities. It can help us maintain California’s global climate leadership and move us toward a new future that weaves together environmental and climate sustainability, economic opportunities, and strengthened local democracies.

Download PDF Here.

Cities and civic workers: The union role in building better cities

By Jim Silver - Rabble.Ca, October 5, 2016

Although Carlo Fanelli's book Megacity Malaise: Neoliberalism, Public Services and Labour in Toronto is not about Winnipeg, it offers many insights applicable to Winnipeg and to other Canadian cities. Fanelli is a former Toronto civic employee who looks at civic issues from the point of view of city employees and their unions. His central argument is that the fiscal problems confronting Toronto and all major Canadian cities are not caused by over-spending on civic services nor by excessive union wage demands, although this is what is typically claimed.

The basis of Canadian cities' fiscal problems is in Canada's Constitution, which does not give cities the taxing powers to generate sufficient revenue to do all of the things for which they have responsibility. Cities are forced to over-rely on property taxes, which "is unsustainable in the long run." Property taxes are regressive, and don't grow with the economy, leaving cities in a constant state of fiscal crisis. This is made worse by the fact that federal commitments to civic issues have been sporadic and insufficient to meet cities' needs.

This has been worsened further by the ideological dominance in Canada of neoliberalism. This ideology has driven massive cuts in taxation and in public spending -- by 1999 Ontario's Mike Harris government, for example, had made 99 different tax cuts; by 2013 Stephen Harper's government had cut federal taxes to the lowest rate in 70 years -- followed by the downloading of responsibilities from senior to lower level governments. Cities have borne the brunt of this offloading, and have not had the capacity to generate the revenues needed to deal with it.

Toronto and Winnipeg have responded with a host of policy measures that do not get at the real root of the problem. Like Winnipeg, Toronto has allowed suburban sprawl to grow, on the grounds that more suburban housing will mean more property tax revenue. But this doesn't get at the underlying structural problems, and in fact generates more costs in the longer run. Selling off valuable public assets to the private sector creates profits for private interests, but produces a one-time only injection of cash that is no solution to the underlying problem and that diminishes future revenue flows. The same is the case with privatization and contracting out and the use of public-private partnerships (PPPs).

There is a great deal of evidence that PPPs, to take that example, do not generate the savings that cities claim. Ontario's auditor-general produced a major report on 74 PPPs completed between 2003 and 2014 and found that these cost Ontario some $8 billion more than traditional public financing. Contractors benefit, cities' budgets do not, yet Toronto and Winnipeg continue to make use of PPPs on the largely false grounds that they save public money. The contracting out of city work continues unabated, and any "savings" it produces are typically the result of non-union contractors exploiting vulnerable workers. This is the case with the privatization of Winnipeg's garbage collection service in 2012. The hard work of lifting garbage cans and dumping them into trucks is done by temporary day labourers -- many of them young Aboriginal men -- hired on a day-by-day basis at minimum wage with no benefits. Described in an expose by Aboriginal Peoples Television Network as "Winnipeg's dirty little garbage secret," this exploitative process is how Winnipeg "saves" money via privatization and contracting out

Spending on valuable public services continues to be cut on the largely false grounds that cities have a "spending problem," while the already massive infrastructure deficit balloons ever further. Roads, bridges, underground pipelines and transit services continue to deteriorate, while parks and recreation facilities, libraries and other essential civic services remain underfunded. The urban fiscal crisis grows unabated.

City governments, desperate for solutions and driven by their ideological orientation, point the finger at out-of-control spending and excessive wage demands by civic unions. Many in the right-wing media promote this simplistic and largely false explanation.

Fanelli points to data showing that incomes have stagnated over the past three decades of neoliberal governance. "In Canada's three largest cities the bottom 90 per cent of income-earners made less in 2013 than they did in 1983." Toronto's 2007 Independent Fiscal Review Panel found that the average wage of City of Toronto workers, including overtime, was "less than $40,000 in 2007." Toronto's unionized workers and their unions are not the cause of the city's fiscal problems.

Yet one of the great "successes" of neoliberalism and its adherents has been to redirect the anger of many modest-income earners at civic employees and their unions. Civic employees are seen as being paid too generously, despite their relatively modest earnings. As Fanelli points out, "the vitriol directed at them is intense, often as if they live lavish lives at the expense of non-unionized workers."

A Global High Shift Scenario: Impacts and Potential for More Public Transport, Walking, and Cycling With Lower Car Use

By Michael A. Replogle, Institute for Transportation and Development Policy and Lewis M. Fulton, University of California, Davis - Publication, September 2016

This report is the first study to examine how major changes in urban transport investments worldwide would affect urban passenger transport emissions as well as mobility by different income groups. It starts with the most recent United Nations urban population forecasts and the most recent model framework and forecasts used by the International Energy Agency (IEA) for global mobility modeling. The study extends these with new research on the extent of various urban passenger transport systems in cities across the world, as well as new estimates of the extent of mobility by non-motorized transport and low power e-bikes.

The study considers two main future scenarios: a baseline urban scenario calibrated to the IEA 2012 Energy Technology Perspectives 4° Scenario and a newly developed alternative scenario called “High Shift” (HS), with far greater urban passenger travel by clean public transport and non-motorized modes than in the Baseline and a decrease in the rates of road construction, parking garages and other ways in which car ownership is encouraged.

The study concludes that this High Shift scenario could save over $100 trillion in public and private capital and operating costs of urban transportation between now and 2050 and eliminate about 1.7 gigatons of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually – a 40 percent reduction of urban passenger transport emissions -- by 2050. This suggests one of the more afford-able ways to cut global warming pollution is to design cities to give people clean options for using public transportation, walking and cycling. In recent years transportation, driven by rapid growth in car use, has been the fastest growing source of CO2 in the world.

Transportation in urban areas accounted for about 2.3 gigatons of CO2 in 2010, almost one quarter of carbon emissions from all parts of the transportation sector. Rapid urbanization—especially in fast developing countries like China and India—will cause these emissions to nearly double worldwide by 2050 without changes in policy and investments.

Read the report (PDF).

Breaking free from fossil fuels in Cascadia: The solutions path forward

By Patrick Mazza - Cascadia Planet, May 18, 2016

Over the first half of May climate warriors put their bodies in the way of fossil fueled business as usual around the world. Break Free civil disobedience events targeted major carbon bombs on six continents.

Here in Cascadia a tent city held a rail line leading into the region’s largest oil refinery complex at Anacortes, Washington for 36 hours. In Newcastle, Australia people power disrupted the world’s largest coal port by land and sea. Some of the largest coal plants in Brazil and Germany, and the world’s largest open-pit coal mine in Britain, were just some of the 20 sites around the world where around 30,000 people stood up to say now is time to break free from coal, oil and gas, and the carbon pollution disrupting weather patterns across the planet. An off-the-charts April temperature spike underscored the urgency of rapid transition to clean, renewable energy.

The Break Free actions were always intended to focus this necessity, to put forward a powerful solutions “yes" to complement the fossil fuels “no.” Now the real work begins.

Fortunately, the solutions are with us, and already working in many places. We can move beyond an economy based on energy from coal, oil and gas. We can make a just transition to a world run on 100% renewable energy, create millions of new jobs, and build stronger communities. Following are eight solutions that we can forward to break free from fossil fuels in Cascadia:

  • Four Solutions for Clean Energy show how we can move to 100% renewables in electrical power, transportation and buildings.
  • Four Solutions for a Socially Just Transition line out how to move our communities beyond fossil fuels while improving the quality of life, especially for lower-income people, and providing new opportunities for displaced workers.

The solutions are given in an order, but it does not indicate a ranking. All are important and necessary. We need to pursue all eight to meet the huge climate and energy challenges facing us. We can unite a broad movement around these solutions, and create a better world for ourselves and our children. It’s up to us, and the solutions are at hand.

How can we save Liverpool’s green spaces?

By staff - Liverpool IWW, April 28, 2016

Liverpool IWW held a second successful event in our ‘One Big Discussion’ series of events at Liverpool Central Library on Thursday, 21st April. A dozen people showed up to air their thoughts on the subject ‘How can we save Liverpool’s green spaces?’, and the talk lasted right up to the library’s kicking out time.

Liverpool’s green spaces are facing an unprecedented challenge, with Labour mayor responding to the council’s funding crisis by selling off public assets to big developers such as Redrow. He claims the city needs more housing, but in reality, there are enough empty houses to easily keep a roof over the head of every one of the area’s spiraling homeless population. Those places just need doing up. There’s absolutely no sense on tearing out the city’s lungs, at a time when there’s a huge public health crisis due to poor local air quality.

Perhaps the most important thing about the meeting was that people interested in the subject, many of whom had never met before, came together to learn from each other, feed of each other’s anger, and make connections which could bolster resistance to Mayor Anderson, Labour, and the whole local elite over the coming months and years.

The next One Big Discussion is ‘How can working class women improve their lives?’, and it will take place from 6pm on Wednesday, 16th May. The June talk will be on ‘How can benefits claimants defend their rights?’

Delivering Community Power: How Canada Post can be the hub of our Next Economy

By various - CUPW, Leap Manifesto, et. al., March 2016

Many think of Canada Post as a place to mail a care package, buy stamps or pick up the latest commemorative coin.

Some consider the post office past its prime: the last decade has seen efforts to cut, devalue and undermine this quintessentially public service. These moves have been fiercely resisted by people across the country.

What if our cherished national institution, with its vast physical infrastructure and millions of daily human interactions, could offer us something completely different? What if the post office could play a central role in building our next economy — an economy that is more stable, more equal, and less polluting?

Just Imagine...

  • Charging stations for electric vehicles at post offices
  • a renewable-powered postal fleet that connects farms to dinner tables
  • Door-to-door mail carriers checking in on seniors and people with mobility issues as well as delivering locally-produced food and other services
  • Post offices as community hubs for social innovation, connecting climate-friendly businesses to customers
  • Postal banking services that provide small towns and Indigenous communities with inclusive financial services – like loans to families underserved by commercial banks
  • Public-interest financial services that fuel the green energy transition in urban, rural and Indigenous communities We want a 100% renewable economy that addresses inequality, puts power in our hands and improves our lives.

Our post office can deliver it.

Read the report (PDF).

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