We Have the Power – David MacBryde

#1 We have the power — to sink small islands, or not.

It is now a question of what and how decisions are made.

(By the middle of the last century we developed the power, with nuclear bombs, to overkill the planet. And did not. By now we have also developed the productive activity on the planet so far that we can affect not just the regional but the whole global climate. While there may be some scientific dispute on some details, there is no scientific doubt that we do have the power and could, if we tried, rapidly burn as much oil and coal as possible and drastically alter the global climate.)

A main point: we humans, in the general sense, have created great productive capacities and have much power — more than enough to disastrously damage our livable environment, and certainly enough to achieve, for example, the proactive Millennium Goals and benchmarks jointly developed by the sovereign nations, assembled in the forum called the United Nations. Now “We can be the first generation to overcome poverty”. www.millenniumgoals.org

What decisions will be made, and how will decisions be made?

Let us here look just at the USA, and here just at co2 emissions. (Of course, as is clear for instance in the German government’s long-term position, co2 emissions are directly a matter of oil and energy policy, which can involve decisions about war and peace.)

#2 We, in the USA, have the power to make decisions, and, I suggest, indeed now the power to achieve well founded decisions about co2 emissions. Thanks, Doyle (and others, of course).

Doyle was active around the Austin, Texas, scene and the Rag newspaper there, and went on to become a member of the Maryland State Legislature, and there among much else is a member of their commission on the environment. The State of Maryland has just recently joined with a number of northeastern states to work on co2 emissions. The State of California has made decisions about co2. There are many towns and cities whose citizens have decided to address the issue. Most recently the Mayor of Austin, Texas, along with our mayor here in Berlin and those of other large cities around the globe met to take steps on emissions. Recently the US Supreme Court, to some surprise, in a close 5-4 decision, ruled that the Federal Government Environmental Protection Agency must address the issue of co2 as pollution. Another “graduate” of the Rag journalism in Austin is Steve — who went on to become a lawyer and no doubt can comment on the Supreme Court decision, and is also now one of many people traveling around the countryside, he mainly in Oklahoma, raising climate issues. Also a number of members of congress are traveling, on their way also to Germany to work on co2 emissions issues prior to the G8 meeting.

My main point: it looks to me like we already have, or are in practical range of having, the power for positive political (in the good sense) decisions about co2 issues.

Two short background notes about Germany, and decisions about co2, oil and energy policy.

(i) After the end of the student movement here in Germany in the 60s and 70s, one way former students went onward with their then adult lives and politically, and visibly, was enabled by the 5% proportional voting. Getting that 5% was a practical focus for citizens initiatives. The environment was an issue that people could get together around and that made increasing sense to voters. The German “Green” party was formed, and enabled visible practical politics. The German Greens then succeeded in mainstreaming much — with the issues being taken on by other, and much larger, parties, to the point of achieving majorities, and so majority democratic decisions on some issues. On the environment, the head of the United Nations Environment Program was a member of the conservative party (CDU) and he helped to mainstream the issues among conservatives and in the churches, for instance. NOTE: although the 5% proportional vote was helpful and important in enabling some political activities, and getting new ideas visible, still the reality is that a majority is needed for actual governmental decisions. On some environmental issues in Germany there is now over 2/3 majority agreement.

(ii) In the economy, and decisions in the economy: A big topic. Here one point: one of the first breakthroughs was by the scientists at one of the biggest insurance companies (Munich Reinsurance — who in effect insure the insurance industry.) They talked loudly and had large databanks. They said climate change was a problem, with incalculable weather and incalculable risks. The short point here is that there is now a broad understanding inside the economy (CEOs, unions, most everyone, with a few squeaking holdouts) that emissions into our common atmosphere is one area that capitalist market economies can not handle. Hardly anyone here anymore wants a centralized monopoly power state. What is new is the broad recognition, also among conservatives here, of the limits of capitalist markets, and the need for more and other ways to make decisions.

“We have, or can have, decision-making power (part 2)” will get into all that.

To end this commentary in preparation for the June 2007 G8 meeting:

(A) We have the power — to sink small islands, or not. The question is what and how decisions will be made. The wrong decisions could force, for instance, migrations of hundreds of millions of fellow humans, and others. And there are even worse dangers.

(B) And decisions are needed in most all ontological dimensions — from in the home to at international negotiations, and including for instance decisions at universities to become exemplary “green” institutions in cooperation with the cities they are in.

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