Building the World

April 22, 2022
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ENERGY: Earth Day 2022

TAKE ACTION NOW. “Earth seen from Space” photograph by Nasa.gov. Wikimedia commons.

As the world transitions from fossil fuels, some say the change of direction was caused by an oil spill. April 22 is celebrated around the world as Earth Day. Begun in 1970, Earth Day was proposed by Senator Gaylord Nelson (Wisconsin) when the senator was among those who witnessed a damaging oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Nelson reached out to leaders of the future – students – and across the political aisle to Congress leader Pete McCloskey, as well as to student activist Denis Hayes (who later became president of the Bullitt Foundation). Together, the three proposed a day for a teach-in about the environment. April 22 was chosen because it was between Spring Break and Graduation. Hayes recruited a team of 85 who recommended that April 22 receive a special name: Earth Day.

That first Earth Day was so successful that many trace the birth of the environmental movement to the raised awareness. Another factor: NASA landing people on the moon the year before, in 1969, giving everyone on the planet a sense of Earth’s community.

1970 became a turning point. The Environmental Protection Agency was created, and new legislation passed: Environmental Education Act, Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), and the Clear Air Act. 1972: the Clean Water Act. 1973: Endangered Species Act (co-authored by Pete McCloskey, who also worked with Climate One ), and that same year, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.

What began in the United States soon went global, as befits Earth Day. In 1990, Earth Day reached 141 countries, raising a movement that led to the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Now, Earth Day is honored by 193 countries. As Earth Day notes, it is the “largest secular observance in the world.”  (earthday.org)

Are you ready to help? There are many ways you can participate in Earth Day’s TAKE ACTION NOW

Hayes, Denis. “50 Years: Earth Day” 23 April 2020. https://youtu.be/YVJufelR5Aw

McCloskey, Pete. “Oil and Smokes” Climate One. https://www.climateone.org/video/pete-mccloskey-oil-and-smokes

Nelson, Gaylord. “A Vision For The Earth,” speech on Earth Day 1970. https://youtu.be/y3RCPAtmpv8

Pazzanese, Cristina. “How Earth Day gave birth to environmental movement: Denis Hayes, one of the event’s founders, recalls the first and how its influence spread,” 17 April 2020. The Harvard Gazette. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2020/04/denis-hayes-one-of-earth-days-founders-50-years-ago-reflects/

Thulin, Lila. “How an Oil Spill Inspired the First Earth Day,” 22 April 2019. Smithsonian Magazine. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/how-oil-spill-50-years-ago-inspired-first-earth-day-180972007/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Un

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March 2, 2022
by buildingtheworld
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CITIES: Plastic – Part 4, The Promise

UNEP meets in Nairobi to draft global plastic treaty 2022. Image: “Nairobi night skyline.” by Nbi101, 2013. CC4.0 Wikimedia.

GLOBAL TREATY TO END PLASTIC POLLUTION: This week, 175 UN Member States are meeting in Nairobi to decide upon a legally binding treaty to end plastic pollution. “Ambitious action to beat plastic pollution should track the lifespan of plastic products – from source to sea – should be legally binding, accompanied by support to developing countries, backed by financing mechanism tracked by strong monitoring mechanisms, and incentivizing all stakeholders – including the private sector,” states Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP 2022).

UNEP logo. wikimedia

BUSINESS CAN LEAD THE WAY: While governments can agree, it is business and industry that will make the difference. Procter & Gamble Company (P&G) announced the switch to reusable and refillable packaging. Some of the brands may be familiar to you: Crest, Cascade, Gillette, Pampers, Pantene, and Tide all plan new packaging. Partnering with TerraCycle’s Loop program, P&G’s Ambition 2030 campaign will aim for a circular manufacturing process with as little plastic as possible. Some products like Pampers will come with a bin: when it is full, just text a pick-up service that will take your waste for repurposing and drop off a new container. TerraCycle partners with UPS helped to design packaging, with an eye to the role of transportation as “an enabler for circularity. UPS’ director for global sustainability believes “Loop is the signal for the future.” For more brand innovations, click here.

“Crest toothpaste,” photographer Scott Ehardt, 2005. Dedicated to the public domain by Scott Ehardt. Wikimedia.

TRASH OR TREASURE? Most plastic packaging is used only once. Only 14% of plastic collected is recycled. But it’s more than just trash – it’s valuable. Yet, 95% of that value – mainly of plastic packaging material – is lost to the economy. It is worth $100 billion – annually. (Ellen MacArthur Foundation 2022).

Reused and recycled plastic is not trash; it is a commodity of value. Image: “Money Flat Icon GIF Animataion by videoplasty.com, CC 4.0 Wikimedia.

PLASTIC OF THE FUTURE Here are some ways to end plastic pollution:

Innovate so all plastics we do need are reusable, recyclable, or compostable

Ensure future plastics are free from hazardous chemicals

Catch and filter plastic trash carried by rivers (93% from just a few main rivers)

Redesign the plastics system from source to sea

Set up collection, regulatory, and policy government guidelines

Join UNEP agreement with government and business to solve plastic pollution

Transform recycled and reused plastic into a commodity of value

READ the Draft Resolution, “End plastic pollution: Towards an internationally legally binding instrument.” 2 March 2022. HERE.

Ellen MacArthur Foundation. “Plastics and The Circular Economy.” https://archive.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/explore/plastics-and-the-circular-economy

Ivanova, Maria. Moderator: “Looking Back: 50 Years of the UN Environment Programme.” 4 March 2022.UNEP and Center for Governance & Sustainability, University of Massachusetts Boston.  https://www.environmentalgovernance.org/unepdialogue

Szczepanski, Mallory. “The Loop shopping system aims to change the world’s reliance on single-use packaging.” 6 February 2019. Waste360. https://www.waste360.com/waste-reduction/terracycle-partners-major-brands-launch-sustainable-shopping-system

UNEP. “UN Environment Assembly opens with all eyes on a global agreement on plastic pollution,” 28 February 2022. https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/press-release/un-environment-assembly-opens-all-eyes-global-agreemen-plastic

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September 24, 2021
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WATER: Vertical Migration

“Every night, the largest biological migration takes place.” Image animation: “Diel Vertical Migration” by NASA, 2018. Public Domain.

Did you know the largest biological migration on Earth takes place – every night? It is called Diel Vertical Migration (DVM). This week, as the United Nations 76th General Assembly convened, leaders of over 100 nations attended in person. Speakers included presidents and policy-makers who addressed 12 commitments. But this year, there was additional representation: Nature. The message is one of growing awareness of the Rights of Nature. From the 1962 General Assembly Resolution 1803 (XVII) on “Permanent Sovereignty over Natural Resources” and the 1982 “World Charter for Nature” to the recognition of personhood rights of the Whanganui River of New Zealand in 2017, the rights of nature will grow in importance during climate change.

“Components of the Biological Pump” by Ducklow, Hugh W. et al., 2015. Image: wikimedia commons.

DVM acts as a biological pump, renewing oceans and lakes, in ways essential to the marine environment. Organisms move up to the top at night, and return to the bottom by day. Crustaceans commute; so do trout. In the process, conversion of C02, and inorganic nutrients, transfer zones. This cleansing and renewing system is one of the treasures of the marine cycle. By bringing attention to vertical migration, the United Nations may set the stage for COP 26 in Glasgow, November 2021, where environmental issues will be decided. Displayed on the night-cloaked facade of the United Nations iconic building, the film “Vertical Migration” brought awareness to the largest migration our world knows, and the importance of marine life in a sustainable, balanced future. View “Vertical Migration.”

Cavan, E.L., et al., “The importance of Antarctic krill in biogeochemical cycles.” 18 October 2019. Nature Communications 10, article number 4742 https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-12668-7.

Ducklow, Hugh W., et al., “Components of the Biological Pump.” https:tos.org/oceanography/article/upper-ocean-carbon-export-and-the-biological-pump.

Hill, M.N. Physical Oceanography. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005.

United Nations. “Policy Brief.” September 2021. http://sdg.iisd.org/commentary/policy-briefs/what-well-be-listening-for-at-unga-76/

United Nations. “Permanent Sovereignty over Natural Resources.” General Assembly Resolution 1803 (XVII) https://legal.un.org/avl/pdf/ha/ga_1803_ph_e.pdf

United Nations. “World Charter for Nature.” 1982. UN Document A/37/L.4, and ADD.2. https://digitallibrary.un.org/record/39295?LN=EN

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October 5, 2020
by buildingtheworld
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Let Your Voice Be Heard: Vote

Voice of the Future 2020: You

Voice of the Future 2020: YOU. Let your VOICE be heard – VOTE. Image: ccids.umaine.edu. wikimedia

2020 will be a year the world will long remember: one reason is a global health pandemic that we hope will end; the other is a chance to choose a future that we hope will begin. The United Nations celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, and invites you to vote on the future you would like to see in the next 25 years. In the United States, a general election is a chance to vote on the future you would like to see now.

The word “vote” is related to the sacred. It’s the same word used to describe a holy or votive candle. Image: wikimedia.

Did you know that the word “vote” has religious origins? The expression comes from Latin (votuma = vow). Candles in places of worship, votive candles, are a reminder of the sacred intention that is inherent in a vow – or a vote.

Ancient Greeks voted with pieces of pottery. Image: wikimeida.

Historians believe democracy (demos = people) + (kratos = rule) began in Greece around the fifth century bce, when people were expected to take an active part in government. In fact, if they didn’t, people were fined and sometimes marked with red paint. In ancient Greece, it was easy to count votes because ballots were pieces of pottery.

London granted right to elect mayor. May 19, 1215. Image wikimedia.

Voting rights have a history fraught with uprisings, lawsuits, amendments, and demonstrations. In 1215, Londoners won the right to elect their mayor. Universal suffrage (voting rights) is still evolving. But turnout matters. In 2016, only 55.7% of Americans cast ballots in the presidential election. Many people didn’t even register: in November 2016, there were 245.5 million Americans ages 18 plus (eligible age to vote) but only 157.6 million were registered. Some countries legally require citizens to vote. Belgium enacts such a law, resulting in an average 87% turnout. If you don’t vote for four elections in a row, Belgium rescinds your right to vote. Do you think the United States should enact a legal requirement to vote? Should there be a review of how Americans are registered to vote, and how the voting process takes place and is counted?

Make sure you are a Voice of the Future – VOTE. Image: wikimedia.

Voices of the Future are those whose ideas, and active expression, build a better world. In the United States, there is an important election on November 3, 2020. Are you registered to vote? Find out here. For ways to cast your vote, click here.

Desilver, Drew. “U.S. trails most developed countries in voter turnout.” 21 May 2018. Pew Research. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/05/21/u-s-voter-turnout-trails-most-developed-countries/

Epstein, Reid. J. “Confused About Voting? Here Are Some Easy Tips.” 26 September 2020. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/article/voting-tips.html.

National Geographic. “Democracy: Ancient Greece.” http://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/democracy-ancient-greece.

Powell, Luca. “What democracy and voting rights look like around the world.” 8 November 2016. Global Citizen. https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/its-2016-here-is-the-state-of-voting-rights-around/

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September 21, 2020
by buildingtheworld
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Let Your Voice Be Heard

“The future we want, the United Nations we need: reaffirming our collective commitment to multilateralism,” states the declaration on the commemoration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations (UN). Founded after the tragedy of World War II, the UN has worked to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedom for all, in the context of sovereign equality of States and the right of self-determination for all. To participate in the 75th anniversary, see videos of presentations here.

Logo of the United Nations. Image: wikimedia.

Emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic will require cooperation across borders, sectors, and generations. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sets the theme: “Everything we do during and after this crisis must be with a strong focus on building more equal, inclusive, and sustainable economies and societies that are more resilient in the face of pandemics, climate change, and the many other global challenges we face.” The UN invites your ideas for the top three priorities of the future. Where would you like to see the world in 25 years, the 100th anniversry of the UN? Let your voice be heard in setting global priorities and shaping our future together:  take the survey.

United Nations. “The United Nations is running the largest ever global conversation as it turns 75 and wants to hear from you.” https://un75.online/#s2.

United Nations. “Declaration on the commemoration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations,” September 2020. https://undocs/org/A/75/L.1.

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June 17, 2020
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ENERGY: Old wells, new problems, emerging solutions

Could biogas drive the future? Image: wikimedia.

Could the next vehicle you drive be powered not by gas from a drilled well but by a cleaner form of energy known as biogas or biomethane? Climate improvement may be encouraged by a solving a problem.

Oil well pump, Midland, Texas. Image: wikimedia.

Oil wells – part of the 20th century landscape – are not only becoming a relic of the past, they are now a menace to the future. Old wells, once dry of oil, continue to emit pollution. More recently, other kinds of wells have been opened for hydraulic fracturing, sometimes called fracking, uses water to power invasive drilling to release oil and gas locked in rock formations. Drillers use underground water, promising to seal off the well. But what happens when the fracking site is no longer productive? Millions of older fracking wells are now starting to leak pollutants. And now, with the renewable energy becoming competitive in price and superior in environmental quality, wells are becoming antiquated. Moreover, the fossil fuel energy industry is stressed by dropping oil prices due to the 2020 viral pandemic: people are driving less; planes are parked in airports. Energy company bankruptcies are growing. Sometimes companies sell the wells to a new owner who then resells, and finally when it is no longer productive, the well is abandoned. No one is responsible for clean-up, since the original builder of the well has long since moved on.

Methane, a dangerous and long-lived pollutant in the atmosphere, is one of the greenhouse gases regulated by the Kyoto Protocol. Image: wikimedia.

According to the Groundwater Protection Council, “orphaned wells” are beginning to leak methane. Recent reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) flagged methane from abandoned oil and gas wells as an emerging global risk, in an April 2020 report. Worldwide, there may be 29 million abandoned gas and oil wells. Canada, where oil sands mining prevails, reported 313,000 abandoned wells emitting 10 kilotons of methane. The United States has 2 million abandoned wells: most were never properly sealed. China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia (the three other large oil and gas producers, along with Canada and USA) have not revealed their methane leakage from wells. Even small amounts of methane pose dangers. The United States reports methane as the cause of 10% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, but methane is 84 times more damaging than carbon dioxide in the first two decades of release, and 28 times over a century’s timeframe. Methane is one of the seven greenhouse gases regulated under the Kyoto Protocol: the list includes carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (JFCs), per fluorocarbons (PFCs), sulphurhexaflouride (SF6), and nitrogen trifluoride (NFc). These gases are dangerous because they are stable, meaning they stay in the atmosphere once released. Methane has been identified as responsible for 25% of global warming.

Capturing methane in a biogas sytem. Image: wikimedia

Yet methane is a valuable energy source, when harnessed. One possible solution: biogas (biomethane). Biomethane is formed by decomposing organic substances like agricultural or animal waste, even sewage. With upgrades, biogas can achieve an energy productivity equal to natural gas. Biogas can be recovered from waste treatment plants and refined to renewable natural gas (RNG) to generate electricity or even power car. Another method: fuel cell technology using waste; there is no combustion, so no exhaust and related pollution. A sample project using biogas to power fuel cells can be found in Fountain Valley, California; Apple uses fuel cell energy from Bloom Energy.

As the world emerges from the coronona virus pandemic, countries are funding re-entry for businesses, cities, and states. Is 2020 the time to seize the opportunity to capture methane from old wells as the energy sector rebuilds?

Dlouhy Jennifer A “EPA Seeks to Abandon Regulation of Methane Leaks From Oil Wells.” 29 August 2019. Bloomberg News. TransportTopics. https://www.ttnews.com/articles/epa-seeks-abandon-regulation-methane-leaks-oil-wells.

Groom, Nichola. “Millions of abandoned oil wells are leaking methane, a climate menace.” 16 June 2020. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-drilling-abandoned-specialreport/special-report-millions-of-abandoned-oil-wells-are-leaking-methane-a-climate-menace-idUSKBN23N1NL

Kyoto Pr

The World Energy Foundation. “Methane Capture and Use as a Clean Energy Source.” 16 June 2015. https://theworldenergyfoundation.org/methane-capture-and-use-as-clean-energy-source/.

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April 22, 2020
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Earth Day 2020: Golden Anniversary, Golden Opportunity

“Blue Marble.” Image: NASA.gov.

If the coronavirus crisis has shown one thing, it is that our society is not sustainable,” stated Greta Thunberg, climate activist who spoke on Earth Day 2020 with Johan Rockström, director of the Potsdam Institute and earth systems scientist. There is a correlation between the health crisis and the environmental crisis: deforestation has threatened wildlife habitat, allowing virus and disease to leap species; air pollution has weakened human respiratory systems, making people more vulnerable; air travel has promoted rapid spread of disease. According to Rockström, “We are living beyond the carrying capacity of the planet.

Post-pandemic, Earth’s global community should set new goals:

  1. Create new jobs in clean, renewable energy;
  2. Invest in the future rather than the past;
  3. Incorporate climate risk into the financial system;
  4. Promote international cooperation.

Today is Earth Day’s golden anniversary, celebrated on the 50th year. The pause caused by the pandemic has given us a new view of what is possible. Energy has already changed. An unprecedented amount of money has poured into recovery and rebuilding. How can we use this golden anniversary as a golden opportunity?

Rockström, Johan. @jrockstrom.

Thunberg, Greta. @GretaThunberg.

Watts, Jonathan. “Earth Day: Greta Thunberg  2020 Calls for a New Path after Pandemic.” 22 April 2020, The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/apr/22/earth-day-greta-thunberg-calls-for-new-path-after-pandemic

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April 20, 2020
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ENERGY: Funding the Future

How should we spend the money of hope? Image: wikimedia.

THE MONEY OF HOPE

In the early part of 2020, the entire globe went into lockdown, suffered a plague of sickness and death that took lives and livelihoods of those in every corner of the world. In an urgent response, money on an unprecedented scale has entered the global economy.

Economic stimulus, large deposits of cash and loans, initiated to save national and global economies, present opportunity. How countries direct their bailouts may determine the future. Never again will so much money be readily available to rebuild the world. Let’s take a look at some examples:

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

$700 billion pledged in asset purchases or quantitative easing (QE)

Federal funds rate: 0-0.25%

Discount window rate: cut by 150 basis points

Unlimited QE, including purchase of corporate and municipal bonds

Six months of allowing foreign central banks to access U.S. dollars for overnight dollar loans

$2.3 trillion to support local governments, small-mid businesses, with 4-year loans to enterprise with up to 10,000 staff

$2.2 trillion aid package (27 March 2020) with $500 billion for suffering industries and direct payments to individuals ($1200) and families (up to $3,000)

EUROPEAN UNION

120 billion euros ($130 billion) added to asset-purchase program of 20 billion euros per month

750 billion euros in QE, adding to existing with total of 1.1 trillion euros

Eliminated cap on number of bonds EU could buy from any Eurozone country

Cut interest on Targeted Long-Term Refinancing Operations (TLTROs) by 25 basis points to -0.75% (12 March 2020)

Suspended limits of EU government borrowing

Allowed credit line equal to 2% of national GDP from European Stability Mechanism (ESM) fund

European Investment Bank lending 200 billion euros to businesses

ESM freeing up 240 billion Europe of credit to governments

Total of 3.2 trillion euros: including provisions to cut company working hours rather than jobs

Berlin, Germany. Image: wikimedia.

GERMANY

750 billion euros total: with 100 billion for economic stability fund with direct stake in businesses

100 billion euros for public-sector development bank

400 billion euros to secure corporate debt vulnerable to default

FRANCE

300 billion euros guaranteed for corporate borrowing from commercial banks

45 billion euros to shore up businesses and employees

ITALY

400 billion euros of liquidity and bank loans to businesses

25 billion euros to suspend mortgage and loan repayments for families and companies, and funds for firms to pay workers on furlough or layoff.

SPAIN

200 billion euros divided in half with 50% government-backed credit for businesses/50% to help vulnerable people

700 million euros program to suspend evictions for six months after emergency is lifted

UNITED KINGDOM

200 billion pounds ($248 billion) of bond purchases

interest rate cut to 0.10% Bank of England

Bank of England doubled corporate bond purchase program to 20 billion pounds

Bank of England pledge to buy commercial paper with maturity of up to 1 year for businesses with pre-crisis investment grade credit

330 billion pounds in loan guarantees to business including paying 80% of staff salaries

Allowing businesses to temporarily retain 30 billion pounds of VAT (value added tax)

CANADA

Reduced overnight interest rates to 0.25%

Pledged purchase of Government of Canada securities – C$5 billion per week

C$50 billion credit for insured mortgages

C$10 billion for business support

C$150 billion for morgtages

C$55 billion for tax deferrals for businesses and families

C$27 billion aid for workers and low-income households

Government payment of up to 75% of salaries for workers in small and mid-sized businesses

Japan. Image: wikimedia.

JAPAN

Bank of Japan one-year zero-rate program to financial insitutions

Y430 billion for small and mid-sized businesses

Funding upgrades of medical facilities

Pay working parents forced to take leave due to school closures

Stimulus package of Y108 trillion ($993 billion) with cash payouts to households, small businesses; total package is equal to 20% of Japan’s economic output

CHINA

Yuan 2.8 trillion for infrastructure investment, backed by local bonds (19 March).

People’s Bank of China cut reserve requirement ratio (RRR) for small banks by 100 basis points. Worth about 400 billion yuan; cut will be in two phases, 15 April then 15 May 2020.

500 billion yuan ($71 billion) for re-lending and re-discount quotas

350 billion yuan for increased loan quota for businesses

Cut cash reserve requirements for banks, releasing 550 billion yuan

Also ruled: expand budget deficit, issue more bonds, drop interest rates, delay loan repayments, reduce supply-chain bottlenecks, and encourage renewed consumption

INDIA

1.7 trillion rupee ($22 billion) for food security and direct cash transfers. (26 March)

Reserve Bank of India cut repo rate by 75 basis points to 4.40%

SOUTH KOREA

100 trillion won economic rescue package (7 April) including 29 trillion won in loans to small and mid-sized businesses, and 20 trillion won to buy corporate bonds and commercial paper

36 trillion won in loans to exporters hurt by virus shutdown

9.1 trillion won ($7.5 billion) cash payments to most families

17.7 trillion won to boost consumption

INDONESIA

$24.9 billion for social welfare to 10 million household for food and energy discounts, and 3 percentage point cut in corporate tax rate (to 22%)

Bank Indonesia cut seven-day reverse repurchase rate to 25 basis points to 4.50%

Central bank cut reserve requirement ratio by 200 bps for banks (and 50 bps for Islamic banks)

AUSTRALIA

A$90 billion ($56 billion) funding for banks at rate of 0.25%

A$15 billion program for residential mortgage-backed and asset-backed securities

Reserve Bank of Australia cut rates in two steps for total to 0.25%, and introduced QE with a target of 0.25% for bond yields

A$66 billion for companies and welfare

A$17 billion for apprentices, small business, retirees

A$130 billion for wage support for 6 million workers

A$715 million support for airlines

Sydney Opera House, Australia. Image: wikimedia.

BRAZIL

1.2 trillion reals ($231 billion) for central bank purchase of bank loan portfolios, repurchases of dollar-denominated sovereign bonds

150 billion reals for most vulnerable people and jobs

51 billion reals to allow companies affected by virus to reduce worker pay and hours, with a goal of preserving jobs (1 April)

SOUTH AFRICA

South African Reserve Bank (SARB) cut rate by 100 basis points to 5.25%, and then reduced again (14 April 2020) to 4.25%

1.2 billion rand ($66 million) for small farms to keep up food production

INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND

$50 billion to help low-income and emerging market countries

“The Great Lockdown Economic Retraction: A global map of the outlook of retraction and growth of nations across the world for 2020.” From IMF Outlook. Image: Foxterria, Wikimedia.

FUNDING THE FUTURE

Add up all those stimulus packages, monetary funds, loans, and that’s a lot of money, much of it supporting business interest rates and workers’ jobs. Yet, with the exception of instances where the industry is targeted (agriculture, transport, finance), there are few stipulations on how the money should be directed. For example, there could be payments and supportive programs for innovations in energy or water, decarbonizing transport, or reducing air pollution.

While the 2020 coronavirus is an acute crisis, and climate change is a chronic crisis, both require response. Over the past decades, we have talked about climate change, but taken too little action. Part of the reason is funding. Without the urgent public health crisis and resultant shutdown, the world would never have allocated so much money to rebuild economic life. Yet, there it is. Now.

Yes, there has been disaster response to unfortunate hot-spots suffering tsunami or hurricane damage, earthquake or fire devastation. But that was in a region. Yes, there has been systemic change, world-wide, in some industries due to disaster; after 9/11, airports and security changed permanently, but that was just one sector.

In 2020, the whole world changed at once. With everyone hit by the corona virus, new ways of communicating and working evolved. Cities rethought transport. Fossil fuel loss dropped and cities saw cleaner air. Sadly, it was all due to death and sickness. But as a result, to rebuild after the virus, every country on earth has raised new money, and new hope.

Where money goes to an industry, how can that sector direct renewal to the future we know is coming: de-carbonized and sustainable? Of course, some of the funds must support present production lines and supply-chains, but surely a percentage could be directed forward to future goals.

What would you do with this one-time funding to rebuild the world?

Sources:

Cash, David and Rebecca Herst, “Covid-19 and Climate: Policy and Practice.” 22 April 2020. University of Massachusetts Boston. https://www.umb.edu/news_events_media/events/covid_19_and_climate_policy_and_practice

Figueres, Christiana and Tom Rivett-Carnac. A Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis. Knopf, 2020. ISBN: 978052658351

International Monetary Fund. “IMF makes available $50 billion to help address the coronavirus.” 4 March 2020. https://www.imf.org/en/News/Articles/2020/03/04/sp030420-imf-makes-available-50-billion-to-help-address-coronavirus?mod=article_inline.

Ivanova, Maria. “Coasts and Communities.” Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship, National Science Foundation. University of Massachusetts Boston, Center for Global Governance and Sustainability, Global Environmental Governance Project. https://www.umb.edu/igert/about.

Reuters, “Factbox: Global economic policy response to coronavirus crisis.”  14 April 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-economy-factbox/factbox-global-economic-policy-response-to-coronavirus-crisis-idUSKCN21W2AJ

Steil, Benn. The Battle of Bretton Woods: John Maynard Keynes, Harry Dexter White, and the Making of a New World Order. Princeton University Press, 2013. ISBN: 9780691149097

Appreciation to the University of Massachusetts Boston, especially Dean David Cash, Professor Maria  Ivanova, and Director Rebecca Herst.

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September 20, 2019
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ENERGY: Fridays for Future

Will the Global Climate Strike Turn the Tide? Image: wikimedia.

September 20, 2019: millions of young people around the world gathered to protest the lack of action in recognizing, and acting to stop, climate change. It was a Friday unlike any other. Early estimates show wide turnout of three million “and that is before counting North and South America” tweeted Greta Thunberg. Overall, there were 2,500 events in 163 countries on seven continents.

Greta Thunberg. Photo: wikimedia.

Summarized by climate activist Greta Thunberg: “Right now we are the ones who are making a difference. If no one else will take action, then we will.” Thunberg, nominated for the Nobel Prize, began “Fridays for Future” by taking that day off from school to stand in front of the Swedish Parliament. Thus began a movement.

Flag of United Nations. wikimedia.

September 23, 2019: Will the world listen to the voices of its future leaders? What will the present world leaders, gathering for the United Nations Climate Action Summit do? Find out, here.

September 27, 2019: the next strike. Register here: Fridays for Future.

Al Jazeera. “‘No Planet B’: Millions take to streets in global climate strike.” 21 September 2019. Al Jazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/09/planet-thousands-join-global-climate-strike-asia-190920040636503.html.

#FridaysForFuture. https://www.fridaysforfuture.org/

Sengupta, Somini. “Protesting Climate Change, Young People Take to Streets in a Global Strike.” 20 September 2019, The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/20/climate/global-climate-strike.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share.

Trannell, Kendall, Scottie Andrew, Nathaniel Meyerson. “These are the companies supporting the global climate strike.” 20 September 2019. CNN.com/business.  https://www.cnn.com/2019/09/19/business/climate-strike-companie-trnd/index.html.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unporte

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September 12, 2019
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Voice of the Future 2019: Nature

“Under the Trees,” by Tomas Moran, 1865. Image: wikimedia.

Should trees have standing? What about rivers? Nature’s rights are being recognized and legalized. Recently, Colombia established rights of the Atrator River and surrounding basin; India tried to grant personhood to the Ganges and Yamuna Rivers, citing as precedent New Zealand’s law recognizing rights of the Whanganui River. Voters in Toledo, Ohio, USA approved the Lake Erie Bill of Rights, giving legal status and assurance to exist, flourish, and evolve to the ecosystem of the Great Lakes. In both India and USA, the laws were immediately challenged and still to be resolved. On a larger scale, Bolivia passed the Law of the Rights of Mother Nature/Ley de Derechos de la Madre Tierra. In climate change, Nature may be the Voice of the Future. Listen as the Māori celebrate Whanganui River rights (Te Awa Tupua); hear the Waiata, Nature’s voice of the future.

Athens, A. K. “An Indivisible and Living Whole: Do We Value Nature Enough to Grant it Personhood?” Ecology Law Quarterly; 45, 18, 2018. http://dx.doi.org/10.15779/Z38251FK44

Corte Constitucional, Republica de Colombia. “Acción de Tutela para la Protección de Derechos Colectivos cuando Existe Vulneración de Derechos Fundamentales.” Sentencia T-341/16. http://www.corteconstitucional.gov.co/relatoria/2016/t-341-16.htm. For English language text, https://delawarelaw.widener.edu/files/resources/riveratratodecisionenglishdrpdellaw.pdf.

Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia. “Ley de Derechos de la Madre Tierra.” https://www.scribd.com/document/44900268/Ley-de-Derechos-de-la-Madre-Tierra-Estado-Plurinacional-de-Bolivia.

Morris, J.D.K and J. Ruru. “Giving Voice to Rivers: Legal Personality as a Vehicle for Recognising Indigenous Peoples’ Relationship to Water?” Vol. 14, No. 2,2010. http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/AILRev/2010/22.pdf

New Zealand Legislation. “Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Act.” 20 March 2017. http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2017/0007/latest/whole.html. Witness the vote and hear the Waiata, Māori song of celebration: https://youtu.be/BXOIFd-4Kpo.

Ohio, Toledo. “Ruling on Lake Erie.” https://www.courthousenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/DrewsErie.pdf

Stone, C. “Should Trees Have Standing? Toward legal rights of natural objects.” Southern California Law Review 45 (1972), pp. 450-501.

Stone, C. Should Trees Have Standing? Law, Morality, and the Environment.3rd edition 2010. (originally published in 1973). Oxford University Press. ISBN-13: 978199736072; ISBN-10: 0199736073.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Lic.

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