Greta Thunberg inspired letter to politicians, organization leaders and scientists
(with appendices on economic issues and a sketch of our vision for the near future) [winter 2019-2020]
and updated shorter Letter to politicians, scientists other influential people, anybody interested in protecting our planet [April 2021]
Climate: please stop setting goals, start doing what is possible, now: Without delay making major efforts to save energy in every way possible and to generate more renewable and nuclear energy*.
Also, addressing most pressing changes in the economic system that may be a condition to make necessary climate change policies feasible
Listening to scientists is not enough, and present proposals and recommendations by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as well as the comprehensive plans by researchers and scientists, described in Drawdown, edited by Paul Hawken, 2017, hardly appear adequate – there are already vicious cycles speeding up climate change faster than anticipated. Immediately creating and pursuing-implementing ambitious, detailed, comprehensive plans, is a matter of conscience, ethics, compassion for our younger relatives and particularly the poor young people of the world. It is a duty of politicians. Non-action due to pressures from interest groups and climate change deniers is acting against vital interests of the U.S. and world population, it is corruption, it is callously causing the death of millions of people.
Immediate action on climate:
1. Moving into ‘crisis mode,’ recognizing that the climate emergency is more urgent than a major epidemic or war; it is not temporary and, without major steps, will keep worsening. Business as usual will not work: we need to make a commitment to action on climate with no delay:
- Governments must agree to a comprehensive framework plan of saving energy (with various parts of the plan never being incompatible) simultaneously starting with: promoting mostly plant-based diets and minimizing food waste; designing and building a comprehensive rail system complemented by electric and hydrogen-powered buses; stopping the construction of highways and parking garages; replacing conventional motor vehicles as much as feasible with human-powered/electric assist vehicles: bi- and tricycles with or without light-weight bodies; insulating houses, promoting smaller dwellings and decreasing use of heating and cooling; addressing consumerism (consumption addiction) with a goal of much less production of unnecessary clothing, gadgets, etc.
- To reduce population growth, we must ascertain that effective contraception is readily available to women worldwide.
- At the same time, renewable energy sources must be further promoted, safe nuclear power and forms of carbon sequestrations developed, and other measures must be researched.
- Our government must prioritize detailed plans to start realizing many projects as quickly as feasible, while at the same time working to overcome political resistance to major changes and long-term plans. Obviously, a few exemplary individuals’ lives will hardly make a dent in global warming, unless their example is widely followed; however, when ethical policies compel virtually everybody to cooperate and participate, resistance to change quickly weakens and people readily adapt to new conditions, particularly if changes are meaningful and rather increase people’s quality of life (less stress and junk, more healthy activities as part of normal life, connectedness with others and with nature, etc.). As with the major sacrifices and changes when the USA prepared to enter WWII.
Considering the climate crisis, ultimately a majority will agree that beef and many other animal products should be occasional luxuries, not daily food; this majority must compel everybody to move towards a diet that is mostly plant-based. People know that pick-up trucks and SUVs are dangerous and polluting, particularly if driven as fast as sedans: therefore ethical politicians must obligate drivers of SUVs and all types of trucks to drive much slower; and there must be incentives to drive these vehicles much less. Similarly, most people would acknowledge the benefits of comprehensive, efficient light-rail networks, supplemented by non-polluting buses. Etc.
Concerns about the economy, if properly addressed, must not be a hindrance to act. Climate-change priorities will hardly result in the economy not growing or high unemployment, even though they will cause problematic shifts in employment opportunities. If regulations and policies are adapted to the economy’s needs, important branches of the economy and overall employment opportunities will grow. Wealthy people must also consider that wealth and luxuries generally do not cause people to feel good about their lives; for many, wealth and power has become a dangerous addiction. Factors such as security, connectedness with people and nature, and meaning increase quality of life. (As a civilization, we do poorly with regard to general quality of life, as evidenced by high rates of anxiety, depression, abuse-addiction disorders, and suicides affecting even children. The quality of life of most people would improve with simpler and healthier life styles.)
2. Immediately introducing powerful incentives to climate-change efforts: incentives to save energy wherever possible while increasing production of renewable energy, and pursuing sequestration of carbon; developing and building many smaller third and fourth generation nuclear power plants must become a highest priority (there is not enough land to plant a trillion trees, return much land to a natural state, and have vast wind and solar farms in all parts of the world – and people do not want them close to where they live). Many ideas and plans may need further development. The following is a fairly comprehensive initial plan:
- Rapidly increasing carbon/greenhouse gas taxation to create incentives to reduce energy use and waste, decrease air travel and unnecessary transportation of goods, and thus encouraging local production. There need to be additional powerful incentives and government actions to promote a rapid shift from building roads, cars, and trucks to building rail lines, light rail cars, ultra-light electric and human-powered vehicles, etc., and to generally decrease production of wasteful consumer goods (most clothing that people buy is used only a few times, and many gadgets that people buy are hardly used at all).
- Large quantities of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), previously used in refrigeration worldwide, are still in circulation. We must work that they are phased out rapidly, and their disposal must be effective and safe.
- Societies must decrease unhealthy developments and save much energy by decreasing electronic devices’ use and by legally restricting data mining (surveillance of every individual’s moves, choices, and even emotional responses to on-screen programming with facial recognition software; analysis and storage of all collected data, etc.). People must make efforts to live more naturally enjoying a level of “standard comfort and conveniences” and recognizing that higher levels of consumption primarily distract us and hardly increase the quality of life.
- High taxation on beef, other animal products – graded according to greenhouse gas production (also considering water use and cruelty to animals); and promoting vegetarian food products (with soy and other legume products, etc.) that are also likely to improve people’s health. [When there is a shortage of hay and feed, many animals may be slaughtered and stored frozen in cold climates, to be used very gradually as luxury food. Land that was used for hay, feed and grazing may be returned to a natural state or used to produce food for human consumption. Other red meat may come from culling deer, antelopes and other animals with few predators, and by immediately processing animals killed on highways.].
- Avoiding food waste and processing organic waste to produce methane, using experience of European countries.
- Rapid development of rail system (with many rail lines running on present highways and streets): high-speed intercity trains, otherwise mostly light rail, standard and narrow track; separate tracks for fast and for frequently stopping trains in each direction (narrow track lines, 100cm or, in sparsely populated and mountainous areas and possibly city neighborhoods 60-80cm, are much cheaper to build, though trains have to go at lower speed). More frequently running smaller trains are generally preferable for commuters. All trains are much more efficient and safer than trucks, cars, and buses. New rail lines need to be integrated with existing rail and bus lines, and ports; and stations should offer human-powered, hybrid or electric rental vehicles. Buses should be gradually replaced by light rail.
- Further developing, building and promoting regular and recumbent bi-, tri- and quadricycles with or without fairings/aerodynamic lightweight bodies and/or batteries/electric assist, and ultra-light electric cars (that are mechanically largely based on bicycle technology), utilizing widely interchangeable parts. Building streets and lanes for human-powered, hybrid, and ultra-light electric vehicles, and lowering speed limits where cars and bicycles share lanes. It is important that comprehensive systems of bicycle ways are built quickly – interruptions of safe lanes strongly discourages their use for commuting. Rather than many parking spaces, work places need shower facilities and lockers for employees to have an extra set of clothes. More inner-city areas should be free of any vehicles.
- Laws requiring lower speed limits for all types/sizes of trucks and SUVs (55-60miles/hour on highways), and a universal speed limit of at most 70miles/hour (This measure was previously effective: from 1973 to the early 1990s, Americans lived with low speed limits because of the fuel shortage of the early 1970s).
- Government programs may buy inefficient vehicles for recycling of materials and parts and promote kits to convert front wheel drive cars to hybrids by installing electric drive systems on rear wheels.
- Improving energy efficiency of large ships and cruise liners by lowering speed and innovations.
- Improving insulation and generally energy efficiency of existing buildings, and setting standards of reduced cooling and heating, encouraging more season-adjusted clothing.
- Building solar panels on roofs, shades, walk and bike ways, roofs of trains and along rail tracks (solar panels should combine producing electricity and hot water to reduce heating air above the collectors); further developing wind turbines, energy from tides and ocean currents, etc. However, it will not be possible to keep up with current increases in world energy use by these means; and the mining of minerals used for planned electric infra-structure and street vehicles would be very polluting. Plans to mine the ocean floor for needed metals is ecologically very questionable.
- Developing and building solar hot water installations for heating; possibly storage of water heated in summer for heating in winter. Similar installations may be used to cool water by running it over black metal sheets at night to cool houses during daytime and/or cool water in winter to cool buildings in summer.
- In times of excess electricity generation, production and storage of ice for later use to cool buildings and facilities. Additionally, ice could be produced in very cold areas and shipped to populated areas in subtropics and tropics. Excess generation of electricity may be used for the production of hydrogen.
- Designing-building systems with insulated tanks for storing ice produced in winter for summer, and storing hot water produced in summer for heating in winter.
- Hydrogen production plants for energy storage, for use in power stations of micro grids and small generators; for transportation, and for heating. Building hydrogen fuel-cell engines for road vehicles, trains and ships.
- Planting fast growing plants, particularly trees. These efforts must be adapted to local conditions, previous plant growth, availability of water, etc. Trees producing tropical staple foods are particularly valuable. The goal of planting a trillion trees may be too ambitious. Methods of increasing rainfall must be developed (proposed method described in humanecivilzation.org – Ecology-Environment).
- Many approaches may be realized that improve agricultural efficiency and land management.
- Waste wood and brush, e.g. wood from torn-down buildings, and brush, dry wood, and dead (burned) trees, removed to decrease the spread of forest fires, and wood grown for carbon sequestration, should be processed into charcoal to be buried. Additionally wood may be waterlogged and sunk in cold oceans. Other forms of carbon sequestration need to be evaluated and promoted.
- Planning and constructing dwellings more densely with focus on smaller units (and smaller furniture); dividing large houses into apartments; camps with high quality tents and/or small cabins and good facilities in urban and rural areas for the homeless and new, poor immigrants; etc. In new construction, promoting use of wood and steel and decreasing use of cement and concrete. (Energy efficiency may be reached by improvements in cement production and development of new products.)
- Declaring a global emergency due to the present burning and clear cutting of forests, particularly rain forests. Extreme efforts and cooperation among many countries and the United Nations are essential to stop the destruction of rain forests in Brazil, Peru, Indonesia, etc. Assistance should be provided in monitoring these areas, and economic aid must be providing to help local people.
- A goal should be that half of the land is maintained in or returned to a natural state.
- Governments and international organizations have to renew efforts to develop much nuclear power*. Safer systems of harnessing nuclear power and disposing of nuclear waste, including the option of fusion energy, must be reviewed by the European Union and the USA, possibly in cooperation with China, India and other countries.
- To alleviate suffering and deaths, and to decrease the number of climate refugees, further population growth must be decreased by making means of effective family planning readily accessible in all parts of the world.
- And changes in economic institutions are needed – the profit and greed driven economic system is a large part of the problem, and people must be protected from the impact of rapid changes.
3. Needed economic actions
To protect people from negative consequences of economic adaptations, we need changes in the economic system, financial institutions, and in job markets. Proposed – required steps:
- Introducing a basic income, a minimum basic income or possibly a negative income tax.
- Governments must create – “print” new money for climate change projects; increases of the circulating money supply must no longer be accomplished by banks issuing more loans (many times the amount they have in reserve). Regulations of financial institutions are to avoid inflation and inappropriate allocation of resources.
- Government regulations should encourage non-profit enterprises designed to create good jobs and good services or products, such as innovative climate-related work. Regulations for such enterprises require that all workers receive reasonable salaries and reasonable bonuses for particularly productive inventors and workers; they must reinvest all profits in education, research and development, and support of similar non-profit enterprises.
- Government incentives, including grants, subsidies, and interest-free loans, should allow local cooperatives and large non-profit enterprises to execute most climate-related projects.
- Banks must be required to hold 100% of checking account deposits in reserve.
- Bank regulations must enact increasing reserve requirements on savings accounts and limit the issuing of credit.
- Non-profit insurance enterprises must protect agriculture, new ‘risky’ enterprises, etc. from major losses. Insurance enterprises must replace derivatives and other “financial instruments,” that are designed to “hedge” against losses and bring high profits from successful ‘start-ups,’ etc.
- Taxation on securities’ trade is needed and, by slowing transactions, is expected to have many beneficial effects.
- Taxes on unearned income must be higher than taxation of earned income.
* The reluctance to focus on the rapid development of nuclear power is hard to understand, particularly since dramatic efforts to save energy, as outlined here, are rarely considered. Nuclear power is very safe, and problems related to nuclear waste are largely solved. Regarding problems with renewable energy sources versus nuclear energy, compare research articles and books by Robert Bryce, including A Question of Power, 2020
APPENDIX 1: Regarding the economy.
Few economists appear to recognize the extremely serious problem of private banks, rather than governmental banks, creating and allocating much of our circulating money supply by issuing credit.*
The government must reclaim a primary role in creating and allocating money that will belong to the people, institutions and agencies that work with it.
While the economy is growing, that growth has to be backed by an enlarged money supply; but we and our governments must stop borrowing and restrict, rather than enable and encourage, bank lending; newly issued money, not increased lending, must expand the money supply. If lending by financial institutions is properly restricted, issuing appropriate amounts of new money does not cause inflation.
Banks have mainly increased the money supply by brazenly lending wherever they hope to profit, but they often are not lending where incentives to invest are needed.
Severe levels of indebtedness destabilize the economy. Maybe more importantly: People’s indebtedness causes impaired functioning and crises for individuals and families. Indebted people tend to discount their futures, engage in illegal activities and substance abuse, become desperate and commit suicide.
To improve the economy, the following steps appear indicated:
- The federal government has to issue new money to pay its debts and to pay for needed actions to minimize climate change.
- While scholars and elected government agents plan and governmental banks fund public projects, execution should be done mostly by private enterprises, preferably non-profit enterprises which have to reinvest profits in education, research and development, or in promoting other non-profit enterprises which work in similar ways.
- A basic income, possibly a minimum basic income or a negative income tax, should be part of a ‘safety net.’ Basic incomes have to be adjusted to local costs of living. With a basic income, minimum salaries could be below ‘living wages.’
- Bank reserve requirements on money held in demand deposits – (checking accounts) must be increased to 100%. Banks must not be allowed to use money of demand deposit accounts for loans. Reserve requirements for saving accounts must be substantial (gradually increasing).
- Consumer credit, offered by corporations, must also be regulated.
- Securities trade should be taxed (with increasing rates).
- Unearned income, mainly from securities, real estate and venture capital investments, must be taxed at a higher rate than earned income; a wealth tax may be needed.
- In place of “hedging” against major losses by way of derivatives, non-profit insurance corporations or cooperatives should protect investments of farmers, small businesses, etc.; risky loans, particularly to new, small enterprises, may require to be insured.
- The composition of any ‘financial instrument’ must be transparent to sellers, brokers and buyers. Complex, essentially unintelligible securities must be outlawed.
- As lending decreases due to new, stricter regulations, the government can issue new money and invest it in the economy, by realizing projects needed to halt climate change, infrastructure projects, such as building rail lines, education, etc., while phasing out income taxes for average and below average earners.
- While people save more, rather than using credit to replace appliances, etc., newly issued money and other governmental funds may be allocated for grants and federal low interest loans for industries in order that they can move from continuous high levels of production to more research and development, particularly developing products and production methods that minimize greenhouse gases, are safer, etc.
- The federal government may distribute some newly issued money to specific groups who are heavily indebted and cannot continue borrowing due to bank regulations and must change production, e.g. farmers that must significantly curb meat and milk production; the government may buy land for reestablishing natural forests; etc.
- Since money tends to flow from economically suppressed rural areas to metropolitan areas and wealthier countries, areas affected by new policies and other poor areas may need local currencies. Local currencies may serve economic activities such as teaching, child care and care of sick, disabled and elderly people; all types of repairs; building, remodeling and improving energy efficiency; new forms of agriculture and horticulture; and cottage industries.
* Low interest rates and banks’ increased access to money they can lend should, theoretically, increase the supply of circulating money and increase investments. However, middle-class people who counted on compound interests find that retirement savings in savings and money market accounts or CDs earn less interest than the inflation rate; and small investments in securities may not earn much more than brokers’ service fees. These factors are powerful disincentives for people to spend part of their savings thus decreasing enterprises’ eagerness to invest.
APPENDIX 2: Summary describing today’s dysfunctional situation [added 3/2020], and A sketch of our vision for the near future, if political and industry leaders act rationally.
Summary describing today’s dysfunctional situation:
- The threat of rapidly accelerating climate change is a crisis of comparable or greater magnitude than WWII and responses should be as bold and decisive as the USA’s war preparations in the early 1940s. Vicious cycles appear to develop much earlier and more dramatically than expected.
- There are many Green New Deal proposals, projecting recent progress according to growth curves. However, renewable energy production that is being installed wordlwide does not yet cover the increase in energy consumption; the expectation is that fossil fuel production and use will expand for a few more years before starting to decline. Part of the plans include improving energy efficiency of residential and commercial buildings, gradually moving towards more plant-based diets, and saving energy by Internet-supported efficient sharing of most resources: local energy production and distribution to where energy is at the time most needed, sharing transport containers and available space in ware houses, etc.
- Current plans appear to be grossly inadequate: too little, too slow, too late. Plans and projections ignore major problems and they are accepting disastrous developments. They ignore the fundamental problems of our irrational greed- and growth-driven economy.
- Proposals appear to assume that there is unlimited space for wind turbines and solar farms – only the cost of building and installing them are calculated, while many are clear that they do not want the installations in their backyards; and there is rarely mention of pollution and destruction of ecosystems when needed metals and other minerals have to be mined in large quantities.
- Hardly considered is the problem of increasing efficiency by having censors everywhere which goes along with huge investments in data mining, storing, and analyzing. While “the Internet of Things” with all its sensor surveillance and artificial intelligence-algorithm-driven efficiencies can help save some energy in the areas of transportation, warehousing, and climate control of buildings, it is combined with an absurd drive to increase consumerism, unacceptable invasion of people’s privacy, and plans to exploit the data for profit. The value of data mining and storing apparently consists in some institutions controlling the data. Corporations and political entities that buy data, including results of complex analyses, will have the power to target people individually and bombard them with personalized misleading messages and advertisements that are designed to manipulate people to buy products and services that they will hardly appreciate and to make other important decisions according to goals of institutions that abuse the data. Investments in data collection, analyses and storage are huge, and the utilized computers are expected to use a significant part of all produced energy.
The Green New Deal proposals are integrated in a capitalist, economic growth oriented template that is obsolete. The world economy cannot simply keep growing and out of control increases in consumption are destructive and contrary to the goals of:
- Saving ecosystems and increasing natural land – a goal being to maintain or restore 50% of land to a natural state (today, about a quarter of ice-free land is used for cattle, and land covered with buildings, lawns, and highways keeps increasing).
- High quality of life for all people. An increase in material living standard is helpful only to a certain point; above it, benefits of increasing consumption are minimal or zero; and we must consider secondary effects of increased consumption. Physical health and psychological wellbeing suffer when people avoid exposure to physical stress, such as walking uphill, carrying goods or a child, bicycling, exposure to seasons with high and low ambient temperatures, etc. If exposure to stress is within a meaningful context, it feels good; exercising only for health reasons is usually a neutral or negative experience. Global warming and increased need for air conditioning create a vicious cycle. Solar farms heat the air above the very hot collector surfaces, which has secondary effects on local weather.
Bold decisive steps must address:
- Restructuring the economic system: activities of financial institutions must be restricted; governments must direct investments in infrastructure with nonprofit enterprises executing them.
- Disincentives by way of high taxation to reduce greenhouse gas production and advertisements; in addition, ‘unearned’ investment income should be taxed at higher rates than ‘earned’ income (from work).
- Abuses of computing systems and the Internet: data collection and analysis need to be restricted; the creation and the use of bitcoin and other crypto-currencies should be outlawed:
A sketch of our vision for the near future, if political and industry leaders act rationally:
- People must be informed – understand and consequently compel leaders to respond with urgency: start broadly using known technologies for highly efficient transportation and other ways of saving energy, and implementing bold plans.
- Cities with pedestrian zones and many safely designed human-powered, electric hybrid, and ultra-light electric vehicles (HPVs, HPEHVs, ULEVs) two to four wheel with or without light bodies.
- On streets and highways, HPV-HPEHV-ULEV lanes and rail tracks, 60cm to 100cm and standard gauge; many small to standard size electric and hydrogen driven light-rail cars; high speed trains; freight trains; river-canal barges; few rental cars and work trucks.
- More personal contact; parks, meeting places; less electronic communication; less consumerism.
- Solar panels (for electricity and hot water combined), integrated in building roofs, shades, sidewalks, and HPV lanes, along train tracks, on train roofs, etc.
- Wind turbines with land between them used as feasible.
- Widespread planting of crop trees, trees for construction lumber, natural reforestation, etc.
- No large cattle, pig, chicken farms – nutrition mostly vegan, traditional vegan dishes, ‘fake meat,’ etc.
- High fossil fuel/pollution taxes; very little long-distance transport by trucks and ocean liners.
- Former car, truck, airplane, and large ship manufacturers may now build rail cars, ULEVs etc.
- Many new manufacturing nonprofit enterprises: providers of human services; workshops and small factories building products locally; repair shops; energy-efficiency related work; research laboratories (robotic devices, etc.)
- Larger existing houses to be divided into smaller apartments/condominiums; building smaller units.
- Non-profit manufacturers and researchers work with interest-free loans and grants from governmental or cooperative development banks.
- Financial institutions highly regulated; lending is greatly decreased.
- Creation and trading of financial instrument highly regulated; taxation of securities’ trade, etc.
- Government expands the money supply by creating new money; creates dependable safety net for all; guarantees minimum income; etc.
- Governments’ goals include fighting climate change, creating a sustainable economy, and improving people’s quality of life.
Letter to politicians, scientists other influential people, anybody interested in protecting our planet [April 2021]
Humane Civilization Worldwide [humanecivilization.org] is the result of our lifelong pursuit to understand what is important in people’s lives, what guides people’s emotions and behaviors, and why so much in the development of homo sapiens has been disastrous (“our,” “we” refers to my identical twin brother and myself). We are Swiss-American psychiatrists. There is good and bad in everybody and. Important conclusions are: 1. There are good and bad qualities in everybody but our instinctive-emotional system slips easily into unethical thoughts and impulses. 2. We hardly can directly advise individuals to behave ethically; we must address bad institutions that influence people powerfully; cultural and particularly economic institutions are comparable to bad behavior modification programs.
Humane Civilization Worldwide attempts to develop comprehensive plans and model institutions that promote humane growth and protect the environment.
The following is what we believe needs to happen to halt the catastrophic global warming:
A broad, high-level education campaign must emphasize:
– All present proposals to deal with climate change appear flawed and grossly inadequate; we already are close to 1.5ºC above pre-industrial temperatures; the CO2 levels are now like 2,500,000 years ago; and vicious cycles are speeding up climate change.
– The root cause of the climate crisis is our economic system that promotes profits at the cost of people’s well-being and the world’s ecosystems; and the most detrimental institutions are protected and subsidized by our government.
– People must be properly informed and demand changes. 1% of the population practicing voluntary simplicity has negligible effects; 25,000,000 people demonstrating and demanding bold actions may halt “business as usual” very rapidly. We all must start living differently, not drive SUVs with different engines.
– We must envision rapid changes in how we live, how we move around places, and what we produce and consume. We need more humane conditions, halt our consumerism, and lead much less wasteful, healthier lives. We need a comprehensive model with detailed plans for sustainable institutions that can be implemented worldwide. We need to think globally.
– Our government must promote changes by enacting the War Powers Act.
– If progress is not thorough and very rapid, heat, droughts, loss of arable land, and floods may force close to a billion people to migrate. Worldwide planning and cooperation are obviously necessary. Lack of resources, particularly water shortages that lead to disputes over the control of rivers and lakes, is likely to result in wars.
– Our present economic system, which is dominated by highly profitable, parasitic financial institutions, does not allow rapid changes – we need to reform them as expediently as possible. Problems include: much of the circulating money supply is borrowed from financial institutions that are profit-driven and not competent to beneficially allocate resources. Debts are detrimental for individuals and destabilize businesses and economies. The circulating money supply should belong to the people, enterprises, and government agencies that work with it. While severely limiting lending and other activities of private financial institutions, governments must create the money that is needed to rapidly change industries’ production programs, the direction of research and development, and our educational institutions.
– Rather than focusing on ‘living wages’ and minimum salaries, we need government issued basic incomes worldwide.
– Most productive enterprises, particularly corporations that do contract work for governments, should be non-profit corporations which are obliged to re-invest all profits into research and development, education, and/or other non-profit enterprises. We can no longer afford competing corporations that are driven by greed and patent what they develop. Outside a limited market of luxury goods, enterprises need to compete in working efficiently while cooperating with universities and other enterprises – it is not ethical to allow patents for vital products and technologies that are needed worldwide.
– We suggest replacing income taxes with universal sales taxes that discourage wasteful buying; high ‘dyseconomy’ taxes must target any products and production processes that harm the environment and/or people’s health and quality of life (‘dys-’ means ‘bad,’ ‘ill-,’ or painful).
– The sale of securities must be taxed.
– America must become a constructive model for China, India and other emerging and underdeveloped countries. Their pursuing our present model of middle-class living has catastrophic consequences. It is neither desirable nor sustainable that people of a world-wide rapidly growing middle-class commute in cars, eat much meat, pursue Western-style consumerism, and heat and cool large spaces in luxurious houses.
Many factories and enterprises must retool and start to produce energy-saving, more functional products. We must stop building cars, trucks, buses, airplanes, highways, parking garages, skyscrapers, large one family houses and condominiums, weaponry, etc. Today our culture exemplifies unhealthy developments in a wealthy economy with great potentials. Debts greatly contribute to people’s poor functioning, to anxiety, depression, chronic pain, substance use disorders, property crimes, and violence; families are destroyed. There are widespread addictions to consumerism, gambling, conspiracy theorizing, and to the pursuits of wealth and power. Us-versus-them thinking aggravates these problems. While the climate emergency is extremely critical, we must recognize and address institutions of our society which promote destructive developments, and we must make efforts to rapidly enact comprehensive changes.
While working to decrease world-wide inequalities of income, we must start saving energy and resources in every way possible – there is not enough land for solar and wind farms as required by present projections, much less plant a trillion trees. Shortages of balsa, used for blades of wind turbines have led to illegal logging and violence. It also would be very problematic to mine the mineral resources to expand world-wide consumerism, build and power all-electric SUVs, heat and cool large houses for the growing middle-class, etc. And we cannot compensate for the methane releases in the current agriculture and CO2 release from sea floor trawling.
We must become an example to other countries who currently follow our untenable models, particularly countries with large populations and high population density.
Urgent projects must include:
– Transportation: We must design and build rail lines: freight, high-speed, and light-rail trains. Light-rail lines, mostly narrow track, 70-100cm, are to reach all city neighborhoods, towns, settlements, and points of interest; many can be built on existing roads. Where standard size rail cars are used, lines should also have much smaller trains with cars the size of vans, that run relatively frequently in times of low use. Equally urgent is the development and mass production of many types of human-powered, electro-assisted, and ultralight electric vehicles, with and without aerodynamic lightweight bodies; and we need everywhere lanes for these slower vehicles. Barges and relatively slow, highly efficient ships are important, for transporting goods and people, and as simple cruise ships for leisurely tourism.
– Food production and land management: We must minimize meat production and decrease milk and egg production: cows, sheep, goats and chicken may be raised in some areas that do not lend themselves to other agriculture, including under fruit trees and in forested and mountainous areas, and they must be treated humanely. Diets must become mostly plant-based. Land management research and promotion of best practices is extremely important: the soil contains much more carbon than the atmosphere; draining wetlands and agricultural techniques have led to much carbon release. Issues include rice production that minimizes methane release, reforestation in many areas, care of and reestablishing wetlands, recreating prairies, and possibly reestablishing the ‘mammoth steppe’ in tundra areas (the Pleistocene Park projects by Serge and Nikita Zimov in Siberia, appears to stop the melting of permafrost). Bamboo farms and algae farming may help sequester carbon (bamboo grows fast and is an excellent building material that can often replace steel; dead algae sinking to bottom of water binds much carbon; some algae are nutritionally valuable).
– Buildings: We must better insulate buildings, heat and cool buildings less, build small housing units and/or use large houses for extended families and families with ‘adopted’ strangers; using solar panels and passive solar principles, as feasible; heating and cooling mostly small areas with lowered ceiling and alcoves where people work, eat and relax. New constructions should use mainly lumber and recycled materials, much less cement and steel – it is feasible and cheap to build wood structures with over ten stories. Discarded containers may serve as frames for basic housing. To live comfortably in smaller places, people must make efforts to avoid accumulating temporarily and rarely used items that can be shared or rented. Living more densely and using public transportation has significant social benefits.
– In some areas people may re-introduce split sleep schedules, few hours in afternoon and after midnight, or sleep mainly noon time to evening, while working and socializing at night and in mornings.
– Other known factors that contribute to global warming and to dangerous pollution must be addressed with no delay. Chlorofluorocarbon refrigerants must be phased out and methane leaks stopped worldwide.
– Carbon capture at fossil fueled power plants is inefficient and polluting, and sequestration by pumping CO2 into the ground at old oil, gas, or coal production areas is not safe; it may be temporary and leaks are lethal to humans and animals (CO2 is invisible, odorless, and heavier than air; leaking CO2 can form ‘lakes’ with no oxygen). Some rock formations bind carbon firmly; otherwise safe carbon sequestration may be accomplished by making charcoal, by water-logging wood and sinking it into lakes or oceans, and by using wood and bamboo for buildings and vehicles.
– Research and development must focus on greenhouse gas saving products and production processes; further development of renewable energy sources, for instance vortex-type wind generators and geothermal installations; and also small, safe nuclear power plants.
– Research and development should encourage automation: people should work less and have more time for family and to relax, develop ideas and personal studies, garden, create and enjoy art, spend time in nature, camp, and travel leisurely.
– Overuse and abuses of the internet and of artificial intelligence must be addressed; people’s habits and their reactions to imagery on screens must not be monitored, stored in data bases, analyzed, and exploited. Cryptocurrencies must be prohibited. These activities are unethical and dangerous, and they waste unconscionable amounts of energy and resources, material and human.
The present disruption of the economy will become much more intense, and a much worse recession is not unlikely. People demand that the pandemic and recession are effectively managed, that there will be more equitable distributions of incomes and wealth, and that all forms of discrimination end, particularly racism and condoned abuses of women. Governments not only have a unique opportunity; they have an obligation to respond with broad and bold changes in many areas.
Many production jobs will be lost. Automation will replace workers. The unemployed workers must be employed for the new projects and programs. During the disruptions, governments must assure that food production is not interrupted, that housing and social networks improve in quality, and that the transition is rapid but gradual. Cars will be used much less, diets will be richer and healthier by integrating many traditional recipes from poor countries.
More efforts must encourage worldwide studies and education in ethics that is based on science and broad compassionate empathy without us-versus-them thinking, rather than religions and local traditions. World-wide efforts must also promote high-quality media and broad education, and ready access to health care, including contraception and abortions – obviously, population growth must be minimized. Efforts must address emotional problems. Underappreciated is the need to prevent and treat devastating psychological addictions: many forms of gambling, addiction to conspiracy theorizing, and addiction to wealth and power.