“Rarely in human history have so many things gone so badly wrong in so short a time.”

And rarely has there been a greater need to transition to a just, sustainable economy. Today we explore how and provide 5 minutes of George Carlin on “Stuff.”  Also a call to action for the City Council meeting on Wednesday.

Wednesday, August 29, 7pm (TONIGHT), City Council Meeting at the Santa Fe County Fairgrounds: Protest a Really Bad Idea. Attend and/or Contact Your Mayor/City Councilors.  Over 20 years ago developers tried to build out a bunch of single family homes on a steep slope in the Hyde Park neighborhood. It failed to achieve approval because the development would have been on a steeply sloped terrain just aching to flood the neighbors who already lived below.

“Any construction on this land would decrease the watershed value and also contribute to non-point sediment pollution, even with a well planned subdivision. It is my opinion and recommendation that the land has more benefit to adjoining areas if it remains undeveloped. If it is determined that development will take place I feel it should be considered for low density use only.” USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, District Conservationist.

You’d think that would have settled it, but on the heels of a 1 in 1000 year downpour and flooding (that is likely to become a once in a decade or even an annual event), a developer still sees a profit to be made and so is seeking approval to develop 49 homes in the precise location the USDA found so wanting. And the above recommendation came in 1995 before it was realized that once in 1000 year climate events will become routine.  So for environmental reasons this development needs to be snuffed. But there is more. The developers have shown their social justice stripes (or lack thereof) in two other elements to this plan.

  1. Faced with the need to build some affordable housing units, they proposed five—all directly under power lines.
  2. Being very aware of the risk of future flooding, the developers have shifted responsibility for repairing any damage from flooding, erosion or landslides from the developers to the home owner association.  So out of one side of their mouth, they say there are no issues with erosion (USDA report be damned) and out of the other side of their mouth, they foist responsibility for any such event on the home owners.

The last issue with the development was highlighted by the Santa Fe Reporter back in March when it did a report on activist Jennifer Johnson who lives in the neighborhood below the proposed development:

“An SFR check of ownership records shows that of the 10 properties on the two split lots closest to Johnson, only one can be definitively traced to a Santa Fe owner. A South Carolina owner has the vacation rental outside Johnson’s front door. Other owners are in Arizona, Massachusetts, Texas, Virginia and Washington, DC.

Of the 973 short-term rental permits issued by the city so far this year, 436 were issued to out-of-state owners. That’s 45 percent. The vast majority are clustered in and around Santa Fe’s downtown.”

So rather contribute to creating a more livable neighborhood, the development is really designed to offer absentee landlords an opportunity to make big time profits leasing their “homes” to tourists. With the profit from this enterprise being spent in other states.

One of the things Roxanne and I learned on our Road Trip is that if a city utilizes achieving equity throughout its approval and investment process, projects like this would not get anywhere. How exactly is this kind of development benefiting Santa Feans?  Please contact your Mayor and City Councilor and tell them that you oppose the Estancias del Norte development. Click here for contact information.

Climate Change Requires a Transition to a Sustainable Economy

“Rarely in human history have so many things gone so badly wrong in so short a time. The global social and economic systems must make a U-turn if they are not to destroy their own physical basis.”  Opening Sentence to Sufficiency: Moving Beyond the Gospel of Eco-Efficiency

In so many prior posts, I have outlined how our thirst for constant economic growth and rampant consumerism together are driving us off of an environmental cliff. Near the bottom of this post, I have provided links to three of the more important posts outlining the need to transition to a new system.

The problem is that capitalism can only succeed with constant growth which requires consumption of all things new, needed or not, and at whatever cost to our planet or the people working for a pittance to produce these things. George Carlin hilariously captured our thirst for more and more stuff in the video at the end of the post, but as to the more serious side to “stuff,” how do we make the transition to a more sustainable economy when the powers that be, on both sides of the aisle, are utterly uncommitted to doing anything serious?  And what would doing something seriousit look like?

In A Sustainability Vision for en Ecologically Constrained World, Riccardo Mastini, notes that while researchers and activists have been sounding the alarm for decades and surfacing initiatives that could be part of a sustainable economy, NGO’s are finally beginning to grapple with the precise blend of policies needed to make the transition to a sustainable economy. Mastini points to the need to replace profit and growth with the concept of “sufficiency”:

“The term ‘sufficiency’ refers to a strategy of introducing hard limitations to unsustainable trends—in particular to over-consumption—coupled with an emphasis on distributional justice to make sure everyone has access to enough resources to meet their needs. Between the unsustainable extremes of over-consumption and material poverty lies sufficiency, which is about using ‘enough’ for humans to flourish without compromising the stability of the biosphere.”

Mastini underscores the importance of making this transition: “Owing to the limits of eco-efficiency and the need to liberate environmental space for the global poor, new policy instruments should be designed to bring about ecological fair sharing between countries and a new economy based on the concept of sufficiency.

EU economic policies should pursue an equitable down-scaling of Member States’ environmental ‘throughput’, namely the rate at which they use energy and raw materials. Since a constant increase in the transformation of natural resources into goods and services is ingrained in our current economic system, this down-scaling challenges the dominant economic belief in the feasibility and desirability of infinite economic growth. This implies a new direction for societies, one in which they will organise and live differently from today.” A Sustainability Vision for en Ecologically Constrained World.

And what might this look like in real terms?  A world where:

  • Workers work far fewer hours in paid employment freeing them to participate in more social activities;
  • People vastly reduce consumption patterns;
  • Policies promote significant redistribution of wealth and resources, not just within countries but across them;
  • Guaranteed annual income and maximum personal income are introduced as policies, not concepts.

Mastini provides many other policy changes and shifts in human priorities that are necessary to avoid climate catastrophe. Throughout the article I found myself nodding my head in assent at the logic and then scowling at the huge shift in our culture, our political system and political leadership required to do what is necessary. I strongly recommend Mastini’s piece. Click here to read the full analysis from Mastini.  It is the kind of reading, thinking and advocating that is absolutely required to sustain the planet and the future.

Within Matini’s piece is a link to a document published by Friends of the Earth Europe, Sufficiency: Moving Beyond the Gospel of Eco-Efficiency.  It contains a comprehensive discussion of specific economic and environmental policy shifts required to achieve the needed transition. I will be examining this in more detail, but even a brief glance reveals a well-organized and well-researched piece.  Click here to review the full publication.

No doubt, the mere thought of actually moving this country to take the kind of bold steps needed to save our planet and frankly our souls, is to educate ourselves and others. So please do read the linked articles and reports and share and discuss them with others. Three related links are provided below followed by the video from George Carlin.

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne

Three prior posts on the growth economy, capitalism, and the need for a transition, followed by George Carlin hilariously commenting on our consumerism and our “stuff.”

A Path Forward from Current National Economic Policy to Something Like Justice

Brilliant Historic Analysis of Capitalism, Its Roots & Current Implications

What If We Can’t Continue to Grow Our Economy? What Then?

Categories: Climate Change, Agriculture, Land Use and Wildlife, Economic Justice, Community & Economic Development

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4 replies

  1. I look at History here in Santa Fe, can inform future events. If someone really wanted to explore the Housing Issue they would look at how Federal Money was used to increase profits for absentee Landlords. Spending a week in one of those Section 8 properties or any of the Public Housing Projects might be informative., Perhaps you should ask your “progressive” buddy former Mayor Coss, about how he handled flooding in low income housing projects. He delayed, denied and attacked the people who reported it. After all the low income residents, were getting “Free Housing” according to him, and his cronies, so they were “crazy” to worry about yearly flooding. The Seniors that died from falls related to the flooding were gonna die anyway.
    A similar tactic was sued to market those high end home sites above Santa Fe. Corrupt City officials, with the help of politically connected real estate barons, buried the Geological Reports, on the Hyde Park Area. The Reports were very clear about site remediation in order to build. The facts would have cost some local real estate speculators, so they were buried. Now the unfortunate home-buyers are spending thousands trying to keep their homes from sliding down the hill. The smarter ones just to what the former state engineer did, patch it up, and sell the property before next monsoon, This is why the real estate market is always appearing to be ‘booming.” Our local paper doesn’t cover any of this, because it could be bad for the Real Estate business.
    The City Council does nothing if it doesn’t benefit a profiteer somewhere. They give lip service to silly new ideas, but they have their own agenda. Any project has to benefit one of their millionaire friends or it is dead in the water. The facts are not fully represented here ever. It is always Groundhog Day in Santa Fe.

  2. According to many recent articles and books we have been living in the ‘new gilded age’. Trump did not started it, but the Republicans with much needed help from the Democrats certainly began it.
    If it is true it is repeating itself it would be necessary for us to learn about it because today we have the added little issue of Global Warming. Here is a link to just one article. https://newrepublic.com/article/149005/lessons-gilded-age

  3. I have not read thoroughly Mastini’s article but my first impression is that he is not looking for the reasons there is a crack on the wall. It is always, or almost always, due to a faulty foundation. Our social and environmental problems were created by successive economic models ending up with our present model, CAPITALISM. I think he is missing this important point and wants to treat a badly wounded patient, a dying patient, with band-aids. We have been here before -the original gilded age- and we need to better understand our economic history and what capitalism really has been, and is, and will be if we do not dismantle it. For the last 5-7000 years all economic models have been designed by males for males, including capitalism.

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