Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Divestment 2.0

This post is going to be a running list of ideas for individuals and families, institutions, and societies, to make further steps to wean themselves off fossil fuel. We're going to assume that the individuals and institutions have already done "Divestment 1.0," i.e., taken any financial assets out of fossil fuel using one or another reasonable, well-planned means.

(Actually, there are good economic reasons to believe that some items on this list should take priority over purely financial divestment. But it's silly to quibble over which step to take first, if both are in the right direction. When you go for a walk, do you start with the left or right leg?)

This is just the beginning. We'll add to the list as we go, and keep a link in the Sustainability Thought and Deed Annex, so we can find it easily.

For individuals and families:
  1. Get an energy audit. Weatherize and insulate your home, and replace oil heat systems with biofuels or renewably-generated electricity. Of the biofuels, firewood or pellet from sustainably managed, biodiverse forests or agro-forest ecosystems is probably best. In most cases this work will pay for itself. Growing or getting your own fuel, if you live in the country, is generally healthful
  2. Replace energy-inefficient appliances with energy-efficient ones. In most cases this work will pay for itself
  3. Walk or bike to work, or use public transport. In most cases this will pay for itself in terms of better physical health
  4. Either replace energy inefficient vehicles with energy efficient ones, or better yet, switch from gas/diesel to electric or hybrid electric ones running on renewable electricity. Use lifecycle analysis if you know how to do this. In some cases, running a less-efficient vehicle for a small number of miles a year for a specialized operation (eg: trucking hay or firewood), while using a fuel-efficient or electric vehicle for daily commuting, is a good combination.
  5. Either a) begin growing your own food in a garden or backyard livestock operation (there are interesting ecological combinations of the two, for instance, the Womerlippis use agro-forestry, gardening, and livestock together, combining waste streams from one operation into the nutrient cycle of the other), or b) begin to participate in your local food network, or some combination. In either case any extra manual work or expense will often pay for itself in terms of physical health
  6. Reconsider your vacation and other non-work related traveling to reduce fossil fuel needs
  7. Either a), give up your job in a fossil fuel-dependent industry or sector, and find a job in a fossil-free industry or sector, or at least move from an fossil-intensive sector to a less intensive one, or b), begin a sustainability program at your job. 
  8. If your workplace or job makes it difficult for individuals or families to do things like the suggestions in 1 through 5 above, then campaign to make it otherwise, or try a different job

For institutions:
  1. Start a sustainability committee. If expertise is needed, hire it. Hire a sustainability coordinator
  2. Get deep energy audits of all operational functions. Use lifecycle thinking where appropriate
  3. Make a fully-costed priority list, with payback estimates, of energy-efficiency measures. Implement the list in a reasoned, planned manner. (Plugging away at a well-planned list over a long period is infinitely preferable, an generally much more successful than bipolar "trance and shock" approach.)
  4. Reconsider work travel. Is your journey really necessary? Make better use of webinars and Skype
  5. Don't forget easy to overlook sub-operations like the food service (local food!) or the motor pool 
  6. Help your employees divest: Provide a fuel-efficient transport service. Organize a car pool, or day-care. Consider green employee housing, or free at-work charging stations for electric cars
  7. Invest institutional savings in cost-effective improvements
  8. Join professional and service organizations that will help you do all this, e.g, AASHE or the Billion Dollar Green Challenge
  9. If it isn't possible for the business or organization to do any part of what it does without fossil fuel, consider whether you should be doing it at all

For communities and societies: 
  1. Review your economic development, planning and energy policies. Reconsider energy use and energy efficiency retrofit assistance in light of green Keynesian multipliers
  2. Take steps to reinforce local, regional and national multipliers using local, regional or domestic renewable energy and energy efficiency. Stop sending money out of the community to pay for fossil energy
  3. Reconsider society-wide economic incentives and disincentives. For instance, adopt cap and trade, or a Pigouvian tax on fossil fuel
  4. Encourage downsizing or lower impact lifestyles where possible. Not every person in society needs to be fully productive in the industrial economy. We may already have more production than we need, and in any case the development of labor-saving robotic machinery makes full employment much more difficult to achieve. In the absence of policies to encourage downsizing (a shorter working week, for instance, or a national wage) the benefits of improved production tend to go primarily to the already-wealthy
  5. Encourage cooperation over competition. Consider better incentives and policies for worker ownership, cooperatives, and community non-profit organizations
  6. Don't enact bans on backyard gardens and livestock such as chickens, on solar panels, wind turbines, on self-help building, and other desiderata, and prevent community associations and gated communities from doing the same
Caveat: If general downsizing becomes too popular, and outpaces growth in the green Keynesian multiplier, communities societies will have to take extra steps to protect the truly vulnerable from the loss of employment and/or public services. (The mainstream economic word for downsizing is "recession.")

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