Advice to Students: Understand Money, Localize
A coal industry CEO told students at a small Quaker boarding high school to prepare for jobs in coal mines and power plants, rather than study philosophy or become community organizers.
“We don’t need another community organizer,” said Bob Murray, the chief executive of Ohio-based Murray Energy, to “revolutionize the country.” Instead, he said, students need skills for jobs in the real world, and “I’m the guy that does create jobs.”
Oddly enough, the venue for Murray’s talk was at the Olney Friends School’s sustainability summit in Barnesville in October, where teachers, students and alumni were imagining how the Southeast Ohio school would fare in facing the end of the fossil fuel age, and how they might build a green economy in the region.
Participants learned about green entrepreneurism, food cooperatives, Amish technology, renewable energy innovations, local food organizing and local currencies; made apple butter and watched films on the problems of industrial corn production.
The wide-eyed optimism of the green future may have been dimmed by a king of dirty energy imploring that coal was necessary to maintain their quality of life, except for an even more confounding presentation by policy wonk Michael Shellenberger.
Shellenberger, famous as the co-author of an influential New York Times article, The Death of Environmentalism, traced humanity’s greatest accomplishments, including the civil rights movement, to the affluence created by fossil fuels. His solutions for global warming, since individual actions like buying hybrid cars do little to nothing, were nuclear energy and genetically modified foods.
At first glance Shellenberger, a young, crisply-dressed West Coast environmental strategist, and Murray, a stocky, graying man who has spent his career in the coal business, seemed not to have much in common. But both preach high technology as the answer to humanity’s energy woes—technology created and owned by large multi-national corporations, which are designed to amass enormous monetary and physical wealth by exploiting natural resources and human labor.
Murray started his talk by telling students they needed jobs to live, specifically jobs in his “real economy.” I spoke before Murray and essentially said the students needed to work with others in their local communities and neighborhoods to provide for much of their essential needs, such as food, shelter, healthcare and security, by exchanging local goods and services and relying less on money and debt.
I also offered a general description of the current monetary system, in which the nation’s money supply is created out of thin air by private banks as debt. This system can never be used to create a sustainable economy because it requires the economy to continually grow through borrowing or collapse. While the loan making helps to keep enough money in circulation and wards off a deflationary collapse, it can also accelerate natural resource depletion as income must be generated to pay at least the interest costs on accumulating debts.
And this debt-based, wealth-concentrating growth model, predicated on turning natural resources into consumer products and, ultimately, waste, only works in the long run if resources and pollution sinks are infinite. But carbon dioxide is fast filling up the atmosphere and fossil fuel production is on the verge of decline. In the meantime, the growth imperative continues to lead to a free-for-all for the increasingly scarce money and jobs that people think they need to live and for the economy to grow.
I suggested that by developing local credit and currency systems and small businesses to exchange goods and services—such as through local agriculture and energy production—communities can keep more of their money circulating locally. And to realize that by some estimates, about 40 percent of what we spent on goods and services is to cover the interest costs on the debts that producers and service providers accumulate—not to mention the finite fossil fuels devoured in the long-distance transport of consumer products under free trade.
Perhaps Olney Friends School could teach students about how this unsustainable, debt-based money system really works—for it is based on charging interest on loans, a practice claimed at times to be usury, and said to have been condemmed as morally wrong by various philosophers and religious leaders throughout history. And students can also learn how to connect with their neighbors to meet many of their needs locally and sustainably.
In short, the students should study philosophy and become community organizers.
People across New England witnessed a dramatic celestial event Sunday night.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By David Reichmuth
Over the last month, I've seen a number of opinion articles attacking electric vehicles (EVs). Sadly, this comes as no surprise: now that the Biden administration is introducing federal policies to accelerate the roll out of electric vehicles, we were bound to see a reaction from those that oppose reducing climate changing emissions and petroleum use.
The majority of EVs sold in 2020 were models with a starting price (Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price) under $40,000 and only a fifth of models had a starting price over $60,000.
On Friday, China set out an economic blueprint for the next five years, which was expected to substantiate the goal set out last fall by President Xi Jinping for the country to reach net-zero emissions before 2060 and hit peak emissions by 2030.
The Great Trail in Canada is recognized as the world's longest recreational trail for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing. Created by the Trans Canada Trail (TCT) and various partners, The Great Trail consists of a series of smaller, interconnected routes that stretch from St. John's to Vancouver and even into the Yukon and Northwest Territories. It took nearly 25 years to connect the 27,000 kilometers of greenway in ways that were safe and accessible to hikers. Now, thanks to a new partnership with the Canadian Paralympic Committee and AccessNow, the TCT is increasing accessibility throughout The Great Trail for people with disabilities.
Trans Canada Trail and AccessNow partnership for AccessOutdoors / Trails for All project. Mapping day at Stanley Park Seawall in Vancouver, British Columbia with Richard Peter. Alexa Fernando<p>This partnership also comes at a time when access to outdoor recreation is more important to Canadian citizens than ever. <a href="https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/200527/dq200527b-eng.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Studies from the spring of 2020</a> indicate that Canadian's <a href="https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/moneytalk-mental-health-during-covid-19-1.1567633" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mental health has worsened</a> since the onset of social distancing protocols due to COVID-19. </p><p>The <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/safe-activities-during-covid19/art-20489385" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mayo Clinic</a> lists hiking, biking, and skiing as safe activities during COVID-19. Their website explains, "When you're outside, fresh air is constantly moving, dispersing these droplets. So you're less likely to breathe in enough of the respiratory droplets containing the virus that causes COVID-19 to become infected."</p><p>TCT leadership took this into consideration when embarking on the accessibility project. McMahon explains that there has never been a more important time to bring accessibility to the great outdoors: "Canadians have told us that during these difficult times, they value access to natural spaces to stay active, take care of their mental health, and socially connect with others while respecting physical distancing and public health directives. This partnership is incredibly important especially now as trails have become a lifeline for Canadians."</p><p>Together, these organizations are paving the way for better physical and mental health among all Canadians. To learn more about the TCT's mission and initiatives, check out their <a href="https://thegreattrail.ca/stories/" target="_blank">trail stories</a> and <a href="https://thegreattrail.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/TCT_2020-Donor-Impact-Report_EN_8.5x14-web.pdf" target="_blank">2020 Impact Report</a>.</p>