I am speaking at a rally organized by Sierra Club on June 10 2015. I worte a pretty good speech, then decided I needed somthing different. The second is differnt even though it starts with the same slogan. I present them in the order I wrote them, and will read the second at the Rally.
You can not heal ecosystems without ending poverty, you can not end poverty without healing ecosystems, and we shall not do much of anything useful if we do not shut down the war machine and close the empire.
I have been watching the development of the New England and Rhode Island economies for more than 30 years, and the places I am most familiar with, Maine and Rhode Island, have consistently had an unemployment rate higher than the national average. I am aware and understand hard times in both rural America and urban America.
We are constantly told that Rhode Island needs a better business climate, but the reality is that Rhode Island actually needs to deal with Climate Change to put its economic house in order.
If we compare adjacent states with regressive versus progressive policies, Vermont and New Hampshire, Kansas and Missouri, Wisconsin and Minnesota in each pair the state that did not cut taxes for the rich and has maintained the integrity of the regulatory system has lower unemployment and better economic health. In other words doing exactly what the business climate prescription tells us to do gives us exactly the wrong answer.
We are also told that transparency and simple straightforward rules are the best, and I agree with that, but unfortunately the RI legislature continues to focus on sweetheart deals, real estate speculation, and tax cuts as its economic development strategy. This strategy has failed for 50 years, and betting on Meds and Eds on the I-195 lands development is going to work out just as well. Could there be something more typically Rhode Island than inside players getting the public to fund a baseball stadium on land that will be below sea level in the lifetime of some of the people assembled here today?
If Rhode Island is to get its economic house in order, the first thing it should do is develop a tax system that places a much bigger burden on the wealthy. Cutting taxes for the wealthy makes the economy more unequal and after Picketty, how can anyone take seriously supply side economics seriously. If the gap between rich and poor grows, especially after the end of real economic growth, (which is a story for another day) then everyone else is getting poorer, and it shows, as it does so brightly in Rhode Island. Tax cuts for the Rich in RI have not done a lick of good, but somehow the leadership of the legislature keeps talking about doing more of this.
After we get equality and justice right, or rather at the same time as we get equality and justice right, we have to get ecosystems right. Cut carbon emissions to zero, reforest the sprawl, and grow much more of our food right here. Go to zero waste. Compost. Implicit in a zero carbon society is solar and wind and wave energy. Restoring habitat for endangered species and cleaning up air and water emissions,have done wonders for the American economy. In spite of the serious efforts to destroy them and lies about what is actually going on. It is only when democracy is actually practiced that we can together deal with the war machine corruption, speculation, and ecosystem collapse that the 1% is shoveling on top of us.
Just as an aside there is only one organization on the planet that is planetary, that explicitly addresses the interrelationship of democracy, economy, ecology, equality, and peace, The Green Party, but for today, for here in Rhode Island in 2015, the takeaway is that the business climate game is a cruel joke on the people of Rhode Island and that stronger ecosystem protection, greater food security, solar and wind energy, and greater justice is what it will take to create prosperity in our communities in the future. And no public money for the millionaires baseball stadium. Keep the Pawsox in Pawtucket.
You can not heal ecosystems without ending poverty, you can not end poverty without healing ecosystems, and if you do not shut down the war machine, you will not do any of it.
I thought about what to say, and could easily give you stump speech, but instead today I want to challenge you to think about something not really on the radar, the End of Economic Growth…
Ecosystems are in collapse, primarily to feed the ever expanding maw of consumerism. We must have MORE. And without MORE civilization will end. Excuse me, but what planet are they living on?
Here on Earth, we need to use less, and considering how many people really do NEED more, then the 1% and the middle class in the industrial world are going to have to use less.
Some people think that is impossible or it would be horrible. But we have to think about prosperity rather than growth. We have to reduce inequality, heal ecosystems, close the war machine, create zero carbon emissions, reforest and farm our sprawl. Not build shopping centers or the next big thing.
There is much spending we could easily eliminate in ways that mean a happier, healthier, and more vibrant community while spending less money and refusing to exploit workers around the world.
For Providence’s prosperity start with food security and turn the I-195 land into farms, not biomedical labs or baseball stadiums. If we keep thinking economic development starts with real estate speculation and subsidies for the rich, we shall be stuck forever. If we think we need to relax environmental protections to grow the economy faster, remind yourself that for 99% of us growth left town years ago, and ecosystem health underlies our prosperity.
The I-195 land is a brownfield, and I agree that brownfields are among the keys to the future of the RI economy, but not how the clowns on Smith Hill think about it, where giving subsidies and tax breaks to the rich is the only thing on the table.
I want you to think about the connection between brownfields and tropical forests. The 195 land destroyed neighborhoods 50 years ago, so it is hard to think about the people who lived there, but think about a place like Olneyville where the brownfields still are embedded in a neighborhood. Who lives there, and who will benefit from Brownfield redevelopment?
Now think about forests. Forest health may be the most important indicator of ecosystem health on Earth, and no one has ever figured out how to build cities without a new supply of wood. Now think about the people who live in forests, who are often he most marginalized and disenfranchised people in a country, just like those who live near brownfields. Usually the wood supply was obtained by genocide.
With the forest more than half gone and our ever growing understanding of how important forest are to our communities people are wondering how to keep the forests healthy. The World Bank did a study and figured out that the best way to preserve forests and help forest communities escape poverty is to give the forest dwellers secure tenure, and then make sure that any economic development projects keep the benefits in the hands of the poorest people in the community, usually women.
Brought to Providence it is clear that as long as the benefits from the development of brownfields is directed towards the speculators and the inside dealers (the same people who steal forests from the people who live there) instead of the benefits staying in the hands of the people in the community, our wealth gap will get worse, our economy and ecosystems will crumble and the world will be a more violent place.
Keep the Pawsox in Pawtucket and make sure the benefits of redevelopment flow to the poor, not the rich. This is how you heal ecosystems and create prosperous communities. And one day I hope the clowns of Smith Hill will begin to comprehend.