9 Public Policies to Support that also Fight Climate Change
The year 2020 has been a struggle for many of us. It has also given me a lot of time to reflect on my goals and ambitions as well as think about ways to make things better. Some days I feel hopeless and wonder why we would ever want to go back to 'normal', a normal that just wasn't that great. Other days I am hopeful because solutions to many of our problems are becoming clearer now. I love how the pandemic has forced us to slow down and start caring more for each other. I am optimistic that COVID is opening new doors of opportunity to really transform society to something much more sustainable. Our time here on this planet is short. Why would we not choose a path that allows all of us to enjoy life more in this beautiful world and ensure that it remains that way for future generations? Fighting climate change means fighting human suffering.
In this month's blog, I have outlined 9 public policies that I believe you should consider supporting that also help fight climate change. I have included some of my own opinions and lots of links to other articles and studies to help you decide for yourself how best to solve some of these problems. Of course, there are other policies that deserve our support like healthcare and public education. The 9 that I have chosen are policies that have been mostly declining in support but need to be increasing with creative solutions. I hope you also notice how all of these social problems are linked. We cannot just pick and choose which policies to support. We need to find solutions for all of these problems. Every single aspect of our society makes an impact on our environment. We can make positive changes by supporting the right policies.
The COVID19 pandemic has brought light to a swath of social problems we have kept swept under the carpet up until now. You have most likely heard about Universal Basic Income in the news recently, especially if you received any sort of pandemic relief. Universal Basic Income (UBI) is a monthly, upfront cash payment delivered unconditionally to all individuals to cover the essential costs of living. It is designed to provide just enough to keep recipients out of poverty. There would be a positive ripple effect throughout the economy when more people are spending money and paying taxes.
Poverty in Alberta costs us between 7.1 and 9.5 billion every year. Studies have shown that ending poverty saves us money. Some believe that a UBI would disincentivize work. But is that really true? No one can get rich off UBI. It’s designed to be just enough to maintain food and shelter. A UBI would actually finally offer those really struggling the freedom to make their lives better by:
- finally being able to get ahead
- finding meaning
- living healthier with less stress
- having choice and freedom
- changing their lives
“In our current economy, many people find themselves trapped. Trapped in bad situations with abusive partners. Trapped in dead-end jobs with no hope for promotion or escape. Trapped in the cycle of poverty and homelessness. Trapped in debt. There are a significant number of Canadians who have - through no fault of their own - had their choices taken away from them. Canadians who want to improve their lives, but have no clear path to do so, and no choices available to change their destiny.” A UBI could transform their lives and our economy.
Most importantly, a UBI could break the link between work and consumption. “Breaking this could, if carefully managed over time, dramatically reduce environmental impacts by slowing the treadmill of producing and consuming things that currently fuels untrammelled economic growth. We could work less and consume less, and still meet our needs. Fear for the future would recede, meaning we wouldn’t have to work ever harder for fear of having no work in the future. This is especially important as automation and intelligent machines will increasingly compete with humans for most jobs.” Maintaining a habitable planet for us means we need to break the cycle of production and consumption. Our current system is destroying the very environment we depend on for survival. We need bold action and a UBI could lead the way.
As a final note, I would like to point out that the immediate implementation of a UBI could help ensure Canadians can stay safely at home in quarantine so that we can finally eradicate the spread of COVID19.
More reading about Universal Basic Income:
Universal Child Care
Like UBI, Universal Child Care has the ability to lift millions of women, children, even families out of poverty. As explained above, poverty only perpetuates the destructive cycle of production and consumption. We must support every policy that helps break this cycle.
Quebec has model that is recognized around the world. “85 percent of women ages 26-44 are now in the workforce in Québec, the highest participation rate in the world”. The program pays for itself due to the substantial increase in working women now paying into the system.
More reading about Universal Child Care:
Free Post Secondary Education
Rising tuition costs are throwing up more and more barriers to higher education for middle class Canadians and minority groups alike. We are also struggling to meet our climate targets. An investment in home grown innovation could make all the difference. Secondary Education (PSE) can play a key role in building a more sustainable economy. Through higher education and research, we can scale up our efforts to fight climate change. We need to start thinking about “investing in a fully-funded post-secondary education system that will ensure effective just transition programs and foster mitigation and adaptation research in all fields of study.”
More reading about Free Post Secondary Education:
Sustainable Food Policy
The growing and distribution of food is a major contributor to pollution and climate change. We need to support policies that mitigate these problems. A sustainable food policy will also help alleviate other problems that far too many Canadians experience including access to a stable supply of healthy food.
We need to demand a food policy that builds community and local resilience, fosters connection and collaboration between government, consumers and producers, grows food that improves the health of Canadians with a substantial reduction in diet-related illnesses, supports reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples and ultimately creates an environmentally friendly system we can maintain and benefit from for generations to come.
More reading about Food Policy:
Transportation Strategy that includes Bicycles
Close to 25% of greenhouse gas emissions in our country come from transportation, and they are only increasing. Supporting policies that create more options such as rail travel and bicycling will help cut emissions and reach reduction targets. Personal motor vehicle travel is expensive to maintain for everyone. We all pay for pollution, road building and maintenance regardless if we choose to drive or not. It also encourages sprawl which also costs a lot more to service.
Although I have heard a lot of support for electric cars and self-driving cars I do not believe that these will solve our problems. We need a system that encourages active transport, takes up less space, creates less pollution, and is affordable for everyone.
More reading on Sustainable Transportation:
A Housing Strategy
I must admit, I'm not very impressed with any strategies that our current and past governments have tried to implement concerning affordable housing and ending homelessness. There has been a lot of talk but not a lot of action. But, considering that inefficient housing is a major source of pollution we need to start working on this problem now. I believe that a major investment in co-op housing built to a minimum standard is required. I would like to see well designed developments that include housing for all types of dwellers (families, singles, seniors, etc) that makes use of green technology, integrates green spaces and encourages active transport. Co-op housing doesn’t need to be luxury but its design must be good enough that anyone would enjoy living in it and can afford it. Supporting a national housing strategy is also taking climate action by building more sustainably through better design, more inclusiveness and increased density.
More reading on Sustainable Housing:
Support Indigenous Ways
Until recently, colonialists have not given the Indigenous Peoples of Canada the respect they deserve. As the original stewards of this land, they and their cultures have the most knowledge to contribute when it comes to environmental conservation and combating climate change in our country. Not only do their oral histories contain valuable historical geological information but their languages contain a wealth of knowledge about the plant and animals and how to live sustainably with them. Governments around the world are starting to recognize that these cultures have an important role to play in the transition to a sustainable way of living everywhere. Supporting reconciliation right here is Canada is taking direct climate action.
More reading about Indigenous Ways:
I’m sure you’ve heard it before but, buying local is very important for your community and for mitigating climate change. It is a direct economic stimulus injecting more value per dollar spent than buying from nationally or internationally owned businesses. Supporting local also creates more variety, better quality, better service, and gives more to charity. Local businesses are the largest employers nationally yet environmental impact is far less. Local businesses also invest more in their own communities and require a lot less infrastructure utilizing public services more efficiently. Local businesses make our neighbourhoods more walkable. Buying from local businesses saves you money too. Hidden costs associated with low prices from big box retailers can be very high. We receive far more public benefit from supporting local instead. Buying local also builds independence and resiliency in our communities. We’re going to need that in the coming decades. An investment now means we’ll have a better change of weathering future storms.
More Reading about Supporting Local:
I recently did an in depth analysis of my carbon footprint. I wanted to see how my carbon footprint compared to fellow Calgarians and to the rest of the world. The dictionary definition of your carbon footprint is “the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere as a result of the activities of a particular individual”. For example mine is just below one which means that the earth has just enough resources to allow everyone on the planet to live like me. The average Calgarian footprint is seven, meaning 7 planets would be required to allow every human the same level of consumption as here in Calgary.
I have spent the last 10 years trying to live the most sustainable life possible. My carbon footprint is based on a number of factors such as where I live and in what type of dwelling, what I eat and where is comes from, how I travel and what mode I use among other things. The only way I can keep my carbon footprint under one is if I cut air travel. As soon as I board a plane my footprint goes up. It’s true that I could sacrifice other things in exchange for travel but instead I have opted to explore our world closer to home. I mostly get around on my bicycle but sure wish we had a more comprehensive rail network. Since anything other than air travel is slower, I am learning to enjoy the actual travel as much as the destination. In the long term, the bicycle can only get you so far. We should be investing in more low carbon travel options that allow us to enjoy the ride too.
Read more about Slow Travel: