A message to Occupy Wall Street
What now? That’s up to you.A great rising in the streets against the intolerable may catalyze healing change and basic reform. Or it may be met by further repression, the club, the gun and mass arrests.As a longtime Clamshell Alliance nonviolent activist, now energy consultant and writer, I’ll offer a few principles to help inform your shaping of the modes of healing change.Business as usual in not only unfair and unjust, it is unsustainable.We are on the path to global ecological and economic collapse. If we do not alter this path, we face a future defined by climate change, resource wars, crop failure, collapsing fisheries, depleted aquifers, famine, epidemics, failed states, and mass migration of the desperate.In response to this fundamental threat, economic growth must mean ecological improvement, not ecological destruction. We cannot continue down the current path toward catastrophe and collapse. Energy, agriculture, forestry, and industry must pursue available means to reduce waste and pollution while employing sustainable techniques.There are immediate steps we can take to put to reverse the tidal wave of poison, put millions to work, and build sustainable community-based businesses. In a generation, we can build an efficient renewable resource energy system to replace fossil fuels and nuclear power. Non-polluting efficient renewable resources can heat and cool our homes, power our cars, our businesses.We can put millions to work quickly going house to house, business to business, to improve energy efficiency several fold. We can use the dollars from this river of energy waste to finance the combined efficiency-renewable resource transformation. The work can be done through mechanisms such as a feed-in-tariff, soliciting competitive bids to install a combination of efficiency and renewables, and improvements paid for by deductions from savings on your utility bill.This efficient renewable resource transformation is not a technical problem. It’s a political problem. We have the technology. There’s enormous waste and copious renewable resources. There’s capital available. We face a crisis of the imagination of business as usual.What’s needed is the government determination to put the transformation in motion.We need constructive structural adjustment.To send signals for sustainability throughout the economy we can adopt an ecological consumption tax system. We tax the bads (that is, pollution) and not the goods (that is, income). We can phase out all income taxes and phase in a smart ecological sales tax, an ecological value-added tax on all goods and services. The more polluting, depleting and ecologically damaging, the higher the tax. Sustainable goods and services will gain market share and be more profitable. Polluting goods and services will lose market share and become less profitable.Since consumption taxation is regressive, since poor people spend all income, a negative income tax for the poor can maintain tax equity.And to keep the momentum of the efficient renewable transformation, a community-based National Trust banking system, with local democratic control, can be established using tax dollars for initial capitalization. A small Tobin tax on financial transactions can raise both raise funds and control speculation. An inheritance tax on estates of millionaires can help fund the negative income tax and maintain inter-generational equity, serving as an antidote to plutocracy and rule by billionaire babies.The Occupy Wall Street movement is a fundamental challenge to bankrupt financial and political business as usual. Our futures have yet to be written. From crisis can come healing change.Roy Morrison is director of the Office for Sustainability at Southern New Hampshire University. His next book, “Sustainability and Liberation,” is forthcoming.