Green Capitalism - Waves of the Future

Climate Change, Non-Renewable Resources, Energy, Contaminants, Carbon Pricing...

A New Solution for Climate Change, Depletable Mineral Resources, Harmful Pollutants, and Sustainable Development

The 21st Century Environmental Revolution (2nd Ed.): A Structural Strategy for Global Warming, Resource Conservation, Toxic Contaminants, and the Environment / The Fourth Wave //

See also Book II of the Waves of the Future Series

A Brief Summary of the Approach
A Proven Strategy for Global Warming
Revenue-Neutral Taxes/Carbon Pricing: 
A Free Solution for Taxpayers

Cap-and-Trade vs the GEE
The Failure of Cap-and-Trade
The Climate Change Component
Other Components of the Strategy
A New Sustainable Society

The Green Economic Environment (GEE)
See also Green Growth & Degrowth

By simply changing the way governments collect taxes--AND WITHOUT INCREASING THEM--countries could create a green economic structure in which environment-friendly goods and technologies, as well as ecological practices, would be rewarded. This would result in green growth. Economies would progressively and effortlessly become greener and greener over time.

The same structure would put non-green goods at a competitive disadvantage and result in degrowth in their sector. The GEE would therefore have a double impact on economies and be twice as powerful as any other strategy for it.

The GEE would change the incentive structure of economies and make the massive power of markets help save the environment instead of destroy it. This new revenue-neutral strategy could be the most powerful approach we have so far for long-term sustainability.

The GEE is NOT an ELEGANT SOLUTION on the surface as it relies on taxation and would imply changes in the pricing of consumer goods. BUT consumer prices have always changed--the cost of energy has gone up, that of electronics has gone down, etc.--and will continue to do so, and the GEE is CHEAPER (ESSENTIALLY FREE) and MORE EFFECTIVE than other strategies, making it the best choice overall.

The GEE would provide a viable alternative to GHG targets and credit trading systems without reliance on additional funding sources, subsidies, or new regulations. It would help boost demand and markets for natural clean solar and wind power as well as for ethanol and biodiesel while addressing the problem of net efficiency in biofuel production. Cars and the auto industry would see many changes in conjunction with the development of smart-grid technology. It would provide a means for managing both depletable and renewable resources.

The GEE would address both the causes and the effects of climatic change and could help save the environment, save the earth.

Components of the Approach

Global Warming, CO2, GHG, &
Carbon Emission Pricing

Toxic Chemicals & Contaminants
Green Packaging, Recycling, & Reuse
Renewable Energy & Resource Management
Non-Renewable Resources
Green Transportation
Hybrid, Electric, and Hydrogen Vehicles

Population Growth

Concepts Underlying the GEE
Excerpts from Henderson's Book, ©2010

Commitment to the environment has picked up recently but still falls short of what we need. We have to shift gear, or we will leave behind a devastated world to future generations. We need fundamental change.

The only strategies powerful enough to turn things around for the environment are those targeting the very structure of economies. Patching up after disasters or dealing with symptoms has not worked so far and will likely continue to fail us in the future.

We need to use markets to our advantage and make them work for us. This could be achieved by changing the incentive structure of the marketplace in order to create an economic environment in which environmental practices would be more profitable than their opposites. The new structure would make green goods cheaper than others, prompting a shift in consumption patterns and industrial practices.

The First Principle
The first principle of a comprehensive environmental strategy is the recognition that a significant part of environmental contamination and degradation is directly related to the amount of non-renewable resources we dig out of the ground. Decreasing our consumption of these resources is key to both conserving them for future generations and reducing environmental degradation.

Many environmentalists campaign hard when it comes to global warming and pollution, but few call for action on the conservation of non-renewable metallic resources. Yet, these issues are intimately connected, one being a significant part of the solution to the other.

One of today's generally accepted principles in science is that nothing is created nor destroyed. Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794) and Mikhail Lomonosov (1711-1765) are credited with its development and formulation. The law of mass/matter conservation, as it is known, pertains to the fact that things in the physical world are not destroyed when they burn or decompose. They are simply transformed into something else.

As a kid, you saw a log burn and assumed that the combustion process destroyed it almost completely, that most of its matter simply disappeared. In fact, it was only transformed. Some of it was released into the atmosphere as water vapor, gas, or smoke. Certain elements burned down to ashes, and the energy that was captured from the sun through photosynthesis was radiated back into the environment.

According to the Lomonosov-Lavoisier law, the tons of ore that we mine every year are not magically destroyed after we are finished with them. They end up in the environment. Some of what we extract from the ground becomes refuse at mining sites, and some is emitted into the air or discharged into toxic lagoons. Jared Diamond, an American evolutionary biologist and UCLA professor, describes the hardrock (metals) mining industry as "currently the leading toxic polluter in the U.S., responsible for nearly half of reported industrial pollution" (Diamond, 2005, p. 452).

The rest of what is extracted in the mining process is made into goods that eventually end up in landfill sites. But the story does not end there. As Annegrete Bruvoll, the Head of Research at the Unit for Energy and Environmental Economics (Statistics Norway) reports, "End treatment, i.e. waste disposal and incineration, results in emissions of toxic pollutants and greenhouse gases, and seepage from waste disposal sites pollutes ground water and watercourses" (Bruvoll, 1998, p. 16).

The total amount of minerals we extract every year is exactly equal to the amount of wastes we generate (refuse, emissions, fluid discharges, garbage, gases and solids from incineration, etc.). One ton of extracted minerals today means one ton of waste added to the environment tomorrow. We dig out ore annually by the millions of tons. Therefore, by the same millions of tons, we create wastes and pollutants every year!

Reusing and recycling are the closest thing we have come to so far in terms of a solution to the problem. Unfortunately, our best efforts only minimally delay environmental degradation. Most things can only be reused or recycled so many times.

In the long term, our two most prominent achievements, reusing and recycling, will only give us a bit more time as everything will sooner or later end up in the environment. Although their impact is very significant in the short term, they cannot bring change on the scale needed and are only part of the solution.

Conservation, on the other hand, achieves two goals at the same time. It preserves resources for future generations and massively reduces wastes and pollution: one ton for every ton of minerals not mined or extracted.

The Second Principle
The second principle of a comprehensive environmental strategy is that cutting down on the extraction of minerals would not only preserve resources and massively reduce pollution but also achieve a third goal: decrease our use of the battery of invisible toxic compounds produced in the processing of ores and manufacturing of goods.

Many of the toxic chemicals that are released into the environment today result from the transformation of the minerals we mine and their manufacturing into finished goods. A range of compounds--intermediate chemicals--are produced for those purposes or are by-products of manufacturing. This is also true of certain toxic metals. As such, they often end up in lagoons, waterways, and the atmosphere just like intermediate chemicals.

For example, mercury is at times used in the extraction of gold. It is also contained in the ores of other minerals, the smelting of which releases the volatile metal into the atmosphere. The burning of coal for electricity or other purposes also results in the emission of mercury into the air in addition to all the other pollutants its combustion produces.

By virtue of the fact that nothing is created nor destroyed, intermediate chemicals and some toxic metals also end up in the environment, in their original forms or as byproducts.

The Third Principle
The third principle of a comprehensive environmental strategy is that we have to reduce world population. Even the greenest measures and initiatives will not be able to compensate for the devastation that billions of people can wreak upon the earth. The greater it is, the more resources are consumed at any given point in time.

For example, if the total number of people on the planet were reduced by 30% and everything else remained the same, we would theoretically consume 30% fewer goods and use up approximately 30% fewer resources. We would need to extract 30% less mineral, burn 30% less fossil fuels. We would create 30% less waste, pollution, and degradation. Industrialized countries consume far more than their fair share of resources. Reducing their population would have a much larger impact on mineral reserves and the health of the planet.

Today's efforts towards the environment only skim the surface of problems and have no hope of ever catching up to the current rate of destruction. There is just too much being dumped into the environment, from the billions of tons of minerals extracted every year, to the millions of gallons of intermediate chemicals, to the multitudes of soaps, detergents, solvents, and cosmetics flushed down rivers on a daily basis.

Waves of the Future ©2010
More information: The Nature Conservancy OECD Sustainable Development