Ten Ways Politicians Can Help the World
First published in Corporate Knights, 2006
1. Plan All Your Work For The Next Generation
You must be aware that all is not well in our world. There is a reason why so many young people feel depressed about the future. In 1999, Sweden set a goal that within one generation, each of the sixteen major environmental problems facing Swedes will have been solved (except climate change, for which the date is 2050). Each goal comes with objectives and indicators of progress. By their own admittance, they have a long way to go, but at least they have their minds set on the future. We need a Minister of Tomorrow in a prominent cabinet position to look after the interests of the next generation.
2. Empower Women
Speaking as a man, we’ve not done a very good job of caring for our planet. When Scilla Elworthy founded the Oxford Research Group to identify the individuals who were making decisions about nuclear weapons, she found that of the hundreds of people involved, only a handful were women. We men tend to get on our high horses and prance around, whereas women are more likely to sit down and work out what needs to be done. Ensure that 50% of the positions in key decision-making bodies go to women. Appoint as many women as possible to all peacemaking commissions and negotiations.
3. Take Climate Change Very Seriously
It’s not a ruse, or a left-wing scheme to undermine capitalism. It’s remorselessly serious. The last time global temperatures were 3°C warmer, sea levels were 25 metres higher. We need a firm commitment to reduce our emissions by 30% by 2020, and 80% by 2050, as California has said it will do. We can deal with both climate change and peak oil if we simply embark on the next great energy revolution, involving sustainable energy. In Britain, the Conservative Party is saying “Let’s take this out of politics, and work together to solve the problem.”
4. Close the Offshore Tax Havens
Today’s tax havens are like the islands where pirates stashed their loot, two hundred years ago. What purpose do they have apart from helping wealthy people and businesses to avoid paying taxes, thereby passing more of the burden onto ordinary working people? The Tax Justice Network estimates that private individuals have got $11.5 trillion hidden away in offshore accounts, at a probable cost to their governments of $255 billion a year. This is more than enough to fund the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, which include halving extreme poverty, halting the spread of AIDS, and providing universal primary education for all children.
5. Pass a Balanced Budget Law for Sustainable Development Indicators
Everyone wants to correct the fiscal imbalance. It’s good economic sense. But while we are straightening up the financial books, every year we are going further into ecological debt, plunging our arms ever deeper into the Earth’s long-time store of ecological capital. What makes us think we are entitled to empty the oceans, clearcut the forests, and use up the freshwater, all in just two generations? Our unborn grandchildren must be turning over in their spirit-caves. A simple law would do it, requiring the government to balance the ecological books in each of the key ecological areas.
6. Tax Pollution, not Solutions
Does it makes sense to tax things we want less of, such as garbage, plastic bags, and carbon emissions, rather than things we want more of, such as incomes and jobs? Every year, Sweden shifts more of its taxes onto pollution. And what kind of craziness gives tax breaks to the oil companies, who add fuel to the climate change fire? The Canadian government is giving $1.2 billion of our money to the consortium headed by Imperial (aka Exxon) to build the Mackenzie natural gas pipeline, to fuel the hyper-profitable tar sands. Exxon made $34 billion in profits in 2005. Is that not enough? North American politicians should unite to require a windfall tax on the oil companies, and use it to pay for the transition into a sustainable energy future.
7. Support Democratic Reform
As a politician, you have been elected to power because …. well, since, 60% of your constituents may have voted for some other candidate, I’m not sure why you’re in power. This “first past the post” system of choosing our MPs is hardly democratic. It props up the largest parties, but prevents people from being governed democratically. Electoral dysfunction, drooping democracy – there is a cure! It’s known as proportional representation, as practiced by most European democracies. Will it help the world as a whole? Yes, because healthy democracies make better decisions than unfair, corrupted, and stolen democracies.
8. Call 007
There’s an awful lot of misery in the world, whose name is poverty, hunger, and disease. There are plenty of solutions (immunization, primary health care, microcredit), but they need us to bring out the bond within, and come to their rescue by giving 00.7% of our gross national income in aid, as we promised we would as far back as 1970. Miss Moneypenny has grave misgivings about our performance, so it’s time for some action.
9. Work for a World without War
Believe it or not, the world is making good progress in its quest to end all war. It simply requires persistence, and dedication to the work of peace-building, which groups like Parliamentarians for Global Action are giving.
See www.pgaction.org + www.middlepowers.org + www.globalactionpw.org
10. Step Out From Behind Your Politician’s Mask
Helping the world should be on everyone’s agenda – it is not party specific. So come one out, and work with politicians from whatever party to make a difference on the big global issues. There’s only us – and we can make a difference.
Guy Dauncey is President of the BC Sustainable Energy Association, and Co-Chair of Prevent Cancer Now. He lives in Victoria. His website is www.earthfuture.com.