Saturday, 26 March 2016

The People's Assembly Against Austerity is holding a march for health, homes, jobs and education on Saturday 16 april 2016, why should greens support it?

Climate change and the human-driven forces behind it are spreading new diseases. As eco systems all over the world are disrupted and destroyed to extract raw materials and to create the infrastructure for this extraction; and then also, for manufacturing and expanding human settlement, some organisms will move into new environments. This is nothing new, it has been happening for centuries, it is a process accelerated with and by increasing international trade. It causes climate change which alters the geographic ranges of organisms and it impacts human populations and/or their food animals and plants as diseases and pests may encounter species that have historically evolved no resistance to them.

Additionally the exploitation of new environments, coupled with climate change can bring about increased catastrophic events: floods, droughts, landslides wild fires and storms to name a few.

The icing on the cake, or the shit in the sandwich, may be loss of biodiversity, many species will be made extinct. This has moral implications, raising the question of what right homo sapiens has to give its existence, comfort and cultural needs precedence over the existence of some other animals, plants and slime moulds. It has practical implications as well; we may not know of the potential medicinal value of a threatened species until after it has gone; and we may not know the importance of species for others in its ecosystem. An example being the Mauritian tree whose seeds could only germinate if they had been swallowed by a dodo and had their casing softened in the dodo’s crop.

All this means we need our Health Services, and the scientific research on which they are based, more than ever. We will also need our emergency services more. These services need to be available to as many as need them, publicly provided and free at the point of use.

Climate change produces refugees because it will destroy some peoples’ habitats; their housing and/or the lands or waters that they need for food. It also generates resource wars, which often have the effect of making human survival in some areas perilous in the extreme and degrading environments so that they are no longer habitable. Refugees tend to up in very low grade housing, at its most extreme in tents, shacks and shipping containers. One step up from that, in Britain, they’ll likely end up in an underprivileged and vulnerable position in a housing market rigged by the government against poor people in general.

Social housing provision In Britain is being squeezed out of existence and as precedence is given to profit-motivated developers of housing for the rich, a process of ’social cleansing’ is taking place in some areas. The effects of this are to create a housing distribution which is almost exactly opposite to one which makes any kind of environmental sense. Instead of housing people near to their work, it maximises the amount of commuting that they do, and the amount of carbon emissions, whilst minimising the potential for using low carbon forms of transport such as walking and cycling. As this travelling time cuts out large slices of what could be leisure or family time a more sensible policy of providing affordable housing near people’s’ work could be an issue where housing activists could make common cause, since travelling time is effectively often work time being given to employers for free.

Then there is the question of what kind of housing we need as well as who it’s for and where it is. Often when climate change is discussed, the building of new energy providing devices is emphasised, but emission reduction also entails using less energy.  This could mean a shorter commute but it must also entail far better home insulation, possibly incorporating forms of micro generation, roof top solar panels being an obvious example. Other means of energy saving in housing could be possible, such as sharing some facilities between households, but other technical innovations may be possible or could be invented and developed. These possibilities have implications for jobs and education.

Creation of a low carbon economy could involve the creation of millions of jobs, maybe more than the 1m initial target in the ccc pamphlet, expansion of the health and housing sectors have already been mentioned, but there are many other areas which could expand: renewables, recycling, alternative transport modes, a renovation of a canal system as transport, the re-extension of rail, wind power for shipping, localised agricultural production  and yet again more scientific research.

Education could be added to the list of job sectors that should be expanded to create and maintain a low carbon economy. The school sector has a role to play, but so does adult, further and higher education both in educating and training workers for new and expanded industries; and if the transition to these is to be just, workers in those industries that will decline may well need retraining. Since the creation of a low carbon economy, will involve continuing innovations based on scientific and technological research the education it needs is a flexible one where people can move in and out of work to retrain as the economy develops and changes.
Achieving this is not just about expanding that which now exists, it is about redefining, the relation of education to industries, communities, science and to the local and central state. In many ways education needs to be autonomous, the types of teaching and research should not be dictated or restricted by commercial or sectional interests, which are now far too easily able to purchase the types of education and research that suit them. However education needs to have some accountability to the communities where it is located which means elected representation for trades unions and community organisations, (including the parents of school students), precisely to prevent  education institutions only serving one part of a community or one firm.

The public education needed to develop a low carbon economy is now under attack and needs defending.

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