Nov 21, 2018: Profit & Poverty
Today, as Public Interest Alberta called for a poverty reduction strategy, given that “one in six children are living in poverty in Alberta”, I spent the day today thinking together about sustainable research and sustainable futures with colleagues and student interns. Part of what we were thinking through is not only how to live differently but how to lead others to think likewise and to tackle the greatest challenge we face: to live sustainably on the planet. If we are to collectively, as the human race/species, think in nuanced ways about sustainability, it will allow us to not only tackle climate change and/or address the challenge of energy transition using more than the measure of carbon budgets balanced against fiscal limits, it will also allow us to disrupt the systems of inequity that result in child poverty and a plethora of other social issues. A province in which the natural wealth of the place and its resources become the monetary wealth of a select few, while more children live in poverty, is unsustainable or at least should be considered unacceptable. And yet, yesterday, in anticipation of an upcoming provincial election, the front page of the Edmonton Journal was a full page advertisement, with three subsequent full-page ads, all proclaiming Conservative party leader Jason Kenney the best choice for our next premier. His promise is to cut the carbon tax and cut taxes to families. My question is how he will fund the province with so much less revenue. And, what everyone should be asking is what he will no longer fund: schools? hospitals? The thinking of Kenney and his cronies aligns with neoclassical economic thinking relies on the exclusion of care and care industries. What if we were to rethinking the future and the possibilities of a “plan for jobs,” as Kenney calls it, through a feminist lens that mobilizes feminist economics to support other feminist values and a feminist ethics of care? What if the commonly accepted ontology of individualistic capitalism were to be replaced with a relational ontology that prioritized social life? What if jobs were designed to grow social wellbeing not the national GDP? In this version of Alberta, we could inject money into the care sectors–hospitals and schools, daycares and social programming, when jobs in the energy sector wane. This would, on the one hand, provide more jobs to support families. Furthermore, these care sectors also support families in their lived everyday. Third, these jobs are largely low-carbon industries that grow the economy while allowing us to more reasonable balance our carbon budgets (not that that can ever be the only target in addressing climate change, if climate justice is the ultimate goal). I’m tired of a world in which an endless cycle of consumption and economic growth on a finite planet is considered “common sense”, “reasonable,” and mature/adult or grown up. I’ll say it again: endless growth on a finite planet with finite resources. Reasonable? I think not.
My vote will be for whoever will be working for policies that sustain (multispecies) life and quality of life, rather than the profit of a few human beings.