Archive for April, 2010

Added value

Well, it’s the end of April, which means that if you’re like me, you’ve left your taxes until the last minute and are now staring at a screen full of incomprehensible formulae and sweating tiny drops of blood from your forehead. Outside the sun is shining and people with more organizational skills, or possibly their own accountants, are playing frisbee in the park. I am strongly tempted to just go back to bed and give up this whole “responsible adult” thing as a bad idea.

So, in a futile effort at procrastination, here are some interesting tax-related links for y’all:

You probably already know about Conscience Canada, which supports a Peace Tax Trust Fund, allowing people “to divert the military portion of their taxes, to be held in trust until there is a law respecting conscientious objection to military taxation.” They have things you can send in with your taxes if you just want to make a symbolic objection, or if you actually want to withhold money from the government. Either way, a good cause.

Here’s a breakdown of the US Federal Budget for 2009 from PhD Comics, for those Americans who are interested in where their money actually goes. (For instance, some of it goes to the National Helium Reserve, which is $1.6 billion in debt. Feel proud!)

The Green Party explains how a carbon tax would work. This is a lot clearer than most explanations I’ve run across.

I tried to find something amusing to end with, but you know what, all the tax jokes on the internet are deeply sad, so never mind.

Earth Days

So I was going to do an Earth Day post, but spent the day planting lettuces and turning over the dirt instead. Probably not a bad thing overall.

I’m a little uncomfortable with the whole idea of Earth Day anyway; I suspect it falls into the same consciousness-area as the rationalization of buying green products giving you a license to be ecologically lazy in other areas. I had this conversation with friends of mine during Earth Hour (the “turn off your lights for an hour” thing) where one of them actually said that since she was doing this, she didn’t feel so bad about driving to Kingston the next day. Repeat after me: that’s not the point that’s not the point that’s not the point.

Which is one thing I really like about 350.org’s current Global Work Party campaign; they make it clear that it’s not about “changing the world one solar panel at a time”, but rather about raising awareness and getting other people, especially politicians, on board. And meanwhile it does still accomplish something concrete as well, without which there would probably be fewer people getting involved in the first place.

They don’t yet seem to have a function on their website to find or join existing work parties, so you can’t tell what’s going on in your community, but that’s probably going to be added. I don’t know if I’ll have the ability to organize something, but we’ll see.

This.

Just read an excellent article over on AlterNet, discussing what impact Bill Gates’ big speech of a few days ago might have. Gates just announced that he’s putting his massive resources and personal clout behind the target of getting to zero carbon emissions by 2050. Globally. Zero.

From the AlterNet article:

Gates spoke about his commitment to using his massive philanthropic resources (the Gates Foundation is the world’s largest) to make life better for people through public health and poverty alleviation (“vaccines and seeds” as he put it). Then he said something he’s never said before: that is it because he’s committed to improving life for the world’s vulnerable people that he now believes that climate change is the most important challenge on the planet.

Even more importantly, he acknowledged the only sensible goal, when it comes to climate emissions, is to eliminate them: we should be aiming for a civilization that produces no net emissions, and we should be aiming to live in that civilization here in the developed world by 2050.

I don’t think most of us even let ourselves dream about that kind of goal. Successes in the environmental movement, especially at the global level, are so depressingly few and far between that we have a tendency to define our goals very narrowly, to try to insulate ourselves a little from the cascade of disaster that would otherwise bury us. I can imagine and work towards a bike lane on Ste-Catherine Street. That’s a goal I can see reaching. I don’t think I could honestly focus on the goal of a zero-carbon-emissions world without falling into despair.

Maybe that’s just me. Maybe I give up too easily. But I think a lot of us would be daunted by this scale of work; because we don’t normally work on that scale. And the people who do work on a global scale readily, the CEOs of international corporations and the politicians of nation-states and the generally super-rich, they aren’t thinking this way. (I’m going to define “they” in a very reductionist way here as “anybody who has access to their very own airplane”.)

That’s why everyone’s buzzing so much about this: because Gates isn’t David Suzuki, he isn’t George Monbiot; he’s one of them. And now we’ve got one of them on our side.

Is his goal realistic? I don’t know. Is he, even with all the resources of his foundation, going to be able to have much of an impact here? Maybe, maybe not. But it sure is one heck of a morale boost that he’s decided to try.