Good news for a change

Young red-necked wallaby. Photo by benjamint444 licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNU_Free_Documentation_License

Young red-necked wallaby. Photo by benjamint444 licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNU_Free_Documentation_License

I’ve been doing a lot of reading on climate change these last couple of days, which is just as depressing as you imagine. So it’s nice to be able to find a nugget or two of news items where people, or governments, are taking positive action on climate change, both prevention and adaption.

One such nugget talks about Portland, Oregon, and the efforts of that city to become sustainable. One of the benefits has been an increase in sustainable industries that are selling to the world – this is something that doesn’t get much thought in the “shall we/shan’t we do something” debate. But once you think about it, when you change the way you’re doing things, there will always be people ready to step into that gap: despite the moans of the buggy-whip manufacturers, the car industry took off, and perhaps despite the moans of the oil industry and those funded by them, new industries will take off.

Another talks about San Francisco, a city under threat from rising sea levels, and plans to re-plant some of the coastal wetlands in an effort to provide some protection against storm surges and re-establish vanishing species.

Then there’s Japan, where an energy company and a home building company have teamed up to develop an energy-smart house. After a year (with people living in the house), the results were an 88-percent savings in electricity use, a 103-percent reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions (which included excess electricity generated by the solar cells and sold to the grid), and a 310,000-yen savings (about U.S.$4,000) on the energy bill.

And finally in Australia, the Ku-Ring-Gai Council has a number of bush regeneration projects underway, including the Fauna Friends pack, which contains tube stock of local plants which attract fauna.

So there’s a lot being done, and there’s a lot more that could be done. But it would be costly, as we’ve mentioned: so how do we pay for all this goodness, until it becomes self-sustaining through green industries? Well, the big answer is a Tobin tax, which is a tax on financial and share transactions. And aside from producing flippin’ great wodges of cash that can be used for good, it also has the quite substantial benefit of helping to stabilise the financial and share markets. That means quelling the tendency towards bubbles and collapses, and that’s a very fine thing in itself. A number of countries, such as the UK, Germany, France, and South Korea, either have or are considering a Tobin tax, so what was once considered wishful thinking and impractical is fast becoming reality.

By the way, if you know of any other good news stories, please let me know in the comments.

Update: for those of you with an economic bent who wonder why a Tobin tax might be a good idea right about now, this (fairly lengthy) article explains it with plenteous graphs. For those of you without an economic background, the Alternet article linked above demonstrates that it would yield substantial revenue and help stabilise the markets.

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