Posts filed under ‘Economy’

Rail lines, not pipelines: the past, present, and future of Canadian passenger rail

Graph of Canadian railway network, kilometres, historic, 1836 to 2016

One kilometre of oil pipeline contains the same amount of steel as two kilometres of railway track.* The proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion will, if it goes ahead, consume enough steel to build nearly 2,000 kms of new passenger rail track. The Keystone XL project would consume enough steel to build nearly 4,000 kms of track. And the now-cancelled Energy East pipeline would have required as much steel as 10,000 kms of track.

With these facts in mind, Canadians (and Americans) should consider our options and priorities. There’s tremendous pressure to build new pipelines. Building them, proponents claim, will result in jobs and economic development. But if we’re going to spend billions of dollars, lay down millions of tonnes of steel, and consume millions of person-hours of labour, should we be building soon-to-be-obsolete infrastructure to transport climate-destabilizing fossil fuels? Or should we take the opportunity to create even more jobs building a zero-emission twenty-first century transportation network for Canada and North America?

Read Rail lines, not pipelines: the past, present, and future of Canadian passenger rail by Darrin Qualman at Darrin Qualman blog.

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May 21, 2018 at 11:05 am Leave a comment

Life in a ‘degrowth’ economy, and why you might actually enjoy it

What does genuine economic progress look like? The orthodox answer is that a bigger economy is always better, but this idea is increasingly strained by the knowledge that, on a finite planet, the economy can’t grow for ever.

When one first hears calls for degrowth, it is easy to think that this new economic vision must be about hardship and deprivation; that it means going back to the stone age, resigning ourselves to a stagnant culture, or being anti-progress. Not so.

Renewable energy cannot sustain an energy-intensive global society of high-end consumers. A degrowth society embraces the necessity of “energy descent”, turning our energy crises into an opportunity for civilisational renewal.

In a degrowth society we would aspire to localise our economies as far and as appropriately as possible. This would assist with reducing carbon-intensive global trade, while also building resilience in the face of an uncertain and turbulent future.

Read Life in a ‘degrowth’ economy, and why you might actually enjoy it by Samuel Alexander at The Conversation.

May 22, 2017 at 11:54 am Leave a comment

No one can make electricity cheap again

reactorOntario’s electricity woes stem back to the late 1970s and, over the past 40 odd years, all three parties have had a hand in them. It started with the building of the Darlington nuclear station, which the Bill Davis Tories approved and the David Peterson Liberals saw through to completion — 10 years late and almost $12 billion over budget. No one could afford to pay the real cost of Darlington, so Ontarians carried that debt for the next three decades.

Here’s the short answer: electricity requires infrastructure, infrastructure costs are tied to commodities and labour, and these costs go up over time. What people pay for electricity in any given region is a product of geographic luck (the availability of cheap hydro for example) and having rare — but possible — infrastructure foresight (the ability to plan effectively for the electricity of the future).

Read No one can make electricity cheap again by Bruce Lourie at The Star.

February 27, 2017 at 12:14 pm Leave a comment

The New Consumerism: Redefining Ownership, Values and Priorities

the-new-consumerism

As consumers reassess their priorities and increasingly ask themselves what they truly value, a host of major consumer trends have emerged: from the sharing economy to the preference given to experience over possessions, to frugal innovation and trading up and down. This shift towards new priorities, which we have christened “The New Consumerism”, is impacting across a multitude of industry sectors and has the power to transform even the most established markets.

The eight trends which are combining to form the New Consumerism are:

  • The sharing economy: this is all about supply and demand. Connecting people and businesses with the resources to those that want them. It removes market inefficiencies, empowers consumers and has disrupted, or has the potential to disrupt, a wide range of sectors.
  • The circular economy: one where everything is reused and nothing is wasted. It is the antithesis of the linear “build, buy, bury” model of a one-way stream of raw material to factory, to user, then landfill. It has the potential to completely transform the way in which we do business.

Read The New Consumerism: Redefining Ownership, Values and Priorities by Sarah Boumbphrey at Euromonitor International.

January 2, 2017 at 12:10 pm Leave a comment

Are Positive Stories Enough?

ThriveOne question has cropped up repeatedly: In a world filled with melting ice caps, war, species extinctions, and economic peril, how can I possibly argue that the small-scale actions I write about can transform the bigger picture for the better?

Belief in the possibility of change is a huge if intangible positive. So, too, is the proliferation of new social and economic models – from commoning, transition, and sharing, to local money, off-grid energy, and maker spaces. These are the infrastructure of the next economy – only they’re based on social energy, not concrete.

But back to that first question: do these myriad stories add up to a viable alternative to the system that’s wrecking the place now? On their own, probably not. But for me, the most important unfolding transformation of all is the emergence, in many places at once, of a new understanding of our place in the world.

Having worked hard throughout the modern era to lift ourselves ‘above’ nature, we are now being told by modern science that man and nature are one, after all.

This new story is, to put it mildly, a rather large ‘narrative adjustment.’ But it is neither utopian, nor fantastical. It speaks to our innate compulsion to change, progress, and create – indeed, to grow – but with new kinds of growth in mind: Soils, biodiversity and watersheds getting healthier; more cooperation and social connectivity; communities becoming more resilient.

Read Are Positive Stories Enough? by John Thackara at Doors of Perception.

February 3, 2016 at 11:14 am Leave a comment

Rop Hopkins – Transitioning to a Green Economy

In this talk Transition Town founder Rob Hopkins highlights some key ideas emerging from the transition movement:

January 13, 2016 at 10:43 am Leave a comment

Tim Jackson: An Economic Reality Check

As the world faces recession, climate change, inequity and more, Tim Jackson delivers a piercing challenge to established economic principles, explaining how we might stop feeding the crises and start investing in our future.

January 5, 2015 at 11:47 am Leave a comment

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