Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

The Last Post

I am going to add a link into the next paragraph, which will take you to an essay in Huffington Post. And then once that article opens up – if you decide to click that link, there is another link to “a long form essay “Facing Extinction“” if you prefer that. But the point of this first paragraph is to explain why I am posting this at all. I have been consciously backing off from the position I have been taking here for the last ten to fifteen years. At first it was more about “what do I do with myself in the absence of worthwhile employment?” Then it was about having solved the immediate issues of how I survive without a large salary every month (not that I ever thought I had a large salary) what do I do about the place I find myself. I long ago recognised that I would not be able to save the world. It turned out that it was immensely difficult to even make the small part of it that I occupied reasonably tolerable. It did not help either that some of the thoughts that had occurred to me actually got implemented. Not that I am about to claim credit for them – or anything. Other people think similar thoughts at the same time, is all. I just thought that I could keep on doing the same sort of policy analysis that I used to do for the government for the people who get governed. Until that seemed futile too. And boring and repetitive. I long ago stopped going on protests. I have stopped supporting political parties – and everyday, without fail, I get another confirmation that was a Good Choice.

So as I read this article, I kept finding myself in agreement. It is better than anything I could write – and there isn’t anything I feel the need to cavil about. And I have stopped myself from thinking that this is all too hard to face up to. It is not as if we have any choice at all. Except you – you who have stuck with me this far – you who still show up on the “like” list. You can stop reading this now. That’s ok. Don’t worry about it. You do not have to face extinction right now, if you don’t want to. But for those of you who are wondering why this post was an even an idea in the first place this is the link. I have checked it by sending it by email to someone else and confirmed that it works.

This is not a matter for comment or discussion. I am going to close comments for this post, and won’t be looking for any feedback. Please take the advice of the author of the article.

Good bye. And thanks for all the fish.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 22, 2019 at 7:26 pm

Breaking with the Green Party

with 2 comments

At today’s meeting of Vancouver City Council, all three Green Party councillors voted with the NPA.

Vancouver city council has decided to oppose the additional school tax by the province on homes valued at least $3 million.

Council voted 7-3 to ask the B.C. NDP government to withdraw the tax that will take effect in 2019.

Casting the affirmative votes were Councillors Rebecca Bligh, Melissa De Genova, Sarah Kirby-Yung, and Colleen Hardwick of the Non-Partisan Association; and Adrianne Carr, Pete Fry, and Michael Wiebe of the Green Party of Vancouver.

This is the last straw for me. I will no longer send any money to the Vancouver Greens, nor will I count myself a supporter. I will allow my membership to lapse.

Provincially the Green Party is working with the NDP – and I, like many others, have had to concede that the working arrangement is clearly better than continuing to have a BC Liberal government. But that means not saying what needs to be said about LNG – which earns the province little in the way of revenue, and employs very few people, but depends on fracking which produces far more fugitive methane than the industry admits. Worse than that it also is built on the case of liquefying the gas using hydro power – which is supposed to cut its carbon footprint, but seems to ignore the damage that  building a large scale earth dam on dodgy foundations will do, and the abysmal track record of major hydro projects both environmentally and economically.

Moreover, I have had to put up with the Leader of the Green Party promoting Uber!

Enough.

Elizabeth May, federally, seems to be the best of a bad bunch but even she has been pushing for more oil refineries in Alberta.

We have a very short time to turn the world around in its present track – which has seen ghg increases this year. The IPCC and the US federal government have made it clear. We cannot go on like this.

Since the Green Party at local, provincial and federal levels seems not to understand that human caused climate change is our biggest problem, I can no longer call myself a Green Party member. We have to stop producing oil, gas and coal altogether, and we need to be working hard to replace those energy sources by renewables and by the reductions in consumption that will be possible if we embrace energy efficiency and well understood Transportation Demand Management techniques such as promoting transit expansion over highways!  It is actually easier now to do this as both solar and wind power are cheaper than fossils. We have plenty of capacity in our highway and urban road systems, as long as everybody understands they cannot drive a big SUV or pick up truck for each trip by one person over quite short distances. Cut the parking requirements, build walkable cities, spend money on LRT not freeways. This is not rocket science and we do not need any of Elon Musk’s crazy “innovations”. We know how to do this because we used to do this not so long ago. It is not about more tunnels or atmospheric railways – it is streetcars, buses and bicycles.

Next week the NDP is going to reveal its strategy for the Massey Tunnel “replacement”. If it isn’t a rail based additional tunnel then I will not be cheering for that either!

Written by Stephen Rees

December 12, 2018 at 8:28 pm

Why “Green Growth” Is an Illusion

leave a comment »

Power Lines

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Again, found in my in box but intriguing enough for me to go and find out something about the people who sent it to me

Changing the Conversation

Economists and finance professionals still promote free market fundamentalism, shrinking from drawing even obvious conclusions about the dangers of unfettered markets. Fiscal austerity and deficit reduction continue to be watchwords of both policymakers and theorists, even as global inequality increases exponentially and unemployment equals or exceeds levels of the Great Depression in many countries. Politics chokes reforms that could bring growth and relief to millions, while the many challenges of sustainable development and environmentally friendly innovation are brushed aside.

Neoclassical economics fails to address these challenges, but the resistance to change is substantial — both inside the discipline and in the world at large.

So that in itself recommended the article to me, but there are other things right now that need my attention. So I am going to simply cut and paste the text (with the links) from the email – and expect to get some reaction in the comments below.

I will say this. During my career there was initially a sort of consensus (known as “Butskellism“) about the need for public sector investment and social programs. That was overturned by the arrival of Thatcher – and a lot of people I found myself working for, who were genuinely convinced of the integrity of the intellectual underpinnings of neoclassical economic theory. I was at best skeptical, but over time became convinced that it was simply the same old reactionary attitudes of the privileged. Yes communism collapsed, but that does not mean that Marx was entirely wrong, and anyway Leninism – and later Stalinism and Maoism – were some distance away from Marxism. Not only that but I was sure Keynes was right since I had grown up during the period when people from my background were at last seeing some benefit from his policies. At least, once we had paid off the huge US dollar loan, which the rest of Europe had escaped due to the Marshall plan. What I also saw was the sheer greed of the people who always yacked on about the Dutch “problem” (of gas revenue being spent on social welfare programs) while they gleefully stuffed their own pockets with the profits from oil and gas drilling in the North Sea and the increasingly dodgy Private Finance Initiative.

In the wake of this fall’s IPCC report on the growing dangers of climate change—including to the economy—a new paper and supplementary analysis from the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) find that the conventional wisdom of the dynamics between climate change and the economy actually understates these dangers. It finds that, contrary to popular belief, we cannot have it both ways: We cannot have carbon emissions reduction while also maintaining current levels of economic growth. There is instead an inexorable tradeoff between economic growth and preventing climate catastrophe. The paper is from leading economists on climate change, Enno Schröder and Servaas Storm.

Among its highlights, based on original research and a new set of data regressions:

  • “Green growth” is an illusion: Contrary to optimistic claims by Barack Obama and a host of others, you can’t grow your way to a better climate; consumption growth necessarily drives increasing CO2 emissions. The research finds that outsourcing production to other countries may hide this relationship between economic growth and emissions, but it’s not possible to de-link the consumption that accompanies rising living standards with rising emissions.
  • To stabilize the climate, future economic growth must be well below the historical income growth rate of 1.93% (1971-2015)—even with unprecedented reductions in carbon and energy intensity. The hard truth is that, based on even optimistic assumptions concerning future reductions in energy and carbon intensities, future global growth will be compromised by such climate constraint.
  • The present fossil fuel-based socioeconomic system, which was built over two-and-a-half centuries, now must be comprehensively overhauled in just 30 years, and not in a few countries, but globally.
  • To avoid a climate catastrophe, a radically different strategy—a concerted policy shift to deep de-carbonization—is needed. That means a dramatic shift from current practices: a fundamental disruption of hydrocarbon energy, production, and transportation infrastructures, a massive upsetting of vested interests in fossil-fuel energy and industry, and large-scale public investment.

The supplementary analysis I mentioned is the full debate INET is hosting on the topic. It includes analysis by Gregor Semieniuk, Lance Taylor, and Armon Rezai that reinforces many of Schröder and Storm’s findings, as well as a comment from Michael Grubb, professor of energy and climate change at University College London, who offers a more optimistic view of growth during decarbonization, and subsequent response by the aforementioned scholars.

Like I said I hope that others will take a hard look at this, particularly since I am immediately concerned about issues like climate justice – fair and equitable climate action. Plus, of course, reversing the recent rapid growth of inequality.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 6, 2018 at 3:19 pm

Vancouver Election Candidates

leave a comment »

There are a lot of them. I picked my short list mostly based on party identification: Green, COPE and Vision plus a couple of independents. I did not expect the reaction that got on Twitter and Facebook.

Last night I had no light fiction reading to while away the small hours so I read the Vancouver Voters’ Guide which has the candidates’ statements and is the next best thing. We picked that up yesterday at the Community Centre. Apparently reading printed paper is supposed to be more soporific than a lighted screen. If you want to you can read the same stuff online – in fact if you are going to vote I think you probably should. There are lots to choose from and these profiles at least will help you narrow down your own list. The city has simply copied what they wrote – and some are barely literate. Others just spout their party’s line. One or two are well over the line – and a depressing number of mayoral and council candidates seem to have little understanding of what the City Council actually does. Parks and School Board candidates are generally better at that.

Only one failed to provide anything at all: Margaret Haugen, who is running for Park Board, and deserves no votes at all for her neglect. I would also warn against Jason Lamarche for Mayor who thinks control of illegal immigrants is a high priority, and Sophia Kaiser who needs to learn how to write. Here is a paragraph of her bio selected at random

AbsoluteObediencetoAbsoluteANATHEMAObedience: 153ArchonDemon-Indoctrinations PossessingMe/

Somehow she managed to get a much longer entry than anyone else. Most of it as incomprehensible as that quote. I cannot imagine a Council Meeting if she were to command the floor.

I would also suggest you make your list early and take it to one of the advance voting places (community centres or City Hall) to avoid the lineups that will bedevil election day.

I would also suggest you look at the very short entry for Ken Denike who thinks he is entitled to continue his reign at the School Board largely on his conviction that you will already know all about him. Of course if you vote NPA or BC Liberal you already do, so why are you reading this?

I voted

Written by Stephen Rees

October 2, 2018 at 10:50 am

Posted in politics, Vancouver

Vancouver Election 2018

leave a comment »

The City has now produced its randomly ordered ballot for the upcoming election.

Given the size of the ballot I realised I would need something written to take into the voting place with me, where the names of the progressive candidates I would like to see elected would be in the same order as the ballot paper. I tweeted these out as three messages but I am also going to put all three lists here, for ease of reference.

Already someone has responded that their list is different – well d’uh! – they want to see OneCity folks. Sure if you want to produce your own list don’t let me stop you. I worked mine out on the basis of Green Party (of course) then Vision and COPE then independents that I have been impressed by. Of course your preferences and methodology for selection may be different from mine.

Screen Shot 2018-09-23 at 10.17.24 AMScreen Shot 2018-09-23 at 10.40.51 AMScreen Shot 2018-09-23 at 10.41.00 AM

Written by Stephen Rees

September 23, 2018 at 10:55 am

Posted in politics, Vancouver

Tagged with , ,

ProVancouver party proposes flat fare and other transit discounts across Lower Mainland

leave a comment »

Faregates at King Edward

The title is that of an article in the Georgia Straight

The ProVancouver Party is one of several new entities that have popped up due to the upcoming city election all of which claim to be non-partisan (just like the flailing NPA) and different from the status quo.

The main difference is simply in the level of understanding of how local government in Vancouver works (or is supposed to) between those who have some experience and those with none at all. Many of the new candidates seriously think that their naivete is a qualification rather than a liability.

I am not going to bother with analysing any of these half baked proposals. I am simply going to point out that getting elected to Vancouver City council does not enable anyone to introduce any of these ideas. As the Straight points out these are regional measures, which means that they have to appeal to most of the other municipalities outside of the City of Vancouver. The only commonality among these municipalities is their utter contempt for Vancouver and all it stands for. For one thing they are all convinced that Vancouver benefits far more from transit than they do. Even when Burnaby has far more SkyTrain service than any other municipality. And if your identifier is ProVancouver, you are already setting yourself up for an argument. West Vancouver still thinks it would be better off if it left Translink altogether – though even they have to concede that it is really difficult to find any acceptable piece of land within West Vancouver that could be used as a bus storage and maintenance facility.  Places like Anmore and Belcarra even think that people from other municipalities should not be allowed park or even drive on their roads.   Especially in summer.

The key word that ProVancouver has latched onto is “affordable”.  Which you might think would translate into some kind of means tested subsidy for transit fares. But as usual in all such woolly thinking, the term itself is not defined – but has something to do with “families” even though most people now live in rather different households than the traditional Mum, Dad and 2.4 kids. What we do know from our experience with the referendum is people in general believe a lot of nonsense about Translink and think they pay quite enough in taxes to provide much better service than they currently get. And that second belief is equally strongly held everywhere – even in the best served parts of the region. If you are not going to collect enough at the farebox, then it has to come from somewhere else, and any proposal is always going to be met with the angry riposte “How are you going to pay for that?” (without waiting for the answer before stamping off).

One of the great weaknesses of the upcoming ballot is that it is going to be filled with a lot of names: most of them will be unfamiliar. And whoever gets elected is going to have spend a lot of time and effort getting up to speed on procedures, rules and regulations. To some extent that does mean the potential for more influence from the professionals who have mostly been doing this stuff as a full time career for many years. But sadly they will be fully occupied trying to persuade the newly elected councillors that they have to both listen and read attentively. There is no evidence at all that ProVancouver has the slightest intention of doing that before insisting that they are now in charge: heaven help us all if that is the case.

 

Written by Stephen Rees

August 15, 2018 at 4:25 pm

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unlikely

with 3 comments

There are still some glaciers

I took this picture out of the window of a plane flying from Vancouver to Terrace last week. It was a beautiful day, and I spent most of the flight staring out of the window at the Coast Mountains. There are still some glaciers there. Not as many now, and they are probably somewhat smaller than they used to be, though apparently that is not the case everywhere. However, the reason that I am posting this picture here, now is that it is very unlikely that we will be able to take photos like this in the future.

This is not a matter of belief. Climate change is an established fact. What is worse, climate change denial means that we are putting off the necessary actions to meet that challenge. Most disappointing in that regard are the actions of the present governments in Canada and British Columbia. Justin Trudeau was elected to change the policies of the previous conservative government. He said that he would live up to commitments to reduce ghg emissions and signed the Paris accord. But at the same time he was determined to see the expansion of the Athabasca Tar Sands – and that includes building a new TransMountain pipeline to feed a much expanded export terminal in the Burrard Inlet. He claims that this is necessary to fund the development of newer, cleaner alternative energy sources. The Premier of British Columbia opposes that idea – but not because of its impact on climate but the probable impact of a spill – either on land (which would be the responsibility of Kinder Morgan) or at sea (which would be the responsibility of the federal government – which is to say all Canadians). He is also promoting a completely unnecessary hydroelectric project called Site C on the Peace River near Fort St John.  I say “unnecessary” because it is only needed if there is more development of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) for export. Fracking the gas for export releases methane, and makes LNG a worse case of greenhouse gas increase than coal.

In both cases, there are short term political gains because so many people have been taken in by the promise of economic growth and jobs from the tar sands and LNG expansion. But both rely on developing markets in Asia – and that is also unlikely. Because there they are developing wind and solar power far more rapidly than we are. China is determined to be the leader in electric car production. Most of the previous climate change agreements failed to deliver simply because western politicians refused to accept that China and India would do their part to reduce carbon emissions, due to their determination to increase their own economic status. In fact both are benefitting from the rapidly dropping cost of renewables. They also have access to much closer and more convenient fossil fuel resources. There is plenty of natural gas there, for instance, and Chinese oil refineries are not designed to cope with heavy oil feedstocks.  The latest news about a new BC LNG plant is that it will be designed and built in Japan. So much for all those new jobs we were supposed to be getting. Another unlikely prospect.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 2, 2018 at 11:52 am