And why not? It is that time of the year ….
I have just spent the last two and a half years writing a huge new book into which I have poured all my hopes and fears, and an amazing collection of practical, positive, solutions to our many woes.
The book is titled Journey to the Future, and it tells the story of a four-day visit to Vancouver in 2032, by when it become one of the greenest cities in the world. I have never found writing a book such fun, or so compelling: maybe it’s the fictional format I have adopted, with almost the entire book being in dialogue between the characters. See www.journeytothefuture.ca
Having done all that work, I am sitting on an amazing cornucopia of positive, visionary solutions, for our cities and the world. Out of that abundance, I have picked eight possibilities that I believe could be achieved in 2014, if the right people put their minds to it.
1. Canada Adopts the Oregon Solution for Student Debt
Student debt: what a crushing reality for so many. Last year, however, in Oregon, something incredible happened. An entirely new approach was adopted called ‘Pay it Forward’. Students pay nothing in advance of their studies, but when they graduate, they pay 1-3% of their income for their education for 25 years, depending on the length of the course. At the 3% level, someone who earned $1 million might pay $30,000 a year, while someone earning $25k level might pay $750 ($14 a week).
The story as to how the approach got adopted is amazing. Within one academic year, Oregon students picked up the solution, took it through the various Senate committees, and got it passed into law. Work is now proceeding on a State Bond to finance the change-over period.
How could this happen in Canada? Leaders from several universities could get together, talk it over, and develop it into such a strong proposal that no politician could reject it without losing all public credibility.
Pay It Forward Plan In Oregon Would Make Tuition Free At State’s Public Universities. Huffington Post, July 13, 2013. www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/03/pay-it-forward-oregon-tuition-free_n_3543827.html
Presentation on Pay it Forward: The Debt-Free Degree Plan for Oregon. Economic Opportunity Institute. www.eoionline.org/education/higher-education/presentation-on-pay-it-forward-the-debt-free-degree-plan-for-oregon
Students for Educational Debt Reform: www.facebook.com/SEDRpdx
Oregon Is Moving on a Creative Solution to the Student Loan Debt Crisis. Spread the Word. The Nation: http://activism.thenation.com/p/dia/action3/common/public/index.sjs?action_KEY=11513
2. Young People Achieve a Breakthrough in Democratic Involvement
The evidence about youth disengagement is very disturbing to those of us who desire change. So what can be done?
First, we extend the vote to 16-year-olds. With the voting age at 18, for most young people their first election falls into the Peter Pan Zone, when they are leaning over backwards to avoid the boring things that adults do. Change the age to 16, and most young people will experience their first election while still at school, where they can debate the issues, hear from the candidates, and actually vote.
Next, create a $100 voting tax credit, as a juicy little carrot. The government increases all taxes by a fraction to cover the cost, and gives the money back as a credit when we vote. If you don’t vote, you lose it. If you are below the taxable threshold, you accumulate credits until you earn enough to receive them.
How could this happen? Several youth organizations could get together, and present the two reforms to all political leaders, inviting them to support them, or explain why they don’t really care.
3. Canada Lays the Foundations for Basic Income
For many years, I was hesitant to embrace the idea of Basic Income—an unconditional monthly cheque that every Canadian would receive, in place of the current hodge-podge of benefits. I worried how we could afford it, and that it would encourage long-term unemployment, which can be very debilitating to the soul.
Having immersed myself in our future reality, however, and the difficulties that so many are experiencing, I have decided that we not afford NOT to do it. A change this big requires a lot of public education and awareness, and analysis as to how it could be paid for through a variety of tax reforms.
What could happen in 2014? There could be a Cross-Canada initiative to raise awareness and get the ball rolling, prompted by the global Basic Income Conference that’s happening in Montreal in June, engaging all political parties except the Conservatives (who will probably choose to sit this one out), and people from major Canadian non-profit, labour and small business organizations.
Basic Income Earth Network www.basicincome.org
Basic Income Canada: http://biencanada.ca
Re-democratizing the Economy: 15th International Congress of the Basic Income Earth Network. June, 2014, Montreal: http://biencanada.ca/congress/
A Town without Poverty—Canada’s only experiment in guaranteed income finally gets reckoning, by Vivian Belik. http://www.dominionpaper.ca/articles/4100
What About Just Guaranteeing Everyone a Basic Income? Katie Hyslop, The Tyee, May 12, 2012. http://thetyee.ca/News/2012/05/15/Guaranteed-Basic-Income
The Basic Income Debate in Finland, by Kaisu Suopanki: http://transform-network.net/journal/issue-112012/news/detail/Journal/the-basic-income-debate-in-finland.html
4. The Liberals, NDP and Greens Cooperate on the Next Election and Proportional Voting
Another vision for 2014 is that the Liberals and the NDP will stop trading punches and agree on a strategy with the Greens to evict the Conservatives and adopt proportional voting, whoever wins the 2015 election. This is the logjam that has saddled us with a Conservative government that has never had the support of more than a minority of Canadian voters, which is doing such enormous harm to both Canada and to our global reputation as a force for good.
My dream is that the political leaders of the Liberals and the NDP will suddenly realize how frustrated most Canadians are with their insistence on going it alone, and that they will start cooperating to achieve what really matters.
How could that happen? Maybe Lead Now will dream up a new initiative that makes it happen, if we all support them: www.leadnow.ca
5. A Study that could Lead to Nation-Wide Organic Farming
Food, glorious food! My next vision for 2014 is that the government commissions a study into the full cost of conventional farming. They look at everything: climate impact, loss of species habitat, water quality, herbicide-resistant super-weeds, nitrogen pollution from farmland runoff, soil erosion, the impact on bees, the spread of antibiotics, negative health impacts caused by the loss of essential nutrients from the soil and food, abd the contribution of pesticides to cancer, ADHD and the fall in children’s IQ due to prenatal pesticides exposure.
When they see the full cost, even the Fraser Institute and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation are shocked. So the government brings in a tax on pesticides and fertilizers to recover the cost. They use the income to subsidize the transition to organic, and when farmers realize that they can save money by going organic while getting yields that are just as good, it became a no-brainer.
How could this happen? Several non-profits could join forces to undertake a preliminary study, which would be powerful enough to persuade the government to do a full study.
6. Globally, a New E-17 Group of Nation Displaces the Old G-20
The G-8 and the G-20 hold their meetings, but nothing ever happens on critical issues such as global climate change, global tax havens and global corporate tax-avoidance. Inspired by a new vision of a peaceful sustainable future, the leaders of a number of nations, led by Finland and South Korea, put their heads together and form a new group, the E-17.
The seventeen are Finland, South Korea, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Germany, Holland, Japan, Ethiopia, the Philippines, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, Costa Rica and Uruguay. They work together, and take the lead in the global effort to build a greener world, pioneering the climate solutions treaties (see below). They make other countries wake up to the fact that they are accelerating away in the race to build a new green economy, using clean tech and renewable energy. They break the ice, which allows the other nations to follow.
How could this happen? Someone could take the vision to the leaders of Finland and South Korea, these two often ignored mid-level nations, and persuade them of their ability to make a real difference in the world. For parallels, see the Gaian League, http://www.occupyworldstreet.org/the-gaian-league
7. The World Embraces Climate Solutions Treaties
Why are we stuck in negative when it comes to the biggest crisis of them all—the global climate crisis? We have treaties to reduce this and mitigate that, but none of it cries out, “Come on over here—this is amazing!” When was the last time you used the word ‘mitigate’ over the dinner table? Honey, can you mitigate this soup? It’s so bland!
We need to have amazing confidence in how great a sustainable world beyond fossil fuels will be, and how much better it will be for everyone once we stop grubbing around in the dark of the Arctic Ocean and the beauty of Alberta’s forests to scrape out the last gooey substance to satisfy our addicted craving for oil. As well as Kyoto-style reductions treaties, we need Climate Solutions Treaties in which nations agree to work together to accelerate the many solutions, from solar energy to electric vehicles, from soil carbon storage to ancient forests protection.
How could that happen? I see a big gathering attended not by national leaders but by climate leaders in the world’s cities, businesses and universities, all of whom are working hard to implement the solutions. They could develop some draft treaties, and then seek support from the new E-17 Group of Nations to advance them to the global agenda in time for the big UN Climate Conference in New York in September 2014. www.un.org/climatechange/summit2014/
8. We Create a Pipeline of Hope
What else? We’ve got a year of heavy-duty politics and protest coming up as we try to prevent the pipelines from crossing BC’s fragile wilderness and ocean, carrying Alberta’s bitumen to fuel the fires of climate hell.
In my vision for 2014, the various groups that are organizing the protests, initiatives and petitions work together and agree on a dual strategy: that for every word of protest, they will use a word of hope; for every negative complaint, they will voice a position solution. In so doing, they will create an amazing Pipeline of Hope, which brings inspiration for a better future based on the sound economics of a new cooperative sharing economy, beyond fossil fuels.
How could this begin? The various groups —the Tides and Dogwoods, the Forest Ethics and Yinka Dene Alliances could sit down in January and brainstorm ideas so that everyone will be mightily inspired, and no-one will ever say we are negative naysayers who don’t care about people’s jobs and the future of BC.