Campaign update: Unite Against Austerity

An anti-austerity movement is a good thing to have around. It makes it easy to connect different movements -- from women to migrant workers to unions and the environment -- by referring to the economic origins of their issues: sacrificing the common good for corporate profits.

In the past few months, we at Smart Change are excited to be a part of a surge of activity that is analyzing, opposing, and proposing alternatives to austerity.

We printed over 100,000 stickers and posters, which we have been distributing across the country. Over 3,000 people have shared with friends. We were featured in Ricochet, the Media Co-op and We organized packed panel discussions in Toronto and Vancouver (photos here and here; early video here; Reilly Yeo's fantastic powerpoint here). These were followed by lively discussions about connecting different movements to unite against austerity. (More events are coming soon!)

Unite Against Austerity graphics, created by Montreal designer Kevin Yuen Kit Lo, showed up at May Day demonstrations in Toronto and Ottawa, and in public spaces across Canada.

We're not alone! Popular organizations in Quebec carried out a May Day bank occupation in Montreal, and numerous marches converged in the city centre. Avi Lewis gave a talk in Alberta entitled "Battling Austerity with a Bold Green Vision" before he joined our panel in Toronto, and Nova Scotians have united against austerity in opposition to the Liberal party's cuts. The Media Co-op announced a special issue addressing austerity.

South of the border, Jacobin magazine took a long look at the Canadian Liberal Party's contributions to austerity, and Ruth Wilson Gilmore, a leading black scholar of criminalization, called mass protests in Ferguson and Baltimore "uprisings against austerity." In Europe, mass anti-austerity rallies marked May Day, while a slow-motion showdown over austerity measures continues, notably in Greece and Spain.

Our goal is to make sure that, going into the next election, all Canadians understand how austerity policies have affected us, our friends, relations and neighbours.

We're looking beyond the election, a part of a growing, global movement that seeks to reverse the flow of wealth to the 1%, and build a sustainable and just economy.

Want to get involved? Here are some options, and stay tuned for more:

• Get some stickers
• Sign a petition
• Share Unite Against Austerity with a friend!
• Join local organizations fighting austerity

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  • commented 2016-09-14 12:40:55 -0700
    Just reviewed Avi Lewis Alberta address. The “100% transition” to a renewable energy “electric powered economy/society” is required ASAP, for both economic and environmental reasons. See below:
    The Next Phase of the Industrial Revolution Is Upon Us v2
    Part 1 The Investment Opportunity
    The “100% transition” to renewable energy as the source of energy supply to move our society to an “electric powered economy” has, unheralded by the “mainstream media” and our “political leaders”, broken through the cost barrier. Today, an investment in a net-metered (in the province of BC) rooftop solar panel system now produces greater than a 5% rate of return. As the general public becomes aware of this fact, just watch this “100% transition” LEAP forward.
    A recent (minimum size required) quote from a Penticton solar panel installation company, priced a roof mounted solar panel net-meter connected system: guaranteed for 25 years, including yearly maintenance checks, at $2750.00 per KW. For the calculation “nerds” among us, the Okanagan Region sunlight produces an average of 1200 KWHR per year for each installed KW. Net-metered at $0.123 per KWHR (Penticton City Power rates) this yields a yearly payback of $147.60 per installed KW. So the rate of return is $147.60 / $2750.00 * 100 = 5.36%.
    -To last winters “letters to the editor” writers wanting a break on ever increasing power costs; this could be the way to turn the tables on your power company with a built in increase on your rate of return with each power cost increase.
    -To all individuals, businesses, school boards, municipal and city administrators: You have a “Gold Mine” in your roofs. Offsetting some or all of you or your institution’s power bill with a net-metered installation, can provide at least the above rate of return.

    Part 2 * Free * Reduced Health and Environmental Costs
    From the environmentalists’ viewpoint, the motive for the move away from fossil fuels has been for reduced GHG emissions and their affects on Climate Change. The mainstream media, political leaders, and the oil/gas & coal industry always point to a societal cost for this move.
    The following different viewpoint illuminates a “no extra $$$ expenditures needed” path:
    -Due to wind and solar energy’s lower break-even production cost, compared to North America’s depleting coal, oil, & gas sources, the drive for the transition to renewables as societies energy source, is just now and will in the future be led by superior economics. (“business for profit”). Watch this video by Amory Lovins (27 min)
    -In addition to GHG’s emissions, fossil fuels are the major source of air pollutants such as sulphur & ammonia compound gasses, as well as, particulates and nitrous gasses. These pollutants are linked as the cause of pulmonary illness; as well as, the major share of the associated health costs.
    There are also, enormous Climate Change costs associated with sea level rise, temperature increases, and severe weather events, that are predicted to increase further with continued fossil fuel use into the future.
    With the transition to renewables already being made for “profit reasons”, a reduction in the above “health and disaster costs” comes along for the ride.
    The following actions can accelerate the “100% transition” and reap the benefits ASAP:
    -The Media must, understand and promote the “100% transition”.
    -“Political Leaders” must; understand, promote, and facilitate the “100% transition” by:
    -Changing subsidy legislation to “level the playing field” for renewables vs. fossil fuels.
    -Passing legislation the helps Canada’s workers keep food on the table, and re-train for renewable energy jobs, during the transition period
    -Refusing to grant permits for “risky” pipeline and “energy inefficient” frackgas & LNG projects.
    -The general public must understand the “100% transition”, invest in it, as well as, promote it, by prodding your “Political Leaders” to enact / reform legislation ASAP.

    The sooner the “100 transition” to a renewable energy “electric powered world” is made, the better the chance mankind has of adapting to the Climate Change that we have, already, allowed to be created; but, not yet seen. (YES! the disasters caused from sea level rise and extreme weather events have only just begun). Watch and plan for increased disaster costs.

    Part 3 Vital Information on Energy Efficiency and the “100% transition”
    The “100 transition” to a renewable energy “electric powered world” must also include changes in several areas of energy efficiency. Watch:
    The five Lovins’ videos on the part energy efficiency plays in this energy transition .
    Energy Efficiency 1 of 5 – Buildings (96 min)
    Energy Efficiency 2 of 5 – Industry (94 min)
    Energy Efficiency 3 of 5 – Transportation (97 min)
    Energy Efficiency 4 of 5 – Implementation (94 min)
    Energy Efficiency 5 of 5 – Implications (99 min)

    Studies like the one done for the USA states by Mark Jacobson et all at Stanford University have shown that the USA and Canada have an abundant (natural) supply of wind and sun for the “100% transition”. Also the wind and solar technology is available now at costs lower than coal, oil, gas, or nuclear.
    Watch: (57 min)
    For an explanation of interactions between the “100% transition” and global warming
    Watch: (59 min)

    Part 4 Understanding Energy and Consequential Effects of Societal Choices
    A quick primer on understanding Energy conversion(use) and energy efficiency follows:
    -Energy conversion is the basic characteristic that governs and sustains all life forms on earth. So to sustain human life we all must convert (use) energy.
    -Our civilisation has evolved to one that requires more energy than can be supplied by human labour, so extraneous (non-human) energy conversion(use) provides most of an industrialised societies energy. Now in transition from fossil fuels to renewables.
    -The energy form that packs the density required for ease of use by today’s labour saving devices like air-planes, cars, furnaces, refrigerators, stoves etc. has been / is mainly derived from non-renewable oil, coal, and natural gas.
    -The rate of per capita energy conversion(use) is directly related to the human standard of living. The factor that differentiates an industrialised society from an emerging one, is it’s capability of providing a greater per capita rate of “useable energy” flow, in the form of materials, goods and, services.
    The following equation defines the inter-linkage of “supply side” energy pieces that form the “economics of energy”.
    “ttl energy” = (“useable energy” + “extraction energy” + “provision energy”).
    This “economics of energy” (particularly applied to non-renewables), and the “energy cliff” are explained neatly in the following (video) URL. (18min)
    *Note where tar sands; fracking production; as well as, crop derived petroleum products fall on the “supply side” efficiency graphs.

    In addition, the following facts must be noted and understood re: the above equation:
    -A society’s standard of living is proportional to the per capita flow of “useable energy”.
    -Only the “useable energy” portion, powers sustainable economic growth. Economic growth and jobs are closely and positively linked.
    -If, societal economic incentives (subsidies) cause “extraction energy” and/or “provision energy” to predominate, the “useable energy” portion will not be big enough to maintain / sustain a society’s standard of living. We just keep “spinning our wheels” with low “supply side” energy efficiency (low “useable energy” per unit of “ttl energy”).
    -GHG emissions are proportional to “ttl energy” flow / use.

    Understanding and using the physics (the laws of thermodynamics) that govern the energy conversion(use) process is the imperative to knowing and predicting the outcomes of mankind’s interactions with and on the environment. All transactions and interactions within and between parts of a system should be thought of and calculated in energy terms. Thinking about systems in any other terms, that have no basis in science, clouds the issue, and often leads to wrong or non-operable conclusions.

    An example of using the equation to illustrate the energy outcome of societal policies (incentives) follows:
    When we compare natural gas to “fracgas”, we note that the GHG emissions per unit of “useable energy” in “fracgas” are higher because the “extraction energy” required for it’s production is larger.
    By the same token LNG has a significantly higher amount of GHG emissions per unit of “useable energy” because a large amount of “provision energy” is required to liquefy it. Note also that the energy required to move any commodity to market increases its “provision energy”, and must be factored in to it’s GHG emission’s.
    So, if society moves from using natural gas to “fracgas” and then to LNG as a method of providing “useable energy”, the GHG’s emitted per unit of “usable energy” will increase at each step (down the “energy cliff”).

    Part 5 A Renewable Energy “Electric Powered World”, The Only Sustainable Path
    We must all recognise that:
    - the “100% transition” is just a next evolutionary stage of the industrial revolution.
    - “useable energy” conversion(use) physically provides for the production of the materials, goods, and services required, to achieve our high standard of living.
    - the physical energy flow achievable using Wind, Water, Solar, and Geothermal is far greater than that from the depleting stored fossil fuels, given the constraint of a “liveable” minimum of health robbing emissions and GHG’s,
    - only, renewable energy sources have the physical and economic capability of supplying the opportunity for most of mankind to achieve a standard of living that today only a small percentage can attain.
    And acknowledge that:
    - the cost and physical supply of the energy required by society, is not sustainable using the depleting fossil fuel resources as the form of energy we use to power our future world.
    Only Wind, Water, Solar, and Geothermal can physically and economically satisfy that mandate. Watch: (from 18:45 min mark to 119 min)
    (Mark Jacobson’s video—Economics of Climate Change)

    Feedback and requests for more info, are welcome. Contact .

    Richard Kildaw P.Eng.
    Penticton, B.C.
  • commented 2016-04-01 14:34:09 -0700
    What do you mean by austerity?
    Do you mean less social programs and frivolous government spending and less taxation. More money in Canadians’ pockets and bank accounts?
    Or do you mean more social handouts and grabbing more tax dollars from the shrinking middle class? (If you mean this I have a slap across the face with your name on it.)
Smart Change brings people together to resist the austerity agenda and supports efforts to build a just and ecologically sustainable society and economy.