Environment Solutions Strategies
The environmental crisis is a global issue. We share a planet of interconnected eco-systems. Pollution of the air, water, soil and food affects all life. As we each wake up, individuals can work together to put an end to the devastation.
Below are a sampling of solutions to work toward a more balanced, healthy, sustainable planet. We realize that environmental crises vary from place to place and therefore require unique solutions, however, we propose this three-staged approach as a useful strategy that can be adopted and refined anywhere. Ultimately we envision a world with clear rules, protecting rights and property, but no rulers – no state entity with powers that override individual rights. It will take time and effort to transition to such a condition. (See the Liberty section for further explanation)
What follows are elements of “big picture” strategies – approaches that will take many people’s actions to accomplish. The WCID (What Can I Do?) section addresses individual actions that you can personally take on if you choose. Getting involved in your community is a powerful and immediate way to make the necessary changes.
Stage 1 - Reform Current Systems
Reform the EPA
A key component of Stage 1 involves restructuring the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to truly steward ecosystems. Its stated mission is to “protect human health and the environment.” However, there are many instances in which the EPA has failed to do this, putting private interests first. For example, one of the EPA’s main research partners is now the American Chemistry Council (ACC) which represents more than 135 companies including pesticide manufacturers. In recent years the number of Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADA’s) between the EPA and corporations and industry associations have risen dramatically. In addition, nearly 900 EPA scientists have reported political interference in their work.
Some solutions to avoid corruption and promote true environmental protection may include:
- Publicly elect EPA officials – let the people choose who runs the EPA. This will help keep corporate and political interests out of the EPA and hold leaders accountable.
- Eliminate conflicts of interest – businesses partnering or researching with the EPA would have to prove their actions do not harm the environment. For example, the American Chemistry Council would no longer be able to work with the EPA unless pesticide manufacturers and other harmful chemical companies were banned from their council.
Promote Green Jobs – Lift People Out of Poverty and Reduce Environmental Impact at the Same Time
Van Jones, founder of Green For All and bestselling author of The Green Collar Economy, proposes that we solve the environmental and social crises at the same time by creating more green jobs. The idea is to organize, train, and provide jobs for urban America – in solar installation, green building, weatherization, etc. – in order to lift people out of poverty, improve energy efficiency, lower health risks, and reduce our overall ecological footprint. At Clear Compass, we believe it is key to employ this strategy only in Stage One transition of our solutions strategies – creating no new taxes, but using only funds freed up from such destructive and non-productive tax expenditures as military and war spending, interest paid unnecessarily to the Federal Reserve, and subsidies to factory farms.
Televise Real-Time Debates and Discussions Among Environmental Experts and Representatives from Other Sectors
Millions of people are working to solve various environmental crises. Why not hear from them and learn more about the issues? TV and Internet videos can help reach a wide audience and get people involved. To get the most out of it, these forums would need to be live, un-scripted, and open to people of diverse backgrounds and opinions.
Abandon Cap and Trade System
The global cap and trade system sets limits on carbon emissions for businesses around the world. It is set up so that the worst polluters can buy “pollution credits” from those who stay under the limit and pollute less. Supporters argue that this not only sets realistic goals to decrease pollution, but economically incentivizes businesses to pollute less.
It may sound like a good idea, but there are serious negative consequences to cap and trade: It…
- Authorizes a global taxation system to undermine national sovereignty and to fund a global centralized authority
- Creates the next financial “bubble” (after dot com, real estate and taxpayer bailouts) for financial elite to artificially boom and bust for only their own benefit
- Penalizes some industries without applying to others
- Still allows for excessive amount of pollution
- Relies on self-reporting from industry
Another way to deal with pollution would be to hold polluters criminally liable through the justice system for violation of other’s property. We each own our lungs and air pollution violates those boundaries. Sufficient penalties make polluting prohibitive so it is phased out and the real costs of healthy goods will become apparent.
Account for Externalized Costs
Humans rely on nature for their survival. Without accounting for our impact along the way and tracking how well forests are regenerating, other species are surviving, and water systems are maintaining themselves we are threatening all life on this planet.
Accounting for externalized costs is no easy task and very few models exist to achieve this. Some propose shifting the tax burden from personal income taxes to environmentally destructive activities as has been done in Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands. We’re not comfortable with this because more taxes leads to more violation and we’re trying to achieve less violation.
But we really don’t know how to do this. It will likely take a lot of people sitting down together to come up with a viable strategy. So we’ve made this a “Big Q” – click here to join the discussion with others.
Label Genetically Modified Foods
There is currently no way to know if your food is Genetically Modified despite the fact that there are significant environmental and health hazards associated with GMO’s. Mandatory safety testing and labeling are steps toward transparency that empowers and protects the consumer. Labeling could be similar to other systems – such as Fair Trade, Organic, and Free Range – and would raise awareness around the dangers of genetically engineered crops. There is already a Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods and the Organic Consumers Association is doing a lot to educate about GMO’s and stop them altogether. As people learn the truth about GMOs, an informed marketplace will naturally reject them.
Promote Renewable Energy and “New Energy” Technology
The burning of fossil fuels is polluting the air, fueling war and global conflict, and breeding dependency on oil-rich countries. But efficient, sustainable alternatives exist that can revolutionize the energy industry.
The best strategy we’ve come up with so far includes:
- Decrease our reliance on oil and use it to make the transition to renewable alternatives
- Employ alternative energy sources including wind and solar to power a large portion of the world
- Stop suppressing and further develop “New Energy” resonant technology devices to make clean, abundant power accessible everywhere.
Exciting innovations in the solar and wind industries have been emerging in recent years – prices are more competitive; energy generation is more efficient; and adoption is more common worldwide.
Wind - Global wind generating capacity went up almost 26% in 2006.  Denmark is now powered by at least 15% wind power and other countries around the world are making similar advances. In the U.S. there is enormous potential for growth in the wind industry. As Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute says, “The U.S. great plains are the Saudi Arabia of wind power.” Texas, North Dakota, and Kansas alone have enough wind to power the entire nation.  Now is the time to make the shift- we have the technology, resources, and ability to make it happen.
Solar Power and Creative Financing for Installation - Solar is growing by more than 40% every year and is taking off in countries such as Germany, China, and Japan. It’s also estimated that the sun-drenched southwestern United States has the ability to generate 7,000 gigawatts of electricity, about 7 times the amount currently generated from all sources in the U.S.
One of the main set-backs to solar energy is that it requires a large initial investment. So Berkeley, California came up with a solution- called the Financial Initiative for Renewable and Solar Technology (FIRST) program- which requires little or no down payment from home-owners. How do they do it? The city funds the projects by issuing bonds and adding a surcharge to the home’s property taxes. Over the course of 20 or 30 years, whoever lives in the home makes low-interest payments back to the city. In many cases the payments are close to the same amount saved in energy bills, making it a win-win scenario. Similar programs are being adopted throughout the U.S. including Austin (TX), Boulder (CO), Portland (OR), and Santa Cruz (CA).
“New Energy” Technology - A source of infinite energy is available to everyone – we don’t need to be polluting our environment and fighting over control of fossil fuels. There are numerous devices already proven that access boundless energy in clean, safe and inexpensive ways. These devices have been brutally suppressed by vested interests for many years, but have huge potential for humanity. To check it out in more detail, go to the New Energy Technology section of this site.
Stop Subsidizing Environmentally Destructive Activities
An estimated $700 billion a year of taxpayer money is spent by the world’s governments to promote environmentally destructive activities such as coal mining, overfishing, pesticide use, overpumping of aquifers, and the burning of fossil fuels.  To save the environment, we’ve got to stop funding its destruction.
Stage 2 - Limit Government Control
Shift Management of Environmental Commons to the Local Level
“The Commons” are natural resources that we all share in common such as air, water, and soil. There is an ongoing debate about how to manage the commons. What’s best for the environment and for the people? Should the commons be managed by government or sold off as private property? In either case, how would this work? This is what we want to explore.
In stage 2 of the transition of society from authoritarian, collectivist states to true cooperation and freedom, the goal is to move away from government control to decentralized voluntary association. With management of the commons this will likely involve breaking down large Federal agencies and giving more control to local community members. We’ve outlined some ideas for this, but hope to discuss it more with others. Optimal stewardship of limited and vital resources – the commons – is one of our “Big Qs” – the critical unanswered questions for humanity to focus on. There are many unanswered questions that remain – you can join in the discussion by going to the “Big Q’s” Section of the site.
Trusts – A Tool to Manage the Commons
One compelling way to deal with management of the commons is to create trusts that are designed to protect natural resources for present and future generations. This has already been done in a number of places with considerable success, including the Pacific Forest Trust, the Marin Agricultural Land Trust, and the Oregon Water Trust. Trusts vary in form but are generally set up to preserve the ecological functions of a natural resource, often by working with people to reduce their impact on the resource or by acquiring land, water, or conservation rights. For example, the Oregon Water Trust is working to restore water flow to endangered streams by working with property owners and farmers to take less from the waterways. We find this an appealing solution - at least for Stages 1 and 2, because:
- the government isn’t making up the rules in a far-off place,
- property owners get to keep their land,
- people in the community work together, and
- commons are preserved for the benefit of everyone.
Air - We all breathe the same air. What goes into Earth’s atmosphere affects everyone. So how do we deal with that? Who gets to regulate the air? Can anyone own it? There are a number of ideas out there. Ideally we would all simply stop polluting. However, we are so far from that ideal that we feel we need to implement realistic solutions that create financial incentive for improved air quality and empowerment for those whose practices are aligned with the preservation of this finite and precious part of the commons. One of the more compelling and new ideas is the “Sky Trust” proposed by Peter Barnes of the Tomales Bay Institute in California.
The Sky Trust would make all citizens equitable owners of the air. Annual auctions would then be held to issue permits for available “dump space.” The limits would be strict and would diminish over time and the proceeds would go to the Trust to be reinvested in clean, alternative energy and/or go to the owners. This would encourage less pollution because over time as less permits are issued the price would naturally rise which makes it less appealing for the polluters. This model is based on the Alaska Permanent Fund, which gives residents of Alaska yearly dividends from state oil income. The Sky Trust varies, however, in that the incentive is to improve air quality and protect the environment. This is a compelling solution because:
- it’s a realistic, do-able place to start that could have big impact quickly
- it doesn’t raise taxes
- it’s market based
- it’s based on fair and equitable ownership
Water - We all need water to survive. So how do we manage it so that everyone has access to clean drinking water? Is private or public management best or a combination of the two? So far, the main private ownership model we have seen is corporate takeover of water supplies. This happened in Bolivia – Bechtel Corporation claimed ownership of their water, including the rainwater, and sold it back for unfair, high prices. The people of Bolivia revolted and ultimately regained ownership.
Foreign corporate privatization backed by force is not fair or appropriate. It prevents people from accessing local water sources and having a say in its management. A more logical and just approach – at least during these transition stages - seems to be either local management of the water commons with true representation of the people in their regions – possibly moving toward a true free market with local companies who must compete for the respect and selections of their customers. This is another important Big Q!
Land - Most of the land in the U.S. is privately owned but a large portion is also owned by the government. Land in the care of the government is not necessarily well cared for – it is often leased to companies to make more money. These temporary leases encourage unsustainable treatment, because once the land is “used” -by clear cutting trees, overusing soil, and over-pumping aquifers, the land can be returned. The arrangement undermines incentive for long-term stewardship. For example, a good portion of national forests in Oregon are leased to logging companies, who are funded by Union Bank of California, who come in and clear-cut. Because the businesses don’t own the land, they don’t have much incentive to care for it over the long term. The result is a decimated forest.
However, about 4/5 of forestland is privately owned and at least 1.5 million acres are still disappearing every year. Because there is no explicit distinction between trees as a resource for lumber and their critical role in ecosystems, we have not yet come up with a fair and sustainable way to deal with this issue. Land ownership is part of the Big Q associated with the long-term stewardship of natural resources, and specifically, the commons.
Stage 3 - Set Up Systems for Voluntary Cooperation
The environment varies so much from place to place that it doesn’t make sense to have sweeping federal solutions to environmental crises. Rather, people should have a say within their community about how to deal with local environmental issues. In this stage we move away from state imposition, toward a truly free market. Protection of individual rights and the principle of non-violation would remain a key aspect. Enforcement would be private and eco-systems violations would be resolved in private courts.
We can only guess what this stage will look like. But to get an idea, here are some examples of how non-violation and a truly free-market could work in the environment sector:
The Food System
In Stage 3, under the law, nobody could violate another person or their property. Violators would be held criminally liable. This not only protects people, but the environment as well. For example, farmers who apply pesticides to their crops could be sued by consumers, neighboring communities, or even workers who experience health issues associated with the chemicals. It would quickly become financially impossible for these farmers to stay afloat, either causing them to go out of business or to change their farming practices. Not only does this improve human health, but non-organic, petroleum- based pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers would be eliminated and more environmentally friendly growing practices would naturally emerge.
Labeling of food- such as GMO’s proposed in Stage 2 (limiting government) – would no longer be mandatory or enforced by government. Rather, people would be forced to compete in the free market, and private “eco-labeling” alternatives would draw customers to the obvious, better alternative. In fact, GMO’s would likely be obsolete because their vendors would be continually sued for violating others and would become unable to purchase insurance. Farmers would compete for business and their goods would reflect the true cost of production, free of government subsidies and inclusive of externalized costs. Bureaucratic government agencies would no longer determine the definition of “organic” or “free range” or other state run programs. Instead independent agencies whose reputation would depend on reliability would take on this function, and diverse criteria and certification models would emerge. The best, most rigorous programs would come out on top because they would be the ones that earned the trust of consumers, insurance companies and dispute resolution organizations.
 During the Bush administration’s first term, the EPA had 57 CRADA’s, up from 34 during Clinton’s second term. For more on this see this article: Chemical Industry is EPA’s Primary Research Partner:
 An online questionnaire was sent to 5,419 EPA scientists in the summer of 2007. Of the 1,586 that replied, 889 reported interference within the last 5 years. This LA Times Article reports the details: http://articles.latimes.com/2008/apr/24/nation/na-epa24
 World Watch Institute. Vital Signs 2007-2008, pg. 36.
 See Lester Brown’s Eco-Economy, pg. 103-104.
 From Lester Brown’s Eco-Economy, pg. 240. His numbers come from the 1997 Earth Council Study entitled, Subsidizing Unsustainable Development.
 For more details on these trusts see the Worldwatch Institute’s “State of the World 2008” Report, “The Parallel Economy of the Commons.”
 Worldwatch Institute, “State of the World 2008.” Pg. 148.