RecyProcity Takes the Lead After China Stumbles

China imports an estimated 45% of the world’s plastic for recycling.

Almost 106 million metric tons of waste are sent on barges to be reintegrated in China’s green economy. For many developed nations, exporting waste can be more profitable than recycling.

“The only reason recyclables are that contaminated is because the majority of worldly citizens don’t separate their waste and recyclables.  But if they did, or at least did better at it, the US, UK, and really the world would not need China that badly anymore. We wouldn’t need them at all actually, because we could do our own refining here! More jobs, easier materials to process, the whole thing would set us free from sending waste to Asia.” - Chris Hauser, Founder of RecyProcity

However, China has new plans. Since the 2017 National Sword Policy passage, China has taken actionable steps to pivot away from its role as the global leader in recycling. Universally used plastics, such as PET or PVC, are now banned; along with 24 other types of solid waste products that are now illegal to import.

Not only has the Chinese Government cited both detrimental environmental effects and public health concerns as new worries, but this new law is also projected to displace 50% of all plastics from 2019 to 2030. Or, in other words, 111 million metric tons of plastics will not have homes.
"What we need to do is take responsibility in making sure that waste is managed in a way that is responsible, wherever that waste goes — responsible meaning both environmentally and socially.” — Jenna Jambeck, Associate Professor of Engineering at the University of Georgia

RecyProcity Pays You To Recycle and Solves The China Issue.

This New York based recycling company not only will accept plastic waste that China no longer will take, but they also pay you. It is an opportunity for Americans to benefit from improving their environmental impact, without the difficulty or time it takes to recycle.

We are faced [with], what I believe, is the greatest moral crisis of our time…[that] those least responsible for nature’s destruction will suffer the greatest consequences. We need nature now more than ever because nature doesn’t need people, people need nature. — Harrison Ford

RecyProcity is set to launch in April 2019. This highly anticipated firm has negotiated with over 300 facilities that intend to use the service and includes three nationally-recognized recycling businesses. In terms of demographics, RecyProcity has partnered with over 300 facilities that intend to use the service in at least eight U.S. states and is also available in the U.K. Specifically, this includes: California, Connecticut, Maine, Michigan, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and cities in the United Kingdom like Birmingham or London.

In our previous article, our team wrote about the payment structure. However, as a brief recap, we wanted to reiterate why signing up for RecyProcity will be a good idea. For less than the price of a Netflix membership, users can either “drop and go” or use “the exchange” to redeem recycle materials for cash. Not only does the service streamline the customer experience, but there are no contracts or termination charges with anyone. Further, the app is localized to users within a specific, geographical radius.

To elaborate, with their patent pending ‘App’, the user is able to locate and exchange recyclable items in return for cash that is electronically transferred into and out of their accounts. After the transaction is made, the other user will pick up and transport the items to a processing facility. Just like Uber has replaced cab drivers, the RecyProcity App has the ability to create new, green jobs that connect consumers with third party service providers to maximize trips from ‘the exchange’ to the redemption facilities!

Parting Thoughts

Read about RecyProcity in our previous article! If you want to learn more, please visit their website by clicking here.  Their Twitter account is @apprecyprocity, and their Facebook page is here, and their Instagram is here.  We hope you check them out because they will revolutionize this space!

Bernie Sanders: 2020 Climate Change Revolution?

In just 24 hours Senator Bernie Sanders raised $6 million from 225,000 donors, averaging $27 per person. 

On Tuesday, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont announced his joining of the 2020 presidency race. Unlike his Democratic counterparts, he only is taking donations from individuals — no big corporations or government employees. Not only is his following clearly strong, but his views are too. In addition to promising Americans free health care and free college tuition, he is most adamant about the need to address climate change, stating: 

“The scientists have told us -- despite Trump's absurd thought that this is a hoax -- that the future of the planet is at stake.”

Senator Saunders interview with CNNs John Berman

This past December, during his town hall meeting at the Hart Senate Building he stressed the importance of confronting climate change directly, saying that it is the great crisis facing our planet and facing humanity.” In the 2016 presidential elections, Senator Sanders opened up the most ambitious climate platform, the “American Clean Energy Investment Act”, than any other candidate, promising the American people that he would slash carbon dioxide pollution by 40% by 2030, end fossil fuel subsidies, and ban fracking. 

These are aggressive but necessary steps for our future planet and safety of the American people. Acknowledging this importance, Senator Sanders has made a critical point to make climate change a key issue for his second White House run. He wishes to combat climate change on two fronts: energy and carbon emissions. His goal is to convert 100% towards renewable energy as well as largely invest in clean energy technology and green infrastructure in much the same approach as his free medical care proposal, including bolstering the “Green New Deal.” For carbon emissions, unlike the resolution supported by Senator Ocasio-Cortez who wishes to significantly reduce the emissions, Senator Sanders wishes to zero out carbon emissions altogether. He believes that only this aggressive, immediate action can offset future impacts.

Although this seems ambitious and almost rash, scientists have found truth in his claims for immediate action. This fall that the world must make “unprecedented” steps towards reducing carbon levels so as to prevent the global warming increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). At that heat, we would be beyond the threshold of return. This, at the very least, is a “deafening, piercing smoke alarm going off in the kitchen” as many of the scientists have put it. So, maybe Senator Sanders is not entirely extreme.  

In fact, he sees himself as a voice for the people, and with that, he expects people to demand fundamental changes with him. However, his stance is not just limited to liberals, and climate change enthusiasts. He claims to reach out towards all Americans and conservatives who do not believe in climate change, that this is a serious issue and international crisis.

“We need millions of people all over this country to stand up and demand fundamental changes in our energy policy in order to protect our kids and our grandchildren and the planet. The good news is the American people are beginning to stand up and fight back.” 

Senator Sanders phone interview with the Huffington Post

This fight could not be more evident than the substantial support of individuals reflected in his donations from this past week.  

WEEKLY ROUND-UP: Han Solo, IPPR, and the Wall

Over the past week, three big headlines dominated the news.

  1. Han Solo gives a talk to the World Government Summit. The 76 year old actor, Harrison Ford, spoke out about how the degradation of our environment is the greatest moral crisis of our generation. The summit was held in Dubai, UAE this year. Leader from over 150 participating countries with an estimated 4,000 attendees joined Harrison Ford in discussions.

  2. The Progressive Think Tank known as the “Institute for Public Policy Research” released an environmental report detailing the breakdown of potential catastrophes that may affect society if global temperatures rise 2 degrees Celsius. The report highlighted how humans have historically perpetuated the notion to disregard anthropocentric climate change. Further, the report also argues humans are reaching an inflection point that has dangerous implications for all members of society.

  3. President Trump is on course to declare a state of emergency, as reported by senior White House officials. The state of emergency surrounds the construction of the wall that would run along the southern border and between the U.S. — Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California — and Mexico. The state of emergency is based out of the Trump Administration’s claim that the failure to have a strong southern border is a national security issue.

Why Germany Should Abandon Coal

On January 31st, Germany’s Coal Commission debuted its recommendations to phase out coal-fired power generation by 2038. The plan, derided by some as "dumb" is hardly that. This plan is not perfect, but it confronts two important challenges: healthcare cost containment and greenhouse gas reduction.

Without equivocation, coal is harmful to society.  Between coal dust inhaled by miners that causes lung cancer to air pollutants released from coal-burning facilities, the economic calculus is clearly negative.  Containing healthcare costs requires a market-based solution and it starts with either capturing the negative consequences of an economic action or prohibitive legislation or both.

For example, Canada has employed a successful revenue-neutral carbon tax since 2008 in British Columbia.  The revenue-neutral carbon tax shifted the taxation burden from ‘desirables’ such as taxing income or sales to ‘undesirables’ such as greenhouse gas emissions.  Further, the policy was shown to have a negligible effect on economic growth and led to a 15% reduction on provincial emissions. Simply put, if Germany does not move forward with the precedent established by Energiewende (Ammendment to the EEG) and the Erneuerbare-Energien-Gesetz (EEG or German Renewable Energy Act), the society will absorb the cost through increased healthcare taxes or less healthy citizens.  

Germany’s plan to address climate change, a critical threat to the environment, starts with the reduction of fossil fuel emissions.  It is universally well-known that climate change is linked, inextricably, to fossil fuel consumption. Emissions release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, increase carbon dioxide levels, trap heat, and raise temperatures.  

Further, the failure to shift away from an archaic and inefficient energy source is speculated to lead to dire results.  In a U.N. report, higher temperatures are predicted to cause life-threatening heat waves, water shortages, coastal flooding, and mass migration. Germany is well-equipped to rely more in renewable energy resources. In 2018, 40% of Germany’s electricity mix came from renewable sources of energy, such as wind, solar, biomass, and hydropower. Coal-fired plants release more greenhouse gases per unit of energy than any other energy source, according to Green America, an energy advocacy group whose mission is to harness economic power to create a “socially just and environmentally sustainable society”.

Over the next 20 years, members of the Coal Commission, private sector, and other government officials will be able to curtail dependence on coal.  Chancellor Merkel would be wise to adopt the commission’s recommendations.

This article was co-written by Matthew Minor and Ryan Harden.

An Honest Review Of The American Conservation Coalition: Part 1

Conservatism and Environmentalism Are NOT Mutually Exclusive

Disappointingly, most conservative Republicans do not believe in anthropocentric climate change.  According to a previous article titled “The Conservative Case for Conservation”, only 40% of conservative Republicans believed in climate change and only 26% believed that climate change is linked to human activity.

Despite credible evidence from climate scientists in the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC), there is a partisan gap when we think, discuss, and read about our ecosystem. This does not mean that Republicans are not proponents of environmental stewardship, rather the statistics gathered by Yale University in 2018 indicate conservative Republicans are misinformed about their own environmental history.

What is Conservative Environmental History?

In the 20th century, Republicans laud Reagan like Democrats laud Kennedy.  With the exception of William F. Buckley Jr., President Reagan reached the zenith of influence among conservatives, yet most cannot recall his environmental stance. With just a cursory Google Search it appears the last article about Reagan’s environmental stance is by the Weekly Standard in 2013 -- approximately 6 years ago.

Despite various embattlements of the conservative Reagan Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, the IPCC was developed as a compromise between two competing beliefs.  The ideological locking of horns, if you will, is an old engagement between realism and liberalism that still influences military intervention debates in the halls of the Capitol and within the illustrious Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Simply put, Reagan’s Administration bolstered U.S. scientists to key positions on the IPCC.  In exchange for participating in the United Nations, U.S. scientists were able to influence foreign powers, communal legislative bodies, and other intergovernmental organizations.  Further, meteorological data was shared amongst those foreign powers along with best practices, honest diplomacy, and the occasional drink. As a result, scientific bodies were able to provide legislators with assessments of “socio-economic and natural systems to climate change, negative and positive consequences of climate change and options for adapting to it.”  Clearly, this is a boon to policymakers and instrumental for the 90 member Climate Solutions Caucus in the House of Representatives.

How Does This Environmental History Relate to Contemporary Conservatives?

Typically, media outlet headlines are dominated by mainstream policy debates ranging from social security solvency to who committed which crime to the role of government in anything.  Rarely, environmental issues of today are discussed with importance. Instead, disdain despite the rich history rooted in traditionalism is commonplace.  Even worse than not having the conversation is to provide non-sequitur analysis that can be characterized as, perhaps, purposefully deceitful rhetoric.  It’s even suggestive that the conservative-demographic base cannot, simply, understand science. A degrading insinuation, at a minimum, or a forthright insult.

However, the American Conservation Coalition, or ACC, is resurrecting an archaic idea in a new century.  Last year, a band of young, Republican environmentalists founded this organization that promotes environmental stewardship by directing attention on inefficiencies in our government-regulated, market-based economy.  While the ACC -- not to be confused with AOC -- appears to be a fantastic organization and desires to make an impact, Counter Current would like to provide a few helpful recommendations to make the ACC platform more effective in the second half of this two-part series.  Before exploring recommendations, Counter Current had the great privilege of corresponding with one of their staff writers, David Saul Acosta.

Meet David Saul Acosta.

David, a first generation Cuban-American, is just one story of many woven into the fabric of our nation’s, great, American Dream.  As a Miami native, he witnessed first-hand the influences of Latin America, the Caribbean, and “the importance of a strong America on the world stage.”

“I have been fortunate of the opportunities I have received throughout my life, and [have] never [forgotten] the hardships and sacrifices my family has had to order to open the doors of opportunity and be better able to pursue my own American Dream.”

Not only was he exceedingly keen on the struggles of his grandparents and parents (and discernibly grateful), but it was visible he realized that the United States was truly a land of opportunity like no other.  David’s parents sacrificed to ensure he had access to a quality education. As a proud graduate of private catholic schools -- during his formidable years in primary, middle, and high school -- he excelled academically.  Recently, David graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Miami. Now, he is pursuing a Master’s Degree from Harvard University in International Relations. Needless to say, he is impressive and will either further U.S. Foreign Policy to some degree or stay engaged with Miami’s ‘Young Republicans’.

“I believe the Republican Party must re-embrace the environmental stewardship legacy of its past, and champion free market solutions and sound government policy to meet the climate challenges of today, bolster its appeal to younger Americans who care deeply about climate change and expect action from their leaders in public office.”

Furthermore, as a staff writer for the American Conservation Coalition, David enjoys highlighting both “innovative programs and technologies -- particularly those of which come from private businesses and free market forces -- have had on the fight against climate change and environmental degradation.”  In addition, he finds it fascinating that “America’s business are stepping up to meet the challenges of our time”.

“As a lifelong resident of Florida, I have had the great fortune of living in state with great natural wonders and beauty. From our beaches to the rivers of grass in the Everglades, Florida is home to some of the most ecological significant environments in all of North America. As a child, I have always understood this distinction — with educators and class lessons in primary school highlighting the importance of environmental stewardship and conservation for the benefit of Florida’s environment, and its protection for future generations.”

Understandably, if the organization is filled with well-intended intellectuals, like David Saul Acosta, then the future of the ACC seems promising.

This is the first part of a 2-part series on the American Conservation Coalition. In the second half, Counter Current will critique, praise, and provide recommendations that, hopefully, will be received with optimism.

The Conservative Case for Conservation

Believing in climate change and being a conservative are not mutually exclusive values. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Failure to support the scientific link that climate change is caused by human activity is ideologically incongruent with conservatism.

Historically, conservatives have supported climate change initiatives. President Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970, President Ronald Reagan signed the Safe Water Drinking Act of 1986, President George H.W. Bush commissioned the National Climate Assessment by passing the Global Change Research Act of 1990, and, then, his son rejected his predecessors by failing to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.  

President Trump, with this established precedent, then exited from the non-binding Paris Agreement and cemented a party of skeptics. According to Yale University as of 2018, “only 40% of conservative Republicans,” believe climate change is real and “only 26%” believe it is the result of human activity. Make no mistake, this is a rejection of conservative principles.

Conservative ideology is predicated upon two key concepts: self-determination and traditionalism. Self-determination, more or less, is the ability to make decisions about one’s life while traditionalism is how an aggregate of individuals ought to live in society.  

Conservative beliefs stem from how the relationship of these ideas interact. Well-known positions, albeit misnomers, like small government or free markets, advance self-determination within a framework of traditionalism. For example, no rational citizen wants smog so bad that highways close, like in China, which is a clear example of how sensible environmental regulation must be balanced with appropriate market incentives for firms and individual freedoms to drive.  

Honestly, these misnomers have replaced the analytical framework for some conservatives, which is why federal actions to expand executive, judicial, or legislative powers are met with reactionary criticism. Some of this criticism is valid, while other criticism isn’t.

There is a requisite amount of federal expansion that must happen. In other words, conservatives and liberals are all born into a social contract. As citizens, certain freedoms are traded for safety. For example, if we want to have a formidable military, we must have non-zero taxation. The question, then, is what do we fund? Or, more accurately, what do we value?

When it comes to taxes, less is more. Unless a project is capital intensive or involves a common good, we do not necessarily need government involvement. From social security to public education to healthcare initiatives, these programs are plagued with fraudwaste, and abuse from misaligned incentives and short-sighted policy goals. Of course that list is not exhaustive and both the military and private sector are liable for similar failures.  

Matthew Kotchen of Yale University argues that a common good is both non-rival and non-excludable. The environment is an example of a common good. Roads, schools, public parks, and community services are all ideas built on a physical foundation— the environment.  Essentially, citizens are stakeholders of common goods through taxation. Naturally, citizens must also derive benefits from taxation. Otherwise, why bother paying taxes?   

Environmental stewardship may be nonpartisan, but application is not. Simply put, the problem starts with the intellectually dishonest denial and blatantly uninformed skepticism by many on the right. Failure to acknowledge how air pollutants are hurtful, regardless of greenhouse gas emissions, should be intuitive. These negative externalities only exacerbate the unnecessary gridlock that makes fixing flawed cap-and-trade policies or revenue-neutral carbon taxes harder. Hell, even Mattis believes that climate change negatively impacts our national security.  

Conservatives know the Environmental Protection Agency is flawed. However, the Republican Party’s first reactions are to shut it down instead of meaningful reform— denial over integration of environmental practices in classrooms, and not advocacy for community driven solutions at an individual consumer level.

To elaborate, reducing greenhouse gases have made our soldiers more lethal and decreased air pollutants allows us to live longer. Community solutions are inherently a conservative trait as the mantle of responsibility resides with ‘the’ individual. Further, youth organizations, like the Girl Scouts, teach environmental stewardship at an early age and the benefits of private sector sales.

Essentially, consumers drive our markets, our wars, and our environment’s health.  Let’s not punish bartenders with ridiculous straw ban penalties of imprisonment, but the cost of sourcing green consumer products is a more pure form of capitalism because the life-cycle pollution costs are taken into account.  

Conservatives will define crucial moments in history. As the champions of emancipation, of stewardship, and of nuclear disarmament, there is a choice.  We can be a skeptic, a believer, or deny the impact of human activity on greenhouse gases.  However, we owe it to our predecessors to understand what we value as conservatives.  

Thanks for reading. This article was originally published on Lone Conservative.

Disclaimer:  All views are my own.  None of my positions represent the Department of Defense, the U.S. Air Force, or any stance of the U.S. Government.

Tulsi Gabbard

Tulsi’s running.

For the 2020 Presidential Race, we are planning to profile the environmental political positions of each US candidate. We do not plan on providing any type of endorsements because we want our readers to be informed, but ultimately make decisions that best serve them. Our analysis will include a summary of (1) who they are, (2) what environmental issues they have voted for, (3) any sponsored legislation, and (4) any notable environmental endorsements. The length of each article on a given candidate will be correlated to the available content in each person’s background.

Who is Tulsi Gabbard?

From Bernie Sander’s supporters to Justice Democrats, Representative Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) is a rising star among Progressives and, generally, well-liked in Hawaii. As a state legislator, a combat veteran, and an environmental non-profit founder, she has done a lot in just 37 years. She announced her candidacy on 11 January 2019 and, subsequently, was featured on the Van Jones Show.

Although she is in a different tier than Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris when it comes to being a house-hold name, her vibrant persona could sway the younger base of the Democratic party to vote for her. It is our assumption, Gabbard will be influenced by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) or receive some type of endorsement from his camp, given her decision to resign as Vice Chair of the Democrat National Committee in the 2016 election cycle. This high-profile exodus raised her profile to greater national prominence

Voting Record On The Environment

From 2013 to 2017, Rep. Gabbard (HI-02) has voted in favor of pro-environmental policies 165 times in her last three terms. The data is provided from the League Of Conservation Voters and is only recent until 2017. Further, in only 6 instances did Representative Tulsi Gabbard vote against any type of bill when she was serving in the House. The following legislation pieces were voted as “Nay” votes by Rep. Gabbard in 2017: (1) Attacking Wilderness in the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, (2) Undermining Flood Insurance Reform, and (3) Flood Insurance Reform. We encourage our readers to read the text of the legislation and not merely the titles.

Environmental Legislation Sponsored by Tulsi Gabbard

On her campaign website, her team listed both H.R. 4811 (114th) and H.Res. 540 (114th) as her two greatest accomplishments in the environmental field. Rep. Gabbard was either a sponsor or a co-sponsor of the legislation. For reference, H.R. 4811 is now referred as the “Coral Reef Sustainability Through Innovation Act of 2016” and is an amendment to the Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000. Essentially, the amendment allows for awards to be given out to stimulate innovation and references the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980 on various methodology to best protect the coral reefs.

As a Representative from Hawaii, the legislation she sponsored coincides with the tourism industry. Tourism is the largest attraction in the Hawaii economy and this bill would be closer to an incremental change that is built off of previous house resolutions. This does not mean that this action is inconsistent with Progressive ideology (a political thought that generally favors broad-sweeping legislation like the New Deal under FDR), but not necessarily monumental change.

Who Has Endorsed Representative Tulsi Gabbard?

The three greatest endorsements that Rep. Gabbard (HI-02) has received are from the following organizations: the (1) Sierra Club, the (2) League of Conservation Voters, and the (3) Ocean Champions.

We hoped you liked our informational analysis of Rep. Gabbard. As the campaign progresses, please check back often to learn more about Rep. Gabbard and other candidates!

China's Belt and Road Initiative

China Unveiled Its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) Five Years Ago.

Since then, countries hailed it as a transformative tool for soft power. Many compared the BRI to the Marshall Plan and welcomed the new idea believing it would expand markets and stabilize the region. Despite the profound potential to promote connectivity and increase commerce, the associated risks are severe and the catastrophic implications -- as it relates to climate change -- threaten the ecosystem of our entire planet.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative is a project of enormous scale and reach. Considered a gargantuan development project, the purpose of the BRI is to improve China’s trade and transport links to the rest of the world through large-scale infrastructure projects. Chinese President Xi Jinping launched the $150 billion a year spending project in 2013 in an attempt to create a 21st-century version of the famed Silk Road. This also includes the estimated $900 billion of loans that China underwrote in 71 countries.

However, the Initiative relies heavily on coal. This emphasis is especially worrying. CoalSwarm, an environmental NGO, estimated Chinese firms are involved in the construction, ownership, or financing of at least 16 percent of all coal-fired power stations under development outside China. By the end of 2016, China was involved in 240 coal-fired power projects in 25 of the 65 countries collaborating with China on BRI projects.

“Chinese banks’ and companies’ investments in coal abroad are a cause of major concern because of their potential to lock in more climate warming emissions in our carbon-constrained world,” said Huang Wei, a climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia. “It is a complicated web of involvement, but ultimately all investments in coal, the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel, are bad for everyone involved — recipient country, China and the planet as a whole,” Huang told CNBC.

Eco-friendly policies at home, however, do not necessarily translate to green policies abroad.

In 2012, the year the Chinese Communist Party elected Xi Jinping its leader, the party listed “ecological civilization” as one of the five goals in the country's overall development plan at the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. In 2016, President Xi called for the Belt and Road to be “green, healthy, intelligent and peaceful.” In a 2018 speech, President Xi urged policymakers at the National Congress of the Communist Party to promote eco-friendly policies that ensure “harmony between human and nature.” Xi continued to promote policies that ensure “green, low-carbon and circular development,” “promote afforestation,” “strengthen wetland conservation and restoration,” and “stop and punish all activities that damage the environment” — in short, “to build an ecological civilization that will benefit generations to come.”

China’s coal consumption prevents achieving goals set in the Paris Agreement because of the Belt and Road Initiative.

In the Paris Agreement, 195 countries agreed to limit the increase in global temperatures by modifying the way firms conduct business. The standout phrase is moving temperatures from pre-industrial levels to below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. The energy think tank, Climate Tracker, confirmed statements made by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Both estimated at least 59% of coal power worldwide must be retired by 2030 to limit a worldwide temperature rise to 1.5°C. By achieving a temperature rise of only 1.5°C instead of 2.0°C, some of the greatest consequences are curbed.

While it is well-known that fossil fuels are the biggest single contributor to the global rise of carbon emissions, it would be inspiring to witness global actors like China to elevate green practices to a higher level and decrease reliance on the coal industry. To China’s credit, they are taking steps to promote green energy. In 2014 alone, China added 20 gigawatts (GW) of wind power capacity, 11 GW of solar and 22 GW of hydro-power capacity. The next year, reforms to the electricity market removed coal’s guaranteed hours. Further, grid operators were encouraged to give priority to renewable energy over coal. These reforms were welcomed by climate advocates, but China’s promotion of coal in BRI projects threaten to undo the global community’s efforts to combat climate change.

China may be promoting “ecological civilization” at home, but it must address the urgent climate consequences of its expansionary agenda. Now.


Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Was Right About More Than Race.

On April 16th, 1963, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr penned the famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail [King, Jr.]”. In that letter, the Reverend discussed how an “appalling silence of the good people,” constricted African-American rights. Not only did Rev. King believe that this inaction allowed for evil to triumph for so long, but he was firmly convinced that it was now “time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.”

“More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

Letter from a Birmingham Jail

He was right, too. Racial injustice was, truly, an unstable bedrock for social norms. From dining establishment to schools to government institutions, African-Americans faced broad-based discrimination. Despite the growing political and moral necessity to democratize civil rights, the transition was not peaceful. There were, sadly, so many violent clashes.

Black Power movements favoring pan-Africanism struggled for freedom against white supremacy groups like the Ku Klux Klan. Despite the surge of support in the African-American communities to engage in reciprocal violence against whites, history ultimately remembers Martin Luther King Jr.’s movement of non-violent protest that succeeded in bringing equality and freedoms to African-Americans in the United States. The cost was his life, however. Shot on the balcony of the Lorraine hotel in Memphis, Tennessee, Reverend King subsequently died of his wounds. His death cemented his legacy as a civil rights activist and he was only 39 years old at the time. He had lived in a profound way in such a short time.

Despite his humanly faults, Reverend King modeled how activists of large movements ought to behave. In particular, the lessons he taught have application when considering environmental activism. There is an “appalling silence” of so many good people when it comes to waste. While most are aware of the damaging effects of climate change, generally consumer are not eco-conscientious on a daily basis. Say no to the plastic straws!

Plastic, water, and waste consumption all account for a life that is out of balance with nature and capitalism. The true costs of our actions are not reflected in market forces, thereby disallowing markets to act with true efficiency. These revenue-neutral carbon taxes or cap-and-trade policies fail on a larger scale because bearing the consequences is never popular with re-election. Other times, when an environmental policy is implemented it is egregiously flawed like the plastic straw ban in California. There is a middle, moderate ground were lawmakers ought to function by reducing plastic consumption (i.e. straws), but not by threatening to imprison Santa Barbara bartenders.

We can make a difference each day by doing simple things right. Say no to unnecessary plastic, recycle when you can, and be a good steward of the environment.

Crisis Management

Secretary Pompeo wants the State Department to get its swagger back.

While the State may start to swagger again it also needs agility and adaptability to face down three big trends. Chaos, complexity and convergence will have profound implications for the United States and the world order in the mid-21st Century.

First the world may be tipping to chaos. More than 65 million people are displaced; the highest number since World War II. Displaced populations often accelerate local conflicts into broader regional wars. The world is also experiencing a substantial increase in the number of disasters — both natural and political. Right now four concurrent famines place 20 million people at grave risk. The near future may likely be more chaotic than any time since World War II.

A chaotic world coupled with rising nationalism pose a complex threat to liberal post-World War II institutions. The Syrian crisis continues to challenge the nation-state order in the Middle East. Rising powers and the proliferation of non-state actors seek to destabilize political and economic systems. Yet, the United Nations and international financial institutions are in desperate need of reform; these institutions operate on an outdated model which does not align with the challenges of the mid-21st Century. This trend may move international systems from order to uncertainty.

Despite chaos and complexity, technology, public and private finance, as well as rapid advances in power and water are converging forces to change the human experience in frontier markets. Specifically, community access to power and water coupled with agriculture and technology can fundamentally change economic and political development. The convergent world has seen rapid transformation in standards of living, education and health to previously vulnerable populations.

Given chaos, complexity and convergence, America will certainly remain the dominant power in the decades ahead. Yet, as President Trump’s election demonstrates, American voters have little appetite for big civilian attempts to nation build in far off lands. America canassert its interests abroad while not bankrupting its future at home simply by being smarter and more efficient in responding to many of the most complex crises.

First, leverage the private sector to help fix a humanitarian assistance system that is overwhelmed and failing. The United Nations estimates that the humanitarian architecture costs $25 billion — and yet there remains a fundamental need for leadership, adaptive technology, forensic audits, causal impact analysis, and better results. The continued spread of conflict particularly in the Middle East also underscores the requirement for new and creative solutions that bridge the divide between humanitarian relief and much cheaper, more efficient development assistance. It is time to bring start-up culture to the humanitarians.

Second, Senators Corker and Coons are leading a bipartisan effort to reform America food aid to make it far more efficient. Allowing for local purchase of food in a crisis zone, if available, would save millions of lives while lowering costs. There is, however, much more which can be done to improve food aid. For instance, expanding the use of iris scans, mobile payments, RFID chips, electronic vouchers, drone technology and operating systems reform could dramatically improve impact over cost. Additionally, the famine early warning system based on satellite forecasting has directly saved hundreds of thousands of lives but was developed in the 1985 and now currently fails to adequately capture crowdsourced and big data analytics. Collectively, food aid reform — from procurement to distribution — is ripe for disruption change.

Third, encourage private-public partnerships to transform the water, power and agriculture nexus. If Google can map all streets, then it is time to map all water sources in Africa. Water technology, including desalination, efficient use and re-use technology, remains largely untapped in semi-arid environments in the Middle East and Africa. The relationship to water and power with solar, wind or biomass can change fundamental economics for communities. The relationship between water and power is on the tipping point of massive change in many frontier markets.

Finally for high priority crises, the Administration must begin by building expeditionary embassy teams. Think Rumsfeld after 9/11 and his small military units deployed in Afghanistan. The decade ahead will demand something similar in diplomacy — small, professional, resourced, and adaptable teams which can be deployed as interagency crisis responders in theaters where the US military is engaged, where the U.S. partners closely with allies on cross-border crises, or where there is a protracted crisis.

The mid-21st Century is coming. U.S. leadership, resolve and innovation can shape the most complicated challenges ahead to favor American interests — but policy leaders will need to hack the systems that served us since World War II.

This article was originally written by Dave Harden and published on Medium.

The Green Deal

The Green New Deal.

For the past week, every media pundit has focused on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s 70% tax rate. To most, when she floated a 70% marginal tax rate, many were thankful that she only represents one vote in Congress. However, she is bringing attention to the single most important issue — climate change. Without a stable ecosystem, we cannot have a functioning government and nation-states will fight for vital resources. There will be no winners.

“…transition of the United States economy to become greenhouse gas emissions neutral and to significantly draw down greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and oceans and to promote economic and environmental justice and equality.”

Google Document Draft by Ocasio-Cortez’s Team

Ocasio-Cortez and her team have an ambitious plan. That’s a good thing. Society ought to have lawmakers who want to make a difference. That’s why we elect them into office to serve as our voice.

Unfortunately, even if Ocasio-Cortez has the requisite political will for a “Green New Deal”, there are lots of logistical uncertainties that can make a bill dead on arrival. Like everything, there is always an economic trade off. In this particular case, by shifting from a society that uses fossil fuel in tons of products to none, a lot of people will not be able to afford the cost of living adjustments.

Logically, one may ask, who is responsible for taking care of those who will be left behind? Is it the role of the government to subsidize the transition by providing favorable incentives to businesses? Is it the role of individuals in society to help those who have less make the transition?

Traditional Republicans — who favor small government — may not get behind such a monumental shift that requires such a large-scale shift. Remember, the tax reform bill lowered corporate taxation from a top level of 35% to 21% across the board. A Green New Deal would likely mean more government spending.

Traditional Democrats — who favor larger government — ought to get behind legislation that is more expansive than Senator Markey’s 2009 ‘Cap and Trade’ Bill. However, the background noise that unemployment is fairly high is not true. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in December 2018 was a shockingly low 3.9%.

We, at Counter Current, want radical change. We want an environment that is protected. We hope Ocasio-Cortez is able to get actual change accomplished — the same standard we want out of all our law makers — but a lot of the necessary logistical questions remained unanswered.

We need Republicans as much as we need Democrats. There is an existential threat to society that can only be solved through compromise and real solutions. Let’s stop demonizing each other.

The United Nations

Guess what? Climate change is real.

Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history. Recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems.

Page 1 of the IPCC’s 2014 “Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Summary for Policymakers”

Under the Reagan Administration in the 1980s, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the State Department wanted to create a new, international norm. Both the EPA and State desired to limit the amount of greenhouse gases a country could produce.

Although the relationship between President Reagan and the EPA is a tortured history, they ultimately came to an understanding and lobbied for a new international governmental organization to be established in the United Nations.

In 1988, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution that allowed for the creation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This body was born out of the ‘Advisory Group on Greenhouse Gases’ and is, currently, advised by both the International Council of Scientific Unions, the United Nations Environmental Programme, and the World Meteorological Organization.

Ever since 1988, the IPCC has kept seasonal, monthly, and annual tabs on how the world is changing. If you go to NASA’s website, they reference a report from the “Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Summary for Policymakers”. In this report is the quote below.

Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, and sea level has risen

Page 1 of the IPCC’s 2014 “Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Summary for Policymakers”

Regardless of political affiliation, the severity is undeniable. This isn’t just some online blogger preaching to a choir of eco-lovers, but rather hard data confirmation from NASA scientists. NASA freakin’ scientists. The damage can range from melting ice caps to higher sea levels and the displacement of millions of people.

We have a problem and we only have one world. So let’s fix it!