Dirty industries spend more on politics, keeping us in the fossil age.
By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 19th January 2017
Make America Wait Again. That’s what Donald Trump’s energy policy amounts to. Stop all the clocks, put the technological revolution on hold, ensure that the transition from fossil fuels to clean power is delayed for as long as possible.
Trump is the president corporate Luddites have dreamt of; the man who will let them squeeze every last cent from their oil and coal reserves before they become worthless. They need him because science, technology and people’s demands for a safe and stable world have left them stranded. There is no fair fight that they can win, so their last hope lies with a government that will rig the competition.
To this end, Trump has appointed to his cabinet some of those responsible for a universal crime: inflicted not on particular nations or groups, but on everyone.
Recent research suggests that – if drastic action of the kind envisaged by the Paris agreement on climate change is not taken – ice loss in Antarctica alone could raise sea levels by a metre this century, and by 15 metres in subsequent centuries. Combine this with the melting in Greenland and the thermal expansion of seawater, and you discover that many of the world’s great cities are at existential risk.
The climatic disruption of crucial agricultural zones – in North and Central America, the Middle East, Africa and much of Asia – presents a security threat that could dwarf all others. The civil war in Syria, unless resolute policies are adopted, looks like a glimpse of a possible global future.
These are not, if the risks materialise, shifts to which we can adapt. These crises will be bigger than our capacity to respond to them. They could lead to the rapid and radical simplification of society, which means, to put it brutally, the end of civilisations and many of the people they support. If this happens, it will amount to the greatest crime ever committed. And members of Trump’s proposed cabinet are among the leading perpetrators.
In their careers so far, they have championed the fossil fuel industry while contesting the measures intended to prevent climate breakdown. They appear to have considered the need of a few exceedingly rich people to protect their foolish investments for a few more years, weighed it against the benign climatic conditions that have allowed humanity to flourish, and decided that the foolish investments are more important.
By appointing Rex Tillerson, chief executive of the oil company ExxonMobil, as secretary of state, Trump not only assures the fossil economy that it sits next to his heart; he also provides comfort to another supporter: Vladimir Putin. It was Tillerson who brokered the $500 billion deal between Exxon and the state-owned Russian company Rosneft to exploit oil reserves in the Arctic. As a result he was presented with the Russian Order of Friendship by Mr Putin.
The deal was stopped under the sanctions the US imposed when Russia invaded Ukraine. The probability of these sanctions in their current form surviving a Trump government is, to the nearest decimal place, a snowball’s chance in hell. If Russia did interfere in the US election, it will be handsomely rewarded when the deal goes ahead.
Trump’s nominations for energy secretary and interior secretary are both climate change deniers, who – quite coincidentally – have a long history of sponsorship by the fossil fuel industry. His proposed attorney general, Senator Jeff Sessions, allegedly failed to disclose in his declaration of interests that he leases land to an oil company.
The man nominated to run the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt, has spent much of his working life campaigning against … the Environmental Protection Agency. As the attorney general in Oklahoma, he launched 14 lawsuits against the EPA, seeking, among other aims, to strike down its Clean Power Plan, its limits on the mercury and other heavy metals released by coal plants and its protection of drinking water supplies and wildlife. Thirteen of these suits were said to include as co-parties companies that had contributed to his campaign funds or to political campaign committees affiliated to him.
Trump’s appointments reflect what I call the Pollution Paradox. The more polluting a company is, the more money it must spend on politics to ensure it is not regulated out of existence. Campaign finance therefore comes to be dominated by dirty companies, ensuring that they wield the greatest influence, crowding out their cleaner rivals. Trump’s cabinet is stuffed with people who owe their political careers to filth.
It was once possible to argue, rightly or wrongly, that the human benefits of developing fossil fuel reserves might outweigh the harm. But a combination of more refined climate science, that now presents the risks in stark terms, and the plummeting costs of clean technologies renders this argument as obsolete as a coal-fired power station.
As the US burrows into the past, China is investing massively in renewable energy, electric cars and new battery technologies. The Chinese government claims that this new industrial revolution will generate 13 million jobs. This, by contrast to Trump’s promise to create millions of jobs through reanimating coal, at least has a chance of materialising. It’s not just that returning to an old technology when better ones are available is difficult; it’s also that coal mining has been automated to the extent that it now supports few jobs. Trump’s attempt to revive the fossil era will serve no one but the coal barons.
Understandably, commentators have been seeking glimpses of light in Trump’s position. But there are none. He couldn’t have made it clearer, through his public statements, the Republican platform and his appointments, that he intends to the greatest extent possible to shut down funding for both climate science and clean energy, rip up the Paris agreement, sustain fossil fuel subsidies and annul the laws that protect people and the rest of the living world from the impacts of dirty energy.
His candidacy was represented as an insurgency, challenging established power. But his position on climate change reveals what should have been obvious from the beginning: he and his team represent the incumbents, fighting off insurgent technologies and political challenges to moribund business models. They will hold back the tide of change for as long as they can. And then the barrier will burst.
How to lead, care for, and inspire great work in a social work team. (hint-probably works for all teams!)
A recent Social Work Essay was invited by the Recruitment Company-Liquid Personnel with a £1000 first prize so I entered. I was not shortlisted but here are some of my less bizarre thoughts on the subject below.
“The average ‘career lifespan’ of a social worker is just 8 years. What can be done to increase engagement among social workers and keep them in the profession for longer?”
My title is:
How to lead, care for, and inspire great work in a social work team.
Mirror a loving family under pressure.
Train, support, develop, stretch, and trust.
Use authority with great care and sparingly.
Continually recognise and celebrate good work and achievements.
Make lots of space for laughter. Share food a lot.
Make lots of space to meet and share.
Continually emphasise-service-to service users and each other.
Resist cultures of overwork and presenteeism.
Always accompany a negative criticism with a positive solution.
Insist that negative feelings are shared and talked through.
Continually emphasise personal and professional safety.
Grow and invest in your workers over time.
Be clear about the team’s Mission Statement.
Have whiteboards everywhere-magnetic ones!
Encourage familiarity and pleasure in research.
Create the practice of always cascading training.
Insist upon loyalty to the team as a basic expectation.
Sometimes play music in the office.
Shared lunch is positive but never obligatory.
Encourage your social workers to take breaks and go for walks.
Have regular group supervisions on complex cases.
Train your social workers to be at ease with authority in safeguarding cases and to project it with confidence but also with compassion and understanding.
Make supervision an exciting, challenging but ultimately affirming experience.
Be a leader-servant.
Encourage the keeping of a professional journal and file-including all training, qualifications and Continued Professional Development hours.
Treat all bullying and disrespect, racism, sexism and oppression as if it were a disease from whatever source.
Have Friday lunch together in the pub regularly.
Treat all students as custodians of the future of the profession.
Create gold stars and Employee of the Week Awards but with much humour and laughter while subversively celebrating outstanding work.
Stand up for Social Work as a profession for heroes and wounded healers.
Have at least one suit for court-the best you can buy-Navy blue is best.
Teach yourself and your team to become the best possible writers.
Read and critique each other’s written work. Remember the best writers are always the best readers.
Always, always carry a notebook and pen.
Learn to be and teach everyone to become, great note takers.
Become expert in using technology.
Use Evernote. Scrivenor. Devonthink. Ulysses. Todoist. Wunderlist. Word. Mindjet. Pages. Powerpoint. Keynote. Excel.
Always ask for the other point of view, likewise advice. One of the most common things to hear in a social work office should be ‘what do you think?’ Director or Social Worker-No matter what your role.
Meditate every day.
Physically exercise and take care of your body through fitness and nutrition.
Every social worker of eight years experience should be a highly trained and confident-
· Meetings chair
· Report writer
· Counsellor and therapist-Child or adult or both
· Events organiser
· Presentations specialist
· Possessor of brilliantly developed interpersonal skills
· Court Expert
· Mediator and negotiator
Pessimism is not a good mind-set for a Social Worker.
Practice the facial expressionism of a good actor so that from the back of a Court you leave a judge in no doubt of your feelings.
A successfully managed worker is one who is excited about coming to work in the morning.
Be proud of being a Social Worker. Encourage pride in the profession.
Consider your Senior Leadership Team as having the best of motives. Understand the hugely difficult decisions they must make in this time of Austerity.
Senior managers! You need to communicate Austerity much more effectively.
Be a master and mistress of Email courtesy.
Too high caseloads mean low quality work-understand it is an inevitable equation that will lead to the loss of good people.
Review all your professional priorities at least weekly.
In order for doing to be effective it must be preceded by thinking and planning.
Never sign your name to anything you don’t believe in.
If anyone ever tells you Social Work is about covering your arse, they don’t understand it.
Regard vulnerable children and adults as priceless works of art are regarded by museums. Not problems but the reason for your professional existence.
Avoid management-speak like the plague. Use language to be clearly understood. Avoid acronyms and abbreviations.
Social work skills are gradually accrued over years of practice and study. At about eight years a social worker is coming into their power to make excellent independent decisions. If they leave the profession at this point you lose not only them but all the knowledge that is in their heads when they walk out the door including the mysterious value of their intuition. It is irreplaceable and to lose it is to fail as an organisation and as a profession. Staff retention needs the profession’s best minds. NOTE: staff retention needs a better title more descriptive of its various elements. How about- ‘The joy in the job Project?’
Social Work is not about processing forms-it is about transforming lives.
Regard an Ofsted Inspection as an opportunity to show off! Celebrate it! There’s nothing worse for social workers than to be contaminated with the fear of a Senior Management Team on the brink of an Ofsted visit!
Let us articulate as a whole profession what we see as our future role in our society. Let’s be a bit more pushy about it!
Join the British Association of Social Workers (BASW). Get involved!
We don’t do this bizarre and wonderful job for the money. Certainly not for the prestige. Not for the popular acclaim!
Maybe we just want to do something valuable and worthwhile? To give back something? Maybe we love humanity? Maybe we have traces of brokenness in our own lives that spurred us on?
A myriad of reasons and maybe no reason we can articulate yet.
But it’s a damn fine thing to do, this Social Work! We should be proud of ourselves! We should be proud of each other!
Quite simply, when we speak the truth of what we do, that is how we will keep on doing it.
Go well, and shine brightly!