Climate and Trade

Written By: - Date published: 5:43 pm, October 10th, 2015 - 41 comments
Categories: capitalism, class war, climate change, Economy, energy, Environment, exports, global warming, Globalisation, manufacturing, trade - Tags: , ,

In thinking of the TPP, I’m reminded of a scene from the film ‘My Name is Joe’ where a hapless kid sits in the corner of a snooker hall, crying at the lose/lose situation he’s been put in. While the local heavies socialise at the bar, the kid has to choose between paying them money that he doesn’t have, or of having his legs broken. The joys of being powerless.

But no-one forced our government to attend meetings with any global corporate mafia. No-one forced our governments to sit down and choose from a list of punishments that would be meted out to society should any government action occasion a measure of displeasure to befall a global corporate.

Were the trade components in these ‘agreements’ anything beyond a bit of bait on a hook that reeled governments in through the door? If so, then once inside, why did they happily cede power to global corporations and agree to submit to a range of punishments should anything crop up that might be perceived to be getting in the way of them exercising their new powers? Maybe that bait was for our benefit then – some promise of something better to come while…?

Another nagging bastard thought that springs to mind with this these ‘free trade agreements’, is that Germany’s National Socialist government of old would have taken to them like ducks to water. They promote, or so it seems to me, precisely the type of power relationships that they sought to develop – the state and society was to sit subservient to, and in the service of, corporate goals and interests.

That as may be, why are any people debating the various trading advantages and disadvantages of a TPP? I’m looking… and there’s next to nothing there. The Emperor has no clothes. And yet, even on the left it seems, some people are debating the colour of them.

See, if we want to be talking trade, then we need to judge it against the fact that we must cut energy related emissions to zero over the coming few decades. That difficult yet necessary angle renders any talk of trade access, or trade access denied under a TPP absolutely redundant. If the US, Canada and the rest of them had given 100% access to all NZ goods and services, then the TPP would still be a bad deal….y’know like, I’ll see your market share and raise you climate change .

I mean, even supposing 100% access for NZ dairy (and everything else) to foreign countries – and putting aside all the other land and environmental issues – would we really want to be exploiting that where it meant burning even more lignite in Southland to produce ever greater quantities of milk powder? Surely not.

I know in saying that, that it’s not always a straightforward matter to decide whether *this* or *that* production is better or worse in terms of emissions if it’s carried out locally or at a distance.

As an example, there was a study done on cut flowers that concluded energy use was lower if flowers were grown in Africa (Kenya, I think) and flown to Europe than if the flowers were grown in Holland. All very good, but see, I’ve no idea why the whole notion of using energy to produce and distribute cut flowers wasn’t the central question. Because that’s where we have to go in relation to all production, distribution and services; we need to ask – not if it’s profitable – but whether it’s necessary or desirable in light of climate change.

So in a domestic context we should, for example, be looking at the energy used in a centralised industrial dairy process that dehydrates milk so it can be shifted in bulk and re-hydrated. If that system of production and distribution doesn’t stack up against other possible wet milk systems of production and distribution, then we shouldn’t allow it to continue.

And that fairly simple arithmetic and analysis has to be carried out on every sector of production and distribution in existence in NZ.

Fact is, we can’t go on living this way. Yes – for some it’s been nice. But the party’s over and it’s time to leave.

As for the grasping corporate junkies and their enablers desperately quaffing back all that power – without us in attendance, they and their power are nothing, so leave them to it. Besides, they’re in for a hang-over that even hell’s going to be shying away from, and you really don’t want to be hanging around for your very own piece of that.

41 comments on “Climate and Trade ”

  1. Ad 1

    “we can’t go on living this way.”

    What way would you like?

    Who would achieve that?

    • Bill 1.1

      I know that this isn’t sustainable. I’m neither a dictator nor a prophet, so whatever I may or not want is secondary insofar as it becomes bound by (among other things) the limitations my society imposes. I’d like to think those limits would be arrived at democratically. So…that’s all of us achieving that, innit?

      • dukeofurl 1.1.1

        Humans are intrinsically unsustainable, especially compared to some other of the worlds animals or birds. In the large size category, the Andean condor beats us hands down.

        While we can shed the luxury of hot house flowers – in winter!!- after all Holland has no problem growing tulips in season outdoors.
        The choices get progressively harder after that.
        When I was a kid growing up, dairy farming worked on a different model, the only part of fresh milk that was required was the cream, so the remaining whey? was used to feed pigs on the farm. Is that more sustainable, to feed most of the product to produce pork than haul it many miles only to dry it. I seem to remember only those doing town supply had all the milk transferred fresh for bottling and selling to households.

        • weka 1.1.1.1

          The solution to the farming issue is to farm to produce food for locals rather than farming as a business for profit. There’s not reason why many farms can’t make a living from producing local food.

          For the people that can’t do that, we need to find other ways of making a living. All jobs need to be audited for carbon emissions, so people should start getting used to the idea that the workforce is going to have to change hugely. Likewise business models.

          • Ad 1.1.1.1.1

            Why is that a solution for New Zealand?

            • Murray Simmonds 1.1.1.1.1.1

              Ad:

              How about you go and do some reading (in the right places) instead of asking useless questions?

            • weka 1.1.1.1.1.2

              “Why is that a solution for New Zealand?”

              Because one of the biggest impacts on ecological footprints is food transport. NZ is well above its fair share of resources, and so the people here who eat food need to start eating food for the most part produced locally (backyard, neighbourhood, suburb, land base, province), with some food also being transported via lower impact technology (rail, shipping).

              For farmers, it means relying on export as a prime way of a making a living is going to end. In NZ, that is, because of our geographical isolation. Again, it’s not an absolute, I’m sure we can figure out high value agricultural produce that can be shipped with relatively low impacts, but in general what we are doing now will have to change.

              Bill’s given some examples of why in his post. Add to the milk powder one not just the carbon emissions from burning lignite, but also from shipping milk from around the country to the powder plant, and then shipping it to a port and then shipping it to China. There is no way that that could ever be sustainable.

              Much of our domestic food supply chain is like this, and the on land miles are often worse than the ocean shipping where food is coming from overseas.

              So that’s a solution to food production and ecological impacts, right? But not a solution to industrial agriculture making shitloads of money. That’s because industrial agriculture making shitloads of money isn’t in fact our problem. Farmers being able to make a living is our problem. The sustainable agriculture farmers in NZ are pioneering this, and there are various models with varying degrees of success, but mostly they seem to be about stepping out of the models like Fonterra, and instead producing for local markets or making foodstuffs on or close to where the raw materials are grown.

              See these guys http://www.clearwaters.co.nz/

              And here’s one closer to your favourite part of the world http://www.wanakaorganics.co.nz/

              http://www.retroorganics.co.nz/ (they’re moving towards export now I think, which is a real shame)

              An intro to ecological footprinting and where NZ fits in the scheme of things http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/economy-and-the-environment/page-7

        • Smilin 1.1.1.2

          Yeah a good simple efficient system that could have been expanded in pig production without pigs in cages and chickens for that matter .The corporates got under the radar on that one and the development of beef feed lots could have been more useful so that we have more trees on our hills and Aucklands amoeba growth could have been halted as well if someone had highlighted the fact that we have less agricultural land than Britain and without the loss of our fisheries to the northern pirates we would get the money needed to stop the out of balance dairying industry creating an environmental disaster in the future if not now all eggs in one basket A right screw up when it goes wrong

  2. sabine 2

    imagine what would happen if we were to stop discussing the various colours of the ‘non-vetements’ of the king, or the flags, or the tppa, or the beneficiaries that are deserving vs the beneficiaries that are undeserving, if we were to stop discussing if we should feed the kids or not and so on and so on,
    can you imagine what would happen if we were to cut out the white noise and the pretty picture
    can you imagine what would happen if we were to finally see how we are getting fleeced, looted, and robbed in plain daylight?

    maybe something like this would happen

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JXzCuOX0CbU

    but still we are behaving like sheep, look there is rugby, shortland street and other assorted horsemanure and piss till the early mornings.

    • Bill 2.1

      Maybe rather than defensively railing against entrenched power, we would proactively rally around the promotion of our own?

      just a thought

      • sabine 2.1.1

        i am not defensively railling against any thing. But fact is that people don’t want to know, they don’t want to see, and above all they don’t want to change the status quo.
        They are as afraid to point out the naked butt of the king as did the people in the Grimm Story of years past.
        They are afraid of loosing their jobs, so heads down and no comment
        They are afraid of loosing their houses, so heads down and no comment

        They are afraid literally of loosing their stuff and be trhown out on the streets, as they know that by now no one cares, and no one will help.

        that is not defensively railing, it is stating what is.

        My power, if you want to call it this way, is my choice to spend my money, buy locally produced, support local businesses that produce ethically, support those around me that need supporting etc etc. My choice to watch the stupid box or read a book instead, listen to music made by people or listen to another popstar who gets aired due to looks and affiliation rather then talent. My choice to not own a house, to not get in debt, to as little partake in this sham that we call economy, that as you so rightfully admitted is not sustainable on the long term.

        But before we change anything we need to change our own habits individually. The TPPA is nothing more then another cut into a broken body of governance. So yes, I really believe that when people stop paying attention to those that wave the smoke screens it will get ugly, when they see that there are no clothes covering the butt of the king, and that the king is old and diseased it will get ugly.

        No defensively railing, just an observation.

        • Bill 2.1.1.1

          My comment above was in relation to the video link you provided – not in response to anything you’d actually written.

          This is. I largely agree with your observations. My solution in a perfect world would be a complete social reification of that TPPA slogan… ‘Walk Away’. Leave the old diseased king to die his death in whatever uninhabited wasteland of a Kingdom….

  3. Wayne 3

    This article seems to be against all trade. So that even if TPP (or any other trade agreement) reduced tariffs and quotas to zero, and had no other provisions that might be considered adverse, that would still be a bad thing because it would promote trade.

    Good luck with that argument in a nation that is wholly dependent on free trade, or indeed in any nation that wanted more things than it could produce itself.

    For instance how many things that we consider a normal part of life could New Zealand actually produce. Not that many. For instance not long range aircraft, not cell phones or computers (especially the components), the net, safe cars, most medical technology and pharmacueticals or in fact most of things in a modern society.

    The Left is going to have to do a lot better than this, if it wants to promote a new style of economy, because an autarkic primitive industrial economy which Bill effectively proposes, will have virtually no appeal. Except for aging hippies extolling the mantra; “just live off the land.” Even the Green Party, as it is now, does not go anywhere near this far.

    • Bill 3.1

      Not at all against trade Wayne.

      If you read the post you will see the two main concerns are, firstly the asymmetry of power that deals like the TPP bring into existence and secondly, our modes of production and distribution insofar as they are predicated on fossil fuel use.

      There is no call for self-sufficiency or for an end to industrial production.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 3.2

      If you misrepresent Bill’s argument it means whatever you want it to mean. Typical that you do so rather than address it.

      Slow clap. Fuck the law commission must be desperate.

    • Macro 3.3

      For instance how many things that we consider a normal part of life could New Zealand actually produce. Not that many.

      Not that long ago NZ used to produce its own buses, rail rolling stock, tyres, assemble its own cars, manufacture all its home appliances, TVs, Radios, make all its clothing, hats and coats, blankets and even wine and beer bottles. NZ had one of the lowest employment rates in the world, was one of the most equal societies, and a young person whose parent was a labourer could easily aspire to a university education and a step up the social ladder. The neo-liberal economic theory you and your ilk espouse Wayne, and its associated greed, destroyed all that.

      Finland – very similar in many ways to NZ is the land of Nokia. Don’t say we could not manufacture cell phones – of course we could – and almost anything else we needed. For instance as i’m sure you are well aware – in the 80’s Tait manufactured gunnery calculators that were sought after by many nations including the USA.

      Bill is absolutely correct in pointing out the obvious elephant in the room with regards all of these so called “FTAs” – they are not free of Carbon emissions – and that is a direct cost to the planet. Sooner, rather than later, the whole world will have to come to the realization that BAU cannot continue. You may not like that fact, but it is an ultimate reality that you, and everyone else on this Earth, must finally accept. And the sooner we transition our lives away from profligate squandering of the Earth’s resources for our own pleasure, and begin to realise that we are not the sole generation on this planet, the better it will be for those who a destined to follow us.

      • Murray Simmonds 3.3.1

        Yep Bill, Sabine and Macro – youv’e hit the nail on the head.
        As Macro put it “these so called “FTAs” – they are not free of Carbon emissions – and that is a direct cost to the planet. ”

        And that is exactly the point.

        Once climate change kicks in – in earnest – everything will change.

        I see the FTA’s as a last desperate attempt by the big multinational corporates to rake in as much money as they can, before its too late. As for the ‘phasing in’ of some of the provisions under the Trans-Pacific rort over the next 15 years or so, well that is just laughable. In another 15 or 20 years the world will have changed immeasurably and the ‘deal’ that our darling trade minister has “negotiated on our behalf” will be totally irrelevant.

      • ianmac 3.3.2

        Well worth repeating Macro:
        “Not that long ago NZ used to produce its own buses, rail rolling stock, tyres, assemble its own cars, manufacture all its home appliances, TVs, Radios, make all its clothing, hats and coats, blankets and even wine and beer bottles. NZ had one of the lowest employment rates in the world, was one of the most equal societies, and a young person whose parent was a labourer could easily aspire to a university education and a step up the social ladder.”
        Most of those have gone because, umm because…ummm “We have sought and obtained better deals for less cost by accessing overseas.”
        Short term gains for long term degradation?

        • ianmac 3.3.2.1

          Maybe the “acceptance” of the long term degradation is aligned with the loss of Unionism? Individual contracts rather than Collectives?

          • Macro 3.3.2.1.1

            Very much a part of it ianmac – as we export our jobs overseas in return for “cheap” imports – we align ourselves with overseas labour regulations. Globalization involves a race to the bottom for those at the bottom, while the elite lap up the cream.

    • Pat 3.4

      If we are a nation that “is wholly dependent on free trade” that we are without hope as there is no such thing in this world and more importantly the TPP is the antithesis of free trade.

    • Mike the Savage One 3.5

      I think this cannot any longer be a “left” + bad and “right” + good equation. The future of the planet, and with that of human kind, is something we must all be concerned about, no matter where we live and what we think about trade.

      Trade is used as a kind of solution to all our economic woes, but that is a short sighted, rather ignorant view, I think.

      There are finite resources on this planet, we have over the last decades seen deforestation, extinction of species and radical climate change take hold, we are heading into a disaster.

      How the hell can this be avoided, surely not by doing more of the same, all based on “endless growth”. We are plundering our planet, and all some can see is, more milk powder exports, more log exports, more fish exports, more horticulture, meat and wine exports, more tourism, more this that and the other.

      New markets and growing markets are promised, in China, India, Brazil, and many other places. Hey, have you checked how these markets are going to be sustained over coming decades, without fossil fuel use, and further aggravation of the climate disaster?

      What about the increasing acidity of oceans, threatening marine life and fish stocks? What about desertification, about rain forests being replaced by palm oil plantations, the tiger, lion, rhinos, elephants, endless birds and so heading for extinction? In New Zealand even the Kauri, naturally the Kiwi and other species are also under growing threat.

      So more farms, more dairy, more polluted waterways, more ruining of the land and water, that is the price we have to pay for all this?

      We are yet to see what the TPPA will “offer” us on a balance of things to consider, as the details are yet kept under wraps. All this propaganda we get from the vested interest bank economists, certain business lobby groups and of course government Ministers, that is just that, propaganda and spin.

      Let us first look at the facts, the hard, cold figures and details, Mr Mapp, then we can continue the discussion, but all seems to be having priority to environmental, long term concerns. That is certainly a real worry for some of us.

    • Jones 3.6

      Who said autarkic economies have to be primitive? Compared to what? If they’re in harmony with their environment and not rapaciously destroying it… I would say that’s fairly advanced for humanity.

    • greywarshark 3.7

      Where does it say that all trade should be stopped Wayne? Quote.

      And then if there is a mention, it is probably from one commenter and is a thinkpiece not forming an all-encompassing drowning of trade like the present, with significant high points sticking up beyond the dampening flood waters. We aren’t tunnel-visioned like yourself.

  4. “See, if we want to be talking trade, then we need to judge it against the fact that we must cut energy related emissions to zero over the coming few decades. That difficult yet necessary angle renders any talk of trade access, or trade access denied under a TPP absolutely redundant.”

    I think this analysis is spot on and this measure must now be the norm. It’s time to wake up.

    • Bill 4.1

      Unfortunately, our institutions have acquired a certain momentum traveling along a given trajectory that leads me to believe they are incapable of fully grasping the need for change, never mind the actual change needed…they can’t shift direction.

      In darker moments I envisage that the more powerful people within those institutions know this limitation and have given up, intent then to focus the institutions on instigating whatever measures that might serve to maintain that institutional control and power in a disintegrating society.

      Y’know, when Otago University has students staying away over the head of some message on a computer server and both plain and uniformed cops patrol the campus for that day then, yeah…why all the ‘Project Fear’s? Hmm. Because they now have an observable effect. Uncertain or fearful people are people ripe for controlling or containing.

  5. JanM 5

    That was a great analysis, Bill – witty and clear.
    With luck enough USA politicians will bury it, if only in the interest of their own political futures.

  6. Corokia 6

    Well said Bill. Transport emissions from trade will eventually be counted and then the only sensible things to be trading in will be high value and light in weight. That rules out milk powder (which has a heavy carbon footprint from the milk tanker to the dryer) and people/tourism. Wealth is a balance between money in and money out, whether on a household level, or as a country. If more stuff (food, energy for transport, consumer goods) are made here in NZ then we don’t need to import as much stuff, so we wouldn’t need to sell as much, so fewer CO2 emissions. When every tonne of CO2 is counted then surely we won’t be bringing in brocolli from China and sending logs in return?

  7. Rosemary McDonald 7

    Maybe worth a watch…

  8. maui 8

    World trade collapsed by 40% in the 1930s. We could be in for something similar as we’ve built our current system around tons of global debt. Sooner or later that bad money has to be shaken out of the system. If that happens the TPPA and climate change problems are going to look fairly irrelevant.

  9. Sanctuary 9

    Tim Grosser, who I read is “anxious to quit politics”, is your arch typical know-it-all neoliberal technocrat that basically the entire western world is now rebelling against. Impatient, undemocratic technocrats like Grosser have given us FIFA, and the IOC, the EU and any number of unelected & corrupt managerial disasters over the past three decades. These people are charlatans, who deserve to be handed to that which their controlling agenda fears most: A Parisian mob with a guillotine…

    • Pat 9.1

      I am sure Tim Grosser is anxious to quit politics….with the TPP agreed his use of politics is complete and it is time to reap his reward.

    • Jenny Kirk 9.2

      So that’s who the swank expensive apartment in Hawaii is for ! Tim Groser as ambassador to Hawaii ……. of course!

      • savenz 9.2.1

        +1

        The reason for TPP – self interest for the individuals championing it.

        The rest of the world lose out.

  10. Mike the Savage One 10

    “Fact is, we can’t go on living this way. Yes – for some it’s been nice. But the party’s over and it’s time to leave.”

    People are scared stiff, so they do not “leave” the party.

    The ordinary citizen is either locked into the system as a totally dependent mercenary, servant or slave (i.e. employment, or own business interests, and income from it), so she/he cannot see a way out, without risk, yes great insecurity due to uncertainty about alternatives.

    People are locked into the systems we have, and the government, same as business, hold them as pawns in the game.

    The alternative to the present economic and social system, that is a more nature preserving and sustainable alternative, comes with sacrifices and costs. Most people have become accustomed to, or even have grown up with, a total dependence on the consumer goods and services we have, largely “affordable” due to the fossil fuel powered system. If we would all switch to electric cars, we would also no longer have enough power to heat our homes and to power our fridges, washing machines and so forth.

    Free trade is mainly benefiting the shareholders and the key players in the trade business, the average citizen will perhaps have some more choices of goods, but will at best only marginally be better off. Some jobs may be created, many more will be lost, through competition across the globe, with low wage economies, hungry to expand production of goods and services.

    So far FTAs like the TPPA are hailed as the solution for more “growth”, but growth is also based on increasing markets, increased populations, increased use of resources including energy, and with that will create also more waste and pollution. We know the environment gets compromised all the time, for the ideology of laissez faire business and more trade and “growth” for “growth’s sake”.

    The end result will be more unsustainable behaviour, more living on borrowed times, and a greater drop off the cliff, when the bubble bursts.

    It seems growth, FTAs to facilitate more growth, are like a drug to the governments like the one we have. Take the drug away, they cannot handle it, and hence all is done to keep the drug coming, to “stimulate” growth, more growth, endless growth, it seems.

    So I fully understand where Bill comes from with his post. Most do not seem to see and understand the limitations, and what the end result will one day look like. It is time we look at real alternatives, and switch to a more sustainable economic model for the whole globe, or we may as well give up, and go full-steam into self destruction of the human species.

    I fear though, democracy will not bring the vote we need to do it, too many are hooked to the free trade mantra and the “goodies” they see coming with it, on borrowed time.

    • Great post Mike
      Alas – “we may as well give up, and go full-steam into self destruction of the human species” WE ARE, and have been since day dot.

  11. Smilin 11

    Tim Laissez faire Groser everything is all very reasonable, yeah right
    :Max Keiser all please listen to him and Vinny Eastwood and Rod Oram , Jane Kelsey

  12. weka 13

    Julie Anne Genter
    ‏@JulieAnneGenter

    Maybe if climate negotiations were part of trade talks, we could get better global agreement to stop climate pollution.

    .

    Andrew Campbell ‏@Andr3wCampbell Oct 5

    @JulieAnneGenter yes imagine if @NZNationalParty put the same amount of energy into saving planet as it did for bad deal on dairy

    .

    Aaron Hawkins ‏@CrAaronHawkins Oct 5 Dunedin City, New Zealand

    @JulieAnneGenter Was thinking this last night. Imagine if Paris had the same breathless marathon effort put into it?

    .

    MartinL ‏@MartinL_NZ Oct 5

    @JulieAnneGenter In context of climate change extending copyrights to 70 years is absurd. This is like living in a mental hospital. #TPP

    https://twitter.com/JulieAnneGenter/status/651115193565515776?ref_src=twsrc^tfw

    https://bootstheory.wordpress.com/2015/10/07/women-of-nzpol-twitter-on-the-tpp-being-signed/

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