‘If we want to reduce the use of fossil fuels for a better environment, we will lose thousands of jobs in the energy-sector. So – which do we choose: preventing unemployment or fighting climate change?’
At Naomi Klein’s launch for her new book ‘This changes everything’, Naomi presented the same dilemma to Estela Vasquez, Executive VP at SEIU (United Healthcare Workers East), asking her to comment on the tension that has been existing between climate change and labor union activists – her reply was as follows: “We actually can fight for good jobs, for jobs that deal with the question of having clean energy, renewable energy, to have transportation that is accessible to all, (…) jobs can be created in retro-feeding buildings, in creating new forms of energy, in creating transportation that is clean, in creating a new society, where the determining factor is not profit, but the determining factor is the well-being of every living thing on Earth, not just human beings.”
She further mentioned that the interests at stake with climate change and pollution are heartfelt by the same people whose jobs may be insecure – what does it matter, for instance, if one secures a good job with good working conditions, if one’s child develops asthma from playing in the garden, breathing compromised air? There shouldn’t be a choice between one or the other – because both factors are, in different ways, affecting individuals’ well-being.
With a Living Income Guaranteed in place, one will always have a security net available when it comes to job losses or threat of losing one’s job – where it can be recognized that loss of employment is not an infringement on basic human rights, because one’s rights are fundamentally guaranteed through the receiving of a Living Income. When fear of unemployment is removed – flexibility is created in making a transition towards creating different jobs, jobs that are more beneficial to the community at large. The most common excuse from corporations that have not been mitigating the social costs they have helped to create, has been that: ‘we provide employment, and if you don’t want us here, we will find cheaper employment elsewhere’. Such threats become void when jobs no longer stand equal to lifelines. Such threats have created a burden on society at large in having to compromise the future for the present – but now we are walking into that compromised future. When we are faced with points such as climate change – creativity and innovation play a key-role – it is a time that calls for human potential to freely move – a potential that remains shackled as long as human rights are linked to jobs, where eventually the employer and the availability of alternative employment, determine what one can and cannot do in life, what forms of society we can and cannot aspire to, what solutions we can or a cannot bring into manifestation. A Living Income Guaranteed allows us to stop the cycles of the past and allows us to, instead, start addressing the problems we’ve created as well as ensuring that we do not make the same mistakes again.
Of course, it’s not sufficient for human creativity and inspiration to move freely – ideas must be able to become a reality and businesses concerned with sustainable and renewable energy sources, for instance, must be given a chance to establish themselves in the market. Here we’re looking at economic power-plays where companies engaged with power-production from fossil fuels have established themselves as pillars within an economy around which everything else turns. Having considerable economic influence, the practice of compromising the opportunity for firms based on renewable energy to establish themselves in that same market is common practice. Within the Living Income Guaranteed proposal, we suggest that the citizens of a country become the owners of companies within that country that produce power – hence – allowing the activities of these companies to be directly accountable to every citizen – and as such – having to keep all citizens’ interests at heart. This changes the economic dynamic in such a way that the entire power producing industry and the role established companies play within it – can be considered within the context of what would be best for all the citizens involved.