Below we look at the seven main environmental threats we are going to face and how we can tackle them.
The world faces seven main environmental threats and climate change may not be the first to threaten our way of life. They are:
— Climate change caused by the greenhouse gasses we emit.
— Species extinction and biodiversity loss, partly caused
by climate change but mainly resulting from bad land
management and our use of pesticides.
— Pollution, which includes chemical pollution from industry but
also fine particles of soot which get into our lungs and many
forms of plastic in the environment.
— Water shortages, particularly in densely-populated areas and
around areas of intensive agriculture.
— Overconsumption and resource drain – we’re simply running
out of the minerals we currently rely on.
— Deforestation, with crucial forests being burned or cleared to
make way for industrial agriculture.
— Soil degradation which results from over-intensive farming which removes nutrients from the soil without replacing them, gradually eroding it entirely.
Scotland faces every one of these challenges. Water is far less of a problem for us but even in a wet country like this there are localised water shortages because of poor water infrastructure.
So how do we tackle these problems? The first thing to be clear about is that we can’t fix them as individuals. We have been told for decades that if we all just ‘do our bit’ these crises can be solved, but unfortunately this just isn’t true. Even if you did absolutely everything you could to avoid plastic, use recycled products, minimise your energy use, shopped as little as possible and moved to electric vehicles, you still wouldn’t make much of a difference. Obviously it’s important to try to reduce our individual impact and each of us can help to change the culture, but the problem is simply too big. The second thing to be clear about is that we can’t fix these problems as groups of individuals. Even if every single one of us did absolutely everything in our power to heat our houses without also doing harm to the environment, few of us would be able to do it no matter how hard we tried.
This is why the big problems facing us cannot be solved only by markets. It’s not about us ‘choosing better’; it’s not even about encouraging big business to ‘choose better’. The causes of the environmental threats we face are structural – they’re built into the foundations of our society, the engineering that makes our communities possible, the ways profit is made in our economy. No matter what choices we make when we buy things, it won’t build the infrastructure we need to solve these crises.
But none of this means we can’t fix these problems; we can, we just need to do it collectively and in a planned manner. This is how we built our roads and cities, the National Grid and the telephone network, schools, hospitals and the police service. This is exactly how we will steer Scotland away from the real threats to our survival.
What we must do is sit down together, plan together, pay for it collectively, deliver it on behalf of all of us and support it within our communities. The Common Home Plan proposes a series of national agencies and companies, organisations to plan the work and to get it done. An Energy Development Agency will plan our power and heating systems and a National Energy Company will build them, a National Land Agency will work to restore our soil and plant the trees that capture carbon from the atmosphere, a National Transport Company will integrate all the nation’s transport and move it over to hydrogen and electricity – and so on.
With these, and with proper funding, we absolutely can turn things around. The investment we must make together is substantial. To complete this work we believe Scotland will need to invest at least £120 billion. This seems like a lot of money, but let’s put it into perspective; this represents roughly Scotland’s share of the financial bailout the banks received in 2009, and that money was found in a single year. The Common Home Plan will take 25 years to complete and the spending will be spread over that period. And it will serve many, many generations to come, so the cost need not be borne by only this generation.
So the Common Home Plan should be funded through government borrowing and then paid off over 50 years. After all, we will only ever need to do this once. The most it would cost us is £5 billion a year, but this will create so many jobs and so much new public income it more than pays for itself. This is precisely the kind of infrastructure investment we need to improve our economic performance and help create real prosperity for everyone in Scotland.