The 21st Century Environmental Revolution:
A Comprehensive Strategy for Conservation, Global†Warming and the Environment by Mark C. Henderson
a book review by David McCorquodale, Green Party of Delaware
This is an updated version of the review. Due to an editing error, an early draft of the review was originally published.
Subtitled The Fourth Wave, this book is an effort to envision the social and economic changes that an environmental revolution would produce and to provide a feasible strategy capable of delivering the large-scale change that would make it possible. Proceeding from the premise that just as the information age has changed the way human beings interact as described by Alvin Toffler in The Third Wave, so to will the environmental revolution change the social and economic landscape by putting “a stop to the chronic and wanton destruction of the planet and to the reckless wasting and plundering of non-renewable resources.î
The key recommendation for this transformation is to modify the taxation system by progressively eliminating consumption taxes, reducing income taxes on the average working person and shifting to an environmental taxation system (ETS). This system would levy taxes based on the environmental impact or scarcity of three classes of substances: metals, toxic compounds and oil & other fossil fuels. Similarly, taxes would be levied on packaging.
The ETS would create much more disposable income for individuals, but products would cost much more, depending on the environmental impact of the product. The total amount of tax paid under the new system would equal that of the old taxation system. But individuals and businesses would rapidly begin to change their consumption patterns to reduce costs and would begin to consume in a more sustainable pattern.
The author points to several positive developments with this new system. †The taxation bureaucracy would be simplified with costs levied at the basic level and passed on up the chain of manufacturing to the consumer, instead of levying taxes at every point in the chain. Markets for recycling and renewables would explode, as limited resources are deemed valuable, instead of being viewed as trash. “The ETS would rely on the governments for general directions and on the market for complex decisions” without burdening businesses with reams of paperwork to comply with environmental regulations as happens currently. The logic of the system would lead business enterprises into doing what is right for the planet because it is also the profitable way to proceed.
The book, which is presented as the first of a series by publisher Waves of the Future (http://wavesofthefuture.net), leaves some issues unaddressed. While nuclear power is derived from toxic metals, the author did not specifically address the issue, which many politicians, in the thrall of the energy companies, have pushed as an intermediate solution to dependence on foreign oil. †The author’s model might be easier to implement in Canada, which is used as the example, because it is economically less complex and more progressive than the United States.
Perhaps the thorniest unmentioned problem is the question of how to put the ETS into law when politicians are beholden to corporations whose business model is based on waste. In a country where over half of the federal budget goes to “defense”, including wasteful armaments production, and every state gets handouts to keep the addiction going, the question is how to start the process of weaning the economy from wasteful production. †In response to this review, the publisher intends to address this question on its website.
The author acknowledges that the ETS system is only part of the answer because it does not assume a reduction in consumption, which would mean unemployment and which would be politically unpopular. †But it would make the products we buy greener. †If population (the topic of the next book in the series) continues to increase, even the ETS may not be enough. †But it is a step that would start humanity on the road to a greener future.
Greens, who wish to show communities that they know how to lead toward a better future in a sustainable world, will be provided with a foundation for understanding environmental taxation concepts. The book has convinced me that the ETS could be an immensely important tool for the environment, but the obstacles are sizable, especially in the United States. †Greens’ support for such a strategy may play a critical role in overcoming the odds.
The 21st Century Environmental Revolution is available through the publisher and many online retailers. †See the following webpage for best places to buy, royalties, and discount information:†http://wavesofthefuture.net/buy.php