Questions (select and prepare six, of which I will choose three for your exam questions)
1. Any normative assessment of the value of productivity depends heavily on appropriate measurement: Are we measuring the right inputs? Are we measuring the right outputs? Does an increasing ratio of outputs to inputs really represent an improvement in our lives?
2. Are democratic institutions tied in specific ways to the history of carbon fuels?
3. Are ever-increasing incomes for the already-rich really a legitimate focus for our continued hopes and expectations?
4. Are shorter hours good for the environment?
5. Are there enough non-polluting sources of energy?
6. Are there win-win issues for workers and environmentalists?
7. Are we guilty of not realizing how good things really are under free-market capitalism?
8. Are we really committed to eradicating poverty? Are we serious about reducing carbon emissions?
9. Can measures aimed at protecting populations from climate change protect workers from job losses?
10. Can questions about economic effects of environmental policy be answered in class terms, with the largely middle-class environmental movement well insulated from the economic repercussions of environmental policy, forcing economic costs on a vulnerable working class? Or is this issue more complicated, such that only certain employment sectors ever experience the economic downside of environmental policy?
11. Can radical de-materialization by sharply increasing resource productivity be accomplished without sacrificing economic growth and material comfort?
12. Can new environmental sectors of the economy drive a transformation of labour markets where decent work is not the rule?
13. Can we follow the carbon itself, the oil, so as to connect the problem afflicting oil producing states to other limits of carbon democracy?
14. Capitalism’s environmental crisis – is technology the answer?
15. Could shorter hours of work bring ecological benefits?
16. Do long hours of work also put significant stress on the environment?
17. Do the institutions that characterize modern society promote competition or cooperation? Do they reward self-serving behaviour or people who sacrifice their own gain to serve others?
18. Do we genuinely care about resource scarcity, deforestation, biodiversity loss? Or are we so blinded by conventional wisdom that we daren’t do the sums for fear of revealing the truth?
19. Do we need economic growth after all simply to keep the economy stable?
20. Does increasing physical scarcity imply increasing economic scarcity?
21. Does oil hinder democracy?
22. Environmental quality and development: is there a Kuznets curve for air pollution emissions?
23. From an employment perspective, is there any difference between climate-resilient infrastructure projects and traditional public works plans?
24. From what sources might investments for green job creation materialize?
25. How are the interests of the individual to be balanced against the common good? What are the mechanisms for achieving this balance?
26. How are we as individuals persuaded to accept an ever more disturbing moral responsibility for the state of the world, while the power that reproduces this global order is increasingly centralized and inaccessible to us?
27. How can “transitional” systems be financed?
28. How can crisis itself serve as an incentive to creatively generate more sustainable forms of economy, society, and culture?
29. How can environmentally-friendly policies become supportive of the livelihoods of workers and communities which make a living out of the degradation of the environment?
30. How can skills gaps be filled when there are no public training schemes? What role can social partners play to fill those gaps?
31. How can the technological capacity of a given population be represented as independent of that population’s position in a global system of resource flows?
32. How can the transition benefit low-skilled workers?
33. How can we address the dimension of power inherent in current cultural expectations by reducing opportunities for accumulation, appropriation, and unequal exchange?
34. How can we continue to accept only those analyses of global environmental problems that provide a comfortable solution?
35. How can we deal with the impacts of the transformation of our economies?
36. How can we learn to live with the ambiguity of accepting the historical probability of socio-ecological collapse without demanding simple and immediate solutions?
37. How could a ‘Just Transition’ framework contribute to a paradigm shift?
38. How do discrepancies between the economic and moral reach of individual market actors constrain their capacity to assume responsibility for the social and environmental consequences of their consumption?
39. How do local gains in efficiency in the use of time and space rely on appropriation and losses of time and space (embodied labour and land) elsewhere in the global system?
40. How do we ensure that the new ‘green’ jobs are decent jobs?
41. How is a shared prosperity to be achieved in a pluralistic society?
42. How is the interest of the individual to be balanced against the common good? What are the mechanisms for achieving this balance?
43. How many workers will have to acquire new skills in the next 10–15 years?
44. How might we rethink notions of economic growth and technological development as a zero-sum game of global resource distribution, rather than a cornucopia?
45. How much decoupling of energy consumption and GDP growth has been achieved? How much needs to be achieved? Is it really possible for a strategy of ‘growth with decoupling’ to deliver ever-increasing incomes for a world of nine billion people and yet remain within ecological limits? How much decoupling is technologically and economically viable?
46. How should external costs (the cost of ‘cleaning up’ environmental externalities) be allocated?
47. How will the costs of energy and material inputs evolve?
48. If economic growth and rising prosperity are not the same thing, and since growth can damage both people and planet, should we not perhaps think about doing without growth, at least in the richer nations?
49. If the transition to a greener economy generates employment, it will also entail job losses for some. Who will lose out?
50. If there is an economic downside to environmental policy, who pays the price?
51. Is it possible to configure the conventional macro-economic variables in such a way as to reduce the imperative for growth and yet maintain economic stability?
52. Is the jobs-versus the-environment trade-off a myth or a frightening reality for workers?
53. Is the long-term goal of “zero emissions” advocated by many environmentalists merely a theoretical end-point many thousands of years in the future? Or is there a plausible scenario that could get us to a reasonable approximation of the zero-emissions world within a couple of generations?
54. Is there a point at which enough is enough and we should simply stop producing and consuming so much?
55. Is there some other path than growth towards a more sustainable, a more equitable form of prosperity?
56. Live better by consuming less? Is there a “double dividend” in sustainable consumption?
57. Should our highest priority be jobs or the environment first?
58. The environmental Kuznets curve: does one size fit all?
59. What (if any) are the feasible ways and means of achieving a major “U-turn” in both economic development and environmental strategy?
60. What about interests that go beyond economics, like health or political power?
61. What are any voluntary measures set by companies in addition to regulations?
62. What are the key drivers of green employment?
63. What are the possibilities and limits of substitutability, not only between capital, labor and energy but also between different economic activities ranging from shelter to food and communication, and between human labor and man-made capital and other services of nature, from fresh water and clean air to topsoil and bio-diversity?
64. What can prosperity possibly mean in a finite world with a rising population that is expected to exceed nine billion people within decades?
65. What could be the impacts of emission reductions in energy-intensive sectors in countries like Brazil, China or Indonesia?
66. What do we know about the relationship between climate change and employment? What do we not know?
67. What elements have been key for workers to accept and support in depth transformations in a certain sector or region?
68. What if democracies have not been copies of some ideal model, but carbon based?
69. What is (or should be) the role of trade unions in promoting environmental policies?
70. What is a useful definition of green jobs? a. High quality jobs protected or created by policy measures that reduce GHG emissions (and create other environmental improvements)? b. Jobs that have little to no GHG emissions impact (or other environmental impacts) associated with them? c. Jobs that can be greened, i.e. reducing GHGs for all jobs? Some combination of a, b & c?
71. What role is (or should be) played by certain regulations, social dialogue or other labour market regulations?
72. What signals do government, schools, the media, religious and community institutions send out to people? Which behaviours are supported by public investments and infrastructures and which are discouraged?
73. What strategies are available to improve working conditions in new sectors? Are these sectors fundamentally different from other non-organized ones?
74. What support should be provided to workers and communities that are on the losing end? What skills will be needed in the new sectors?
75. What would “reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation” (REDD) imply for jobs in the forestry sector?
76. What, if any, help can the general inter-dependency approach Ayres and Kneese outlined offer in dealing with pollution problems effectively and reasonably efficiently?
77. Who benefits and who, if anyone, loses as a result of environmental protection?
78. Why do resource dependent countries have authoritarian governments?
79. Why is it that material commodities continue to be so important to us, long past the point at which material needs are met? Are we really natural-born shoppers? Have we been genetically programmed with an ‘instinct for acquisition’?
80. Why might hours of work be positively associated with ecological impacts?
81. Will a different model delay or advance social progress?
82. Will climate policies drive decent employment creation?
83. Will the transformation to a ‘green economy’ have a differentiated impact on workers, depending on their skills level?
84. With the right political will, could relative decoupling really proceed fast enough to achieve real reductions in emissions and throughput, and allow for continued economic growth?
85. Would cooperation with a union on a given issue be seen as a betrayal of the environmental cause? Would a job-saving compromise in a particular situation cause membership of an environmental group to drop off, thus threatening the very survival of the organization?