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Congress threatening global crisis and criticising the free world’s health choice is irresponsible



The US government shutdown is a tragedy for those who defend liberal democracy and see the country, with all its flaws, as a beacon of that system. Let us stress, we applaud the view that all ‘men’ are created equal, that we have inalienable rights and that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are core to civilisation.

The US federal government was shut down for two weeks due to Republican senators and congressmen objections to the Affordable Care Act. This is the enacted law of a re-elected president, passed by congress and successfully navigated through multiple vituperative and vexatious legal challenges.

The failure to stop the bill caused congress to close the US government and risk the non-repayment of US debt in a high stakes game of political chicken. Government spending had nothing to do with the act, but was used as a last minute bid to sabotage or delay the act. The US dollar is the reserve currency of the world and US Treasury bonds are vital in the financial system. Any non-payment would have jeopardised, if not crashed, the fragile global recovery.

Listening to American politicians who oppose the act is slightly depressing and often quite insulting. After all, the US is our friend and ally, but the constant criticism of one of the innovations the free world is most proud of is depressing. Universal healthcare is one such innovation. Best friends can be critical of each other, but US criticism goes well beyond that.

A country that declares on the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free; the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” doesn’t ask if those tired and poor are adequately insured. But that is what the US health system has done pre-act.

According to some American politicians, a terrible ‘socialism’ has apparently gripped and infected Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Japan, the whole of Scandinavia, most of the EU, and the five nations on these British Isles. Apparently our independently arrived at but common decision to provide universal healthcare is akin to a dreaded socialism, or worse.

Despite this ‘socialism’, we live longer than our American cousins and spend a lot less on healthcare. The US is the third highest spender on healthcare globally after Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The ‘evil empire’ Russia and US nemesis Cuba have a “socialised” universal healthcare system, which irritates it enormously. There are the South American countries where the US likes to undertake covert regime change actions such as Brazil (1964), Chile (1970-73) or Argentina (1976), all of whom held onto universal healthcare.

All these countries provide universal healthcare. Here’s one map (spot the odd democracy out) and another one.

Mexico, India, Iran, Myanmar and South Africa are trying to follow our example of universal healthcare, not that of the US. Iraq and Afghanistan have universal healthcare funded by Pentagon war funding. It is seen as vital to winning the peace.

And here’s a chart showing the share of GDP spent on healthcare by country and regions, matched to the life expectancy of those areas.

The United States spends almost twice (92% more) as much of its GDP on healthcare than the UK, yet manages to have a population that lives three years less (3%) on average. That’s a bad return on investment for anyone but the healthcare and drug companies and the politicians they sponsor. The United Kingdom achieves a 3% better result in life expectancy for 52% of the cost. We spend less than High Income countries, the European Union and OECD members, and live longer.

The above is exacerbated if you consider we also manage to cover 100% of the population whereas the US system leaves nearly 50m people (15% of the total population) with no health coverage.

Nor are we a socialist country. The home of Adam Smith, the industrial revolution and free trade is unlikely to be such. If this is socialism, then George W Bush was a Communist with the largest Congress-backed public bailout of private industry in human history.

One measure of capitalist nation is the Economic Freedom of the World indicator [] produced by the Canadian think tank, the Fraser Institute. While it has its critics (but few free market thinkers), according to the 2013 ranking the UK comes 12th and the US five ranks below at 17th out of 30 countries.

Holding the US President, the United States and global economy to ransom over an isolated and ideological opposition to universal healthcare which the rest of the free world sees as a norm is reckless and jeopardises the US’s status as “leader for the free world”. You cannot simply lead through military strength if you are a threat to social, environmental, and most of all, economic security.

And finally, sometimes the wisdom of the crowd is right, even if you are the United States of America and the crowd is the rest of the free world (excluding Liberia and Myanmar). Here’s the countries that have not adopted the metric system.

Further reading:

World Bank: US nearing ‘dangerous’ moment as debt deadline looms

Functioning markets, functional democracy, sustainable economics and the rule of law

Simon Leadbetter is the founder and publisher of Blue & Green Tomorrow. He has held senior roles at Northcliffe, The Daily Telegraph, Santander, Barclaycard, AXA, Prudential and Fidelity. In 2004, he founded a marketing agency that worked amongst others with The Guardian, Vodafone, E.On and Liverpool Victoria. He sold this agency in 2006 and as Chief Marketing Officer for two VC-backed start-ups launched the online platform Cleantech Intelligence (which underpinned the The Guardian’s Cleantech 100) and StrategyEye Cleantech. Most recently, he was Marketing Director of Emap, the UK’s largest B2B publisher, and the founder of Blue & Green Communications Limited.


New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035



renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart /

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.


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How Going Green Can Save A Company Money



going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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