Sunday, August 15, 2010

Carbon Tax Passes, At Least A Voluntary One in My Community

I love the experimental attitude of Cobb Hill, something that I think traces directly back to Cobb Hill co-founder, Donella Meadows, who wrote and spoke often of her belief that no one knows how to create a sustainable world and that therefore we must commit ourselves to experimentation, be willing to make mistakes, and share what we learn along the way.

This experimental spirit showed up in my email box the other day, in the form of a note from my neighbor, Tom, with recommendations for a two-month experiment with a voluntary carbon tax within our community.

The idea was simple. Any family who wanted to participate would keep track of the number of gallons of gasoline consumed for  two months, and commit to paying a 'tax' of $1 per gallon, the proceeds of which would be collected and invested in yet-to-be-determined ways that would enhance the sustainability or fossil-fuel independence of the community.

I signed up (though I gulped when I saw the recommendation that air-miles be 'taxed' as well, knowing that my fall schedule of flights to climate meetings is quite high; the irony of this which is a topic for another post someday!)

There are all sorts of questions about our voluntary tax, pretty much the same ones that play out on the national and international scale.

Fairness:
How do we ensure that the tax is not an unfair burden on those with the lowest incomes?

Priorities;
How to invest the revenues towards our long-term goals?

Specifics:
What about other fuels, like propane for cooking?

If the past ten years at Cobb Hill are any guide we will talk about all these questions and more. We will try things out. The plan will change. It might even be abandoned in the end, and that would be OK with me. The plan itself is not the point. What is important is, as Dana Meadows said,  the willingness to admit that we don't know exactly what to do and then get down to the work of trying things out.

So, stay tuned for the debate, the lessons, and, of course, the answer you might be most interested in:  how big will the Sawin/Rice August/September voluntary carbon tax bill be?

And, who knows, maybe your family or your neighborhood will get sick of waiting for the Senate and decide to  try something similar, yourselves.

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