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An economics lesson for Rachel Notley

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Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley said in a recent interview that supporters of the Leap Manifesto lack a "pragmatic understanding" of the Canadian economy. A synonym of "pragmatic" is "down-to-earth," but the earth is what Notley's narrow understanding of the economy ignores.

The economy isn't the earth. It's part of the earth. And the earth provides the economy all kinds of "free" stuff, like air and water and a livable climate. But climate change is teaching us that that stuff wasn't free after all. In fact, it might be so expensive that it puts our economy and our species out of business. There's no bailout for the earth.

It's easy to get intimidated by economics. It seems scientific and inarguable because it uses a lot of math. But math is a language. Science is a method. And it's a method that economics doesn't use. You can lie with math. Like when you cut down a tree and call it a revenue instead of a cost. Or when you poison a river and call it growth. Or when you submit Senate expense claims.

In the world of mainstream economics, if something isn't owned, it doesn't exist. And when you make decisions based on that absurd world, you end up making absurd decisions. Like pushing to build more pipelines when science is telling us we need to move our economy away from fossil fuels as fast as possible.

Notley can go ahead and defend her grim pragmatism as the only realistic option, but any leader in the midst of a climate emergency better make sure to have some realism left over for reality. 

This video originally appeared in the Toronto Star.

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