A 10th December edition of the Herald Sun
reported on a proposal by Perth Associate Professor Barry Walters to tackle climate change: A baby tax.
Walters is a clinical associate professor of obstetric medicine at the department of women's and infants' health at the University of Western Australia and the King Edward Memorial Hospital in Perth. In an article to be published in the Medical Journal of Australia, Walter's has been noted to say:
Every newborn baby in Australia represents a potent source of greenhouse gas emissions for an average of 80 years, not simply by breathing, but by the profligate consumption of resources typical of our society...Far from showering financial booty on new mothers and thereby rewarding greenhouse-unfriendly behaviour, a baby levy in the form of a carbon tax should apply, in line with the polluter pays principle
According to Walters' scheme, families with more than 2 children should be penalised with an initial $5000 levy for every extra child, followed by an annual carbon tax of $800. Such a levy, he said, would pay for the planting of trees to offset the carbon emissions generated over the child's lifespan. To supplement the financial penalties, Walters recommended an auxilliary arsenal of "greenhouse friendly services", which include contraceptives and sterilisation procedures to earn carbon credits. Finally, Walters has commended the population programs of China and India to the Australian context
An emotive response that can be generated by such economic and environtmental fundamentalism would be inevitable. But what should be pointed out that such a radical proposal is symptomatic of the fear of death. According to Catherine Pickstock, the accumulation of security via the consumption that Walters is so critical of is driven by this very fear. Such acts of "stockpiling", in Pickstock's parlance, is undertaken in defiance of death. What this engenders, according to Elizabeth Strakosch, is intergenerational warfare, where the present wages war against the future. Paradoxically, however, what this does is feed back on itself to undermine the present. This proposal, which targets those that are not responsible for the problem (namely the pollution caused by excessive consumption), and punishes those least likely to contribute to the problem (namely the parents who need the resources for the upkeep of their children) is symptomatic of such a mode of thinking.
The corrective, according to Pickstock, is not a curb on "stockpiling", but a turning away from its necro-centric logic. This is where the spiritual dimensions of the problem and solution become apparent, for to counter the necro-centrism of consumerism is must go beyond the formulation of political community that includes merely the living, but the dead and soon to be born. These need to be included in what Pickstock calls a common narrative, where death is but a stage of life and not its end. Needless to say, the imminantist logic of Modern life cannot allow for such a conception of community or such a narrative (or any narrative for that matter). Only worship embodied in the practices of Liturgy can embody such radical political horizons, and only a liturgical perspective can provide the counter to such the imminant fundamentalism espoused by the likes of Walters.
Labels: economics, liturgy, news, politics, Radical Orthodoxy, secular