SUMMARY: As the German word for tax is “Steuer,” meaning “to steer,” we develop a tax system for any land area, organized in watersheds, that “steers” the taxed away from depletion of resources, including soil and water, towards revitalization. Today’s huge amounts of civil-satellite data, with many spectral readings, are mobilized.

PROBLEM SPACE: Most forms of public finance today, chiefly the income tax (personal and corporate), promote getting income by any means, usually depletive. This appears most baldly with mineral fuels: income is earned by “producing” an “essence” (the French word) that harms the environment in its extraction, transport and consumption. There’s also no incentive to restore native vegetation and wildlife, none to conserve soil, none to avoid sprawl. Land and seas–which are all we have–become exhausted. In the US, this “steering” has prevailed since 1913, along with central banking, to promote consumer spending. The same pressure for “jobs” and “consuming,” regardless of ecological impact, occurs worldwide. Damage can be measured at river mouths. Pressure to reverse the damage comes with taxation on both property-owners (incl. oil companies, land developers, farmers) and entire river and sea-bay catchments. The idea of wealth lying ultimately in land and its life forms emerged in 18th century France, under a physician, called “Physiocracy.” It has yet to be applied. I have systematically mapped the world in its water basins, both fresh and salt, and I satellite-imaged much; ecology conditions (e.g., chlorophyll, vegetation vitality, hydrocarbon pollution, soil depletion) can be precisely measured: use such data to assess charges.

SOLUTION: All the world can be assessed, but it’s best to start in concise areas, like a small island with many bays. Each bay basin is taxed as a whole, based largely on the quality of its seawater. Then each satellite-pixel within is spectrally split up, measured, and assessed: the pixel colors get a tax charge. Any property owner pays for the pixels at the property, and for the basin altogether. Well inland, a basin could be of only freshwater. Now, we test the procedure in Miami. We meet ecologically-minded politicians. We see what is practical. The launch pad is Cannonball, an arts organization tackling issues of economics, ecology and public policy. Participants talk of taking it to Puerto Rico or (with new property rules) Havana, and the campaign-caucus farm state of Iowa. In Miami, as in most cities, we overlay a pixel grid on property charts. Then we overlay satellite imagery, and what we can see on site. Other data, as of air quality, can be co-registered. Always: make gridded imagery and assign tax rates to various color-registered depletions. We seek a flowing-color language, with rapid sequencing and flicker, as the late colleague Paul Sharits tried.

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