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Don’t call me an environmentalist

Lisa Curtis, Grist
I believe in climate change. I ride my bike everywhere, I work at a solar company, I buy organic and local when I can. I am young, liberal, and idealistic. But I’m not an environmentalist. And I’m not alone.

Over the past decade, the number of Americans who support the environmental movement has declined, with supporters increasingly split along partisan lines. On the other hand, most Americans strongly support developing clean energy, believe that global warming is an important issue, and regularly engage in behaviors that are good for the environment

… Apparently, many Americans are aligned with the environmental movement’s goals. We just don’t align ourselves with the movement itself.

So what’s wrong with the environmental movement? According to its more morose critics (who include a few of its former leaders), it’s dead. In my mind, it just hasn’t changed to fit the times.

I am a child of the environmental movement, the granddaughter of avid hikers who helped protect wild spaces and the daughter of ecologically minded parents who taught me the Clean Air Act along with my ABCs. So it is with all due respect that I would like to inform my elders that their brand of environmentalism simply isn’t working anymore.

The environmentalism of my grandparents’ generation was focused on preserving pristine wilderness, free from human interference. For my parents, environmentalism was all about the legislative victories.

In the 21st century, with 7 billion people to clothe, feed, and shelter, there’s little environment left that we haven’t altered. We’re changing the natural world and we will continue to do so. When the trade-off is between survival and preserving the pristine, survival will always prevail.
(10 May 2012)

America the Possible: A Manifesto, Part II

James Gustave Speth, Orion
A new politics for a new dream

Part one of this article.

WE NEED A COMPELLING VISION for a new future, a vision of a better country—America the Possible—that is still within our power to reach. The deep, transformative changes sketched in the first half of this manifesto provide a path to America the Possible. But that path is only brought to life when we can combine this vision with the conviction that we will pull together to build the necessary political muscle for real change. This article addresses both the envisioning of an attractive future for America and the politics needed to realize it. A future worth having awaits us, if we are willing to struggle and sacrifice for it. It won’t come easy, but little that is worth having ever does.

By 2050, America the Possible will have marshaled the economic and political resources to successfully address the long list of challenges, including basic social justice, real global security, environmental sustainability, true popular sovereignty, and economic democracy. As a result, family incomes in America will be far more equal, similar to the situation in the Nordic countries and Japan today. Large-scale poverty and income insecurity will be things of the past. Good jobs will be guaranteed to all those who want to work. Our health-care and educational systems will be among the best in the world, as will our standing in child welfare and equality of women. Racial and ethnic disparities will be largely eliminated. Social bonds will be strong. The overlapping webs of encounter and participation that were once hallmarks of America, “a nation of joiners,” will have been rebuilt, community life will be vibrant, and community development efforts plentiful. Trust in each other, and even in government, will be high.

Today’s big social problems—guns and homicides, drugs and incarceration, white-collar crime and Wall Street hijinks—will have come down to acceptable levels. Big national challenges like the national debt, illegal immigration, the future of social security, oil imports and the shift to sustainable energy, and environmental and consumer protection will have been successfully addressed. U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases will have been reduced to a tiny fraction compared to today.

Internationally, the United States will assume the role of a normal nation. Military spending will be reduced to a level close to Europe’s today; military interventions will be rare and arms sales small. The resources thus freed up will be deployed to join with other nations in addressing climate change and other global environmental threats, nuclear proliferation, world poverty and underdevelopment, and other global challenges. The U.S. will be a leader in strengthening the institutions of global governance and international regulation, and we will be a member in good standing of the long list of treaties and other international agreements in which we do not now participate.

Politically, implementation of prodemocracy reforms will have saved our politics from corporate control and the power of money, and these reforms will have brought us to an unprecedented level of true popular sovereignty. Moreover, government in America will again be respected for its competence and efficiency. And, yes, taxes will be higher, especially for those with resources.
(May/June 2012 issue)
Suggested by Luane Todd who writes, “A zinger.”

Limits to growth, food security issues and the rapid growth in Australia’s population – Philip Adams interview
Philip Adams, Late Night Live, ABC (Australia)
Extended interview with entrepreneur and philanthropist Dick Smith about his life, his many projects, Australian farming and food.
(3 May 2012)
Recommended by EB contributor Michael Lardelli who writes:
“An depth interview by Philip Adams of Dick Smith – the very successful Australian entrepreneur who has become very concerned with limits to growth, food security issues and the rapid growth in Australia’s population. (He has created the Wilberforce Award that is, “$1 million to go to a young person under 30 who can impress me by becoming famous through his or her ability to show leadership in communicating an alternative to our population and consumption growth-obsessed economy.”) It has been amazing recently to hear Dick talking about rapacious capitalism and its behaviour as the world runs up against resource limits etc.:”