Popular columnists Donella "Dana" Meadows died on February 20, 2001. The following is excerpted from a manuscript she wrote before her death about her book "The Limits to Growth," which sold more than 9 million copies. It is being released to coincide with Earth Day, during which memorial services will be held in cities across the nation to commemorate Dana.
The place to watch for global warming -- the sensitive point, the canary in the coal mine -- is the Arctic. When the planet as a whole warms by one degree, the poles will warm by about three degrees. Unfortunately, this is just what is happening.
The biotech biz can't make grass into wool and lambs either, though the sheep I used to have, which were not at all smart, used to do it with great reliability. Sometimes I wonder, with all our supposed progress, what we're rushing toward and what we're leaving behind.
What do you do when you want to move fast but the way ahead is dark, possibly dangerous and almost entirely unknown? Rational people would proceed cautiously. When it comes to the environment, the U.S. does not.
South Africa adopted the first ever global agreement banning persistent organic pollutants -- chemicals that are immediately toxic or cause cancer or reproductive difficulties or birth defects -- on December 10. If ratified, 12 POPs will be affected.
The world is fixated on building up money capital at the expense everywhere of social and natural capital. If you count money, the future of the world looks good. When you count nature and societal health the picture is different.
While the nation was absorbed in its election follies, environmentalists David Brower and Don Michael passed away. The two giants lived lives that sent powerful messages to the two dwarfs vying for control of the country.
Given the uncertainty surrounding the risks of water flouridation, isn't there a better way to protect children's teeth? Why fluoridate the whole water supply, the millions of gallons with which we flush toilets and take showers and water lawns, if our only target is children's teeth?
I wish everyone would stop calling them "debates." At best, they are carefully controlled soundbite gotcha matches. Like most everything in our campaign process, they insult voters and undermine democracy.
Inheritance taxes infuriate the rich who focus narrowly on one life, one set of children, and one ardent need to feel good about themselves. When the broader context is considered, sensible reasons for taxing estates emerge.
The growth imperative shepherding American farmers and fishers is leading them to the edge of a high cliff. As output exceeds capacity, the price of goods like corn, timber, and fish falter. Idled machines, laid-off workers, bankrupt families, and environmental decay soon follow.
Reality TV is a joke to Linda Harrar, an independent filmmaker who documents the plight of the poor in less developed countries. "On Indonesian islands near where 'Survivor' was filmed, people eat rats regularly -- because they have to," she said.
The results of the 1976 NIH experiment that gave the green light to gene-splicing were fudged. Next time you hear a scientist asserting that gene-splicing is safe, remind yourself that there is no scientific proof.
The mad cow disease that is whipping the USDA into a sheep-slaughtering frenzy is poorly understood. Are sheep the scapegoat for politically connected cattle farmers who continue to feed their livestock dangerous animal products?
Outburts of unbelievable vitriol have been flaming the airwaves and pages of media outlets in Vermont, where same-sex civil unions have been legal for a week now. How might the thinking person respond to such uncivil behavior?
We humans have more than doubled our numbers since 1950, but most industrialized nations have stopped growing or are slowly shrinking. Donella Meadows reports slight to moderate slowdown in population growth, fossil fuel consumption, water use, fertlizer application and nuclear waste buildup.
Why do environmental groups send out mass mailings for the preservation of forests -- mailings printed on postconsumer recycled paper, which is, nevertheless, made from ground-up trees, cut from a forest?
"Am I the only one who's both amused at and a little scared by the endless succession of 'how-to' books for executives? I mean, these people run organizations that are bigger and richer than most governments. Heck, they own, directly or indirectly, most governments."
"What do the Internet, Alcoholics Anonymous and VISA International, the organization that brings us the VISA card, all have in common? They are all "chaordic" organizations -- self-organizing and self-governing, with no glittering center of power, no central headquarters and no one owns any of them."
Surprised citizens are flooding Congress with calls asking how this Kosovo mess came about and why we're involved in it. I feel a surge of annoyance at the American people for paying so little attention to the world, followed by a surge of annoyance at the American media for informing us so well about trivial things and so poorly about crucial things. Then comes a wave of understanding toward my fellow citizens. If I hadn't spent much of my foolish youth in Yugoslavia, I wouldn't know its history either. I wouldn't be overwhelmed with grief as such a beautiful place descends into barbarism.
Meadows writes: "Resilience is the ability of a system to absorb blows, repair itself, weather hard times, adapt, adjust, evolve.... Resilience has its costs, which sane people are willing to pay, because doing so is a matter of survival."
Meadows writes, "There were plenty of bad reasons why Congress turned down President Clinton's 'fast track' trade bill ... But there were good reasons, too, strengthened by the fact that NAFTA, the free trade agreement with Mexico, has failed to fulfill the grandiose promises made for it on either side of the border. Since NAFTA Americans are beginning to hear the pro-trade drumbeat -- globalization is inevitable, we'll be left in the competitive dust, trade grows the economy, trade creates jobs -- as so much bunkum."