After reading an article explaining why the European Community is sure to fall apart, Donella Meadows contemplates the difficulties of building and keeping communities togethger. "Community is hard. Maybe Europe can't hold together, nor our cities, our families, our nation. And yet most of us, surrounded by increasing material wealth and failing human relationships, spend our lives longing for community. Being responsible, managing our differences, being committed, that all seems like a huge burden, unless you think about the benefits as well the costs. And unless you consider the alternatives."
Want to buy a gold mine for five bucks an acre? Actually you don't need to buy it. You and I already own it as part of our citizens' legacy of public land. We're the ones offering the land at that price, and we're getting lots of takers. We recently sold a gold deposit in northeast Nevada worth an estimated $10 billion to American Barrick Resources (a Canadian company) for $9,765. Why are we selling off fabulous resources at ridiculous prices? Because of a law written in 1872, intended to promote the settlement and enrichment of a poor and sparsely populated country.
"Electrolux vacuum cleaner bags have always been pricey, but they recently jacked them up to $1.25 each. I called my local distributor to ask why the steep rise. They're new improved bags, he pointed out. When I got around to reading the label, I discovered that they're new alright... but are the new, dangerous chemicals really an improvement?"
Meadows writes: "In this country not only do we hold people innocent until proven guilty, we do the same for chemicals. Their behavior may be suspect, they may be found regularly at the scenes of crimes, they may fail their lab tests, but still we let them go free -- indeed we multiply, spread and circulate them -- until someone proves beyond all doubt that they are harmful."
Meadows writes: "On the Sunday after Michael Dorris committed suicide, the news was announced, gently and sadly, in a church here in the valley where he lived. A bit of the story came out that Sunday morning. Our neighbor, teacher, favorite writer was separated from the woman we knew as the love of his life, the even more celebrated author Louise Erdrich. He was facing a charge that could have cost him all contact with their children. He had attempted suicide a few weeks before. Friends had been talking with him ever since, many times a day, trying to help him find his way back into the light. His desperation had finally outwitted their care and concern."
Donella Meadows writes, "Congress is in recess till after Labor Day so our representatives can attend conventions and take a break from the muggy Washington summer. It's a good time to collar them at home and tell them what we think of their assault on our natural resources. After negative public reaction last year, the politicians are talking nice and green. But their actions are as dirty and brown as ever."
The holiday shopping season has gotten off to a bad start, they say. They don't say it, actually, they moan it, as if no worse tragedy can be imagined. The problem is, they say, that too many of us have maxed out our credit cards. The solution is to send out more credit cards. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that a description of mass insanity? We take a holiday that celebrates the birth of one of the gentlest spirits ever known, one who told us to store up treasure not on earth but in heaven, and we turn the occasion into an orgy of eating, drinking, and buying gifts people don't need with money we don't have.
The folks who bring us gene-spliced soybeans, corn, potatoes, and other foods like to make a point of the U.S. government's approval of their products. The feds OK'd it. That must mean biotech foods are safe, right?
Meadows writes: "On average, 65 cents out of every dollar you spend for food at the supermarket go for packaging, delivery and marketing. Thirty cents go to chemical companies that make fertilizers, pesticides and genetically altered organisms. That leaves five cents for the farmer. If you wonder why farms are failing (over 20,000 a year go under in the U.S.), that's why."
Meadows writes, "You would think that if any publication would NOT receive letters enflamed with political opinion, it would be 'Hemmings Motor News.' But there, in last December's issue, is a letter that sounds like a replay from the Rush Limbaugh show. 'From what I've read, the theory of ozone depletion is a hoax,' it starts. 'When the US signed the so-called Montreal Accord, pop science won out over common sense.'"
Meadows writes, "I've recently read John Wargo's book, Our Children's Toxic Legacy, and I'm worried about what pesticides may be doing to people. The book says that of the 325 pesticides that are legally allowed to remain as residues in food, one-third are suspected of causing cancer. One-third are known to disrupt the nervous system. A bunch [are] under investigation for disrupting hormonal signals that guide the development of fetuses, the growth of children, and the ability to reproduce. The damage they do may not show up until the next generation."
Over the past two generations sperm counts in many parts of the world have fallen by half, and a higher percent of sperm are deformed and unfunctional. Testicular cancer is on the rise, as are birth defects such as undescended testicles. Many kinds of animals are suffering from hormone derangements that produce -- how could the media resist this one? -- masculinized females and feminized males. These unsettling phenomena are caused by chemicals we throw into the environment, quite a few different kinds of them, which happen, so it seems, to behave like hormones.
Donella Meadows shares some thoughts of life on her farm: "In the month of June on this organic farm where we try to work with the forces of nature, we expend all the energy and cleverness we can summon, trying to keep things from eating things. And nature laughs."
Meadows writes: "So now I'm taking Y2K seriously. I don't plan to spend December 1999 panicking and hoarding (which, if everyone did it, would create a Y2K problem even if the computers work fine). I'm just going to plant more potatoes and squash and dry beans than usual and lay in extra firewood."
Meadows writes: "My Dutch friend Wouter Biesiot (pronounced "Vowter Beesio") was diagnosed with colon cancer in December 1993. He was operated upon, he endured a year of chemotherapy, and for two years thereafter we hoped for the best. Then last spring they found a tumor near his liver, and the doctors told him he is beyond medical help. What can one do, when a friend receives a sentence like that? Wouter is only 46 years old."
Meadows writes, "The first commandment of economics is: grow. Grow forever. Companies must get bigger. National economies need to swell by a certain percent each year. People should want more -- make more, earn more, spend more, ever more. The first commandment of the Earth is: enough. Just so much and no more. Just so much soil. Just so much water. Just so much sunshine. Everything born of the earth grows to its appropriate size and then stops."