Donella Meadows writes, "I had to endure many New Hampshire presidential primaries before I thought of lying to the pollsters. In the week or two before the primary they call almost every night. You can tell immediately that it's a poll by the bored voice. 'Hello, Ms. Meadows?,' they drone. 'Would you say you are very likely, fairly likely, or not at all likely to vote in the coming Republican primary?' When I was new to this game I felt honored, as most of us do when our opinion is solicited. 'Hey, they're calling ME! They want to know what I think! When they report this tomorrow on TV, they'll be reporting on ME!' Let me tell you, that thrill wears off real fast."
Meadows doesn't believe that the voters who put the Newtsies in power last fall intended to sell off our national lands and gut our environmental laws. She can't remember any politician running on a promise to devastate the natural assets of the nation. So we better wake up, folks, because that's what's happening.
A new book called "Believing Cassandra" asks an important question: What if you believe the modern prophets who say the climate is changing, the ecosystems are disappearing, the human enterprise is unsustainable and heading for disaster?
Meadows writes: "The other day a friend sent me a brochure put out by an organization called Responsible Wealth. I could hardly believe the name. Reading on, I could hardly believe what it stands for. 'We are business leaders and wealthy individuals, among the top five percent of income earners and asset holders in the US,' the brochure leads off. 'We are concerned about the rise in power of large corporations and the growing gap between the rich and everyone else.'"
Meadows writes, "We are finally getting it. The politicians don't serve us, they serve whoever gives them money. Money screens what we learn about candidates. We are losing our democracy. The only way to get it back is campaign reform. Even the politicians are saying it, which is dangerous. Any 'reform' invented by those who gained power in the present system will be a sham. We should know; we've been through this before."
In honor of National TV-Turnoff Week, Donella Meadows offers some alarming American TV watching statistics. She offers a Harper's-style round-up of TV fodder, including the fact that the average person spends 12 years, or nearly one-quarter, of her life in front of the tube.
The atrocity in the Balkans is often blamed on the violent history of the area. Donella Meadows offers an explanation, and a solution, based on the four men who lead the various factions in the conflict.
"When, within one short, dark month, you have to lift, focus on, and decide the future of every piece of stuff you have accumulated, you get a visceral sense of the material excess of the American lifestyle. "
Meadows writes: "The more I hear about electricity restructuring, the more skeptical I get. This is an enormous change in a vital service, driven not by the public but by a few people who expect to profit. What seems to be in it for us? Avalanches of advertising, companies swallowing each other up, prices dropping, then rising, while services erode, complex rate structures, distant management and fraud."
Meadows writes: "A new computer model of the long-term future of the world does something hardly any model -- computer or mental -- ever does. It explores the fact that we all see the world through biases ... Like most computer models, this one is used not to predict the future but to test possibilities. What if great new solar energy technologies are invented (or not)? What if the climate is way more (or less) sensitive than scientists think it is? What if birth rates go on dropping (or don't)?"
"Biosolids" is what they call it now. It used to be called "sludge." By any name, it comes out of a sewage treatment plant, and it can cause raging battles. Wastewater treatment managers, who have tons and tons of the stuff to get rid of, like to spread it on forests or fields. But many raise safety concerns about the practice. So who's right, the sludge spreaders or the sludge opponents? Well, actually, both.
While out in her garden, Donella Meadows begins wondering what it would be like if all politicians in the coming election began telling the truth. Addressing the politicians, she writes, "Maybe if you let go of that graspiness, that combativeness, that fear, maybe if all you Washington folk of both parties, stopped walling yourself from the world with piles of money and power, maybe you'd discover that out here things are more kindly than you think. Maybe there's even enough for everyone."
There's a virulent movement in the West and now in the Congress to give federal lands "back" to the states -- as if the states had ever owned them. Our lands are being managed more for the good of a few people over the short term than for the good of all the people over the long term. As with other issues, the Congress has done the right thing to bring this problem to public attention. As with other issues, most of the solutions Congress is coming up with will make the problem not just a little worse, but much worse.
"The Grand Banks of Newfoundland have been fished in by humans for over a thousand years -- until 1992, when their destruction was completed by overzealous trawlers and factory boats. The exact same thing almost happened to the Barents Sea -- except that the Norweigan government stepped in to stop the extinctions."
Meadows writes: "In the din of canned political phrases, stump speeches and angry ads, I keep waiting for some small part of the democratic discourse to address the issues I care about. I keep waiting for some politician to give even slightly honest-sounding answers to the questions I most want to ask."
Meadows writes: "A new book [Downsizing the U.S.A.] says we are so ticked off because things -- from cities to corporations to governments to schools to the whole economy -- are too big. We pursue quantity instead of quality, go for more and lose sight of enough. Our unthinking devotion to growth drive us to create economic and social monsters that drive us, instead of serving us."
Television is so much a part of our lives that we rarely step back and reflect on what it does to us. A new organization called TV-Free America offers us an annual opportunity to do that. Inspired by the Smoke-Out Days that give cigarette addicts a boost toward kicking their habit, TV-Free America holds a National TV-Turnoff week every April. This year it runs from April 24 through April 30.
Donella Meadows thinks that two parties are not nearly enough choices for 263 billion Americans to express their beliefs. She writes, "What meaning, underneath the heated rhetoric, does either party have? What is there to get enthusiastic about? Both parties are riddled with corruption. They have no principles; they huddle as close as they can get to what they think is the middle of the political spectrum. They deceive and double cross us. They are for sale to the highest bidder. The media report political campaigns as if they were ball games. I wish they'd quit doing that and remind us that what we cheer and vote for is supposed to have something to do with the way we want to be governed. Whichever party we elect DOES determine how we are governed, but it has little to do with how we WANT to be governed, mainly, I think, because the two huge, meaningless parties offer us no true choices."