Meadows writes, "Five years ago the leaders of 120 nations assembled at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and signed a list of environmental pledges called Agenda 21. June 23-27 the U.N. General Assembly will hold a special "Rio Plus Five" session to check their progress. There has been no progress."
Meadows writes, "The current Congress and president were just the combination needed to do away at last with the Delaney clause. It expired quietly this summer, when the president signed the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996. Its demise was a symbolic victory for industry, which had actually won the war against zero tolerance long ago. It's probably just as well that the clear, brave language of Delaney no longer stands to deceive us into thinking that our food supply is risk-free."
How much would it cost to save all the endangered species in America? Representative Don Young (R-Alaska) the chairman of the House Committee on Resources recently assigned the General Accounting Office (GAO) to answer that question, not because he cares about species, but because he wants to rub out the Endangered Species Act. He expected the tab to run into trillions, so he could show us that preserving species is simply unaffordable. The GAO has just issued the report he asked for, sort of. Here are some considerations to keep in mind when reading the report.
There's a [more] serious reason to be wary of block grants. Problems aren't better solved at a local level if local governments have no interest in solving them. That's how many programs got federalized in the first place. Whether it was hunger in Appalachia, toxic emissions in Louisiana, or segregation in the South, people were unwilling to live with festering social or environmental wounds, even if those wounds happened to lie on the other side of a state boundary -- because problems don't stay within state boundaries.
"I'd like to ask Al Gore a question: What happened to your environmental views? In the past seven years we have seen only tepid environmental measures from you and your president. Back-pedaling. Compromise. Window-dressing. Why?"
Meadows writes: "For a whole year I steered clear of Monica madness. I knew what was happening, of course -- who didn't? But I watched no broadcasts, read no articles, shut my ears, covered my eyes. Then on the final Saturday I got hooked by the battle of the snippets."
Meadows writes: "From around the world, and especially from India and Pakistan, I am reminded that plenty of people understand one simple fact. You cannot gain security by making your enemy feel insecure."
Meadows writes: "Endangered plants and animals contribute neither hard nor soft money to political campaigns. People who care about nature are more numerous but less focused than people who want to log, mine, dam, drain, spray, pave or otherwise impose their will upon the few remaining patches of undisturbed nature. So you can imagine what the latest rewrite of the Endangered Species Act looks like."
Meadows writes, "Is there any kind of ad that CBS, NBC and ABC won't run? Presumably yes -- obscene ads, violent ads, ads for cigarettes and other lethal drugs. And, as Kalle Lasn discovered when he tried to buy 30 seconds of air time, there's another kind of unacceptable ad: one promoting Buy Nothing Day on Nov. 29. CNN, it turns out, will run the ad just before Thanksgiving. No other network will touch it, and Lasn is talking legal action to claim his free speech rights.
Some say that environmentalists are too gloomy. That they invent catastrophes to attract attention and money. Bugs and trees are what they care about, not people. They want to lock up resources. They're elitist city folk who care about nature only as a place to go backpacking. Donella Meadows responds to these myths, "The caricature of environmentalists has never fit the environmentalists I know -- and I know a lot of them. But, bathed in constant repetitions of carefully crafted accusations, even I began to think that there must be people-hating, unscientific, extremist Greenies out there somewhere. And probably there are. Which does not mean that the millions of responsible people who care about the environment should accept that characterization."
"I've been bewailing the short-term, sound-bite, soul-less way in which the U.S. media greeted the turn of the millennium. (You know -- lists of the top ten athletes of the century, ads for the soft drink of the new millennium.) Then in from the Internet came welcome news of intelligent life elsewhere on earth."
Overshadowed by the agony of Kosovo, outshouted by the Dow crossing ten thousand, a surprising news item appeared on page 6 or 15 or so of most American newspapers last week. Social Security has received a stay of execution. Instead of going into the red in 2032, it may survive till 2040 or 2050. Medicare, once expected to tank in 2006, will apparently last till 2012.
Meadows writes: "It's not a combination I would ever have expected to see -- Monsanto and the Grameen Bank. A huge corporation, one-time maker of some of the most pernicious chemicals ever to hit the environment, in partnership with a bank for the poorest of the poor."
Meadows writes: "Well-off people may feel justified in having a conniption because they can't find the right new outfit or they may get drunk because they have to postpone their vacation. But they can't understand how a poor father can lash out in frustration because he can't find a job, or how an abused teenage girl can turn to drugs or sex for solace. If people could understand, they would see how to take action."
Meadows writes, "This country will be out of oil in 30 years. By 2030 we will pump dry much of the groundwater of the Southwest. We don't hear a peep from our leaders about these problems. But they're in a panic over the possibility that 30 years from now Social Security will go broke. Social Security is the least of our problems."
Donella Meadows looks at the federal budget battle and the politicians who measure wealth in monetary terms. "When one side takes a narrow, absolute stand -- wealth is money, period -- and the other side is broad and mushy -- well, yes, wealth is money, but wealth is other things that don't necessarily have prices -- compromise can move only one direction, toward the absolute. The open question in the budget negotiation was how much non-monetary wealth would be lost. The answer turned out to be: not as much as could have been, but still way too much. But here's the question I really want to ask. Why do we hand so much power to the Scroogish world view that measures wealth only in money? How have we managed to arrange things so that a few prideful men, paid by us, meet in luxurious rooms, paid for by us, and fight for their own pitifully cramped values, using our values, our national wealth, our children, our communities, our forests, and the creatures of nature as bargaining chips?"
Will Social Security be there for you? Most young Americans don't believe it will. Even our leaders, normally oblivious to any problem with a longer time horizon than the next election, regularly stir up alarm that in 2025 or 2005 the Social Security system will go bankrupt. What Donella Meadows sees is a problem not of bankruptcy some day, but of duplicity and injustice right now.
"Driving home last night I heard a snatch of radio discussion about whether we're paying the president enough. Someone suggested that we link his salary to the growth rate of the economy. That made me pound the steering wheel. 'No, you idiot!' I yelled at the radio. 'The president doesn't make the economy grow! Even if he did, economic growth is a lousy measure of how well off we are!'"
Meadows writes: "Once again I stopped listening to the news this week. Not because I don't want to hear someone being grilled about his sex life, though I don't. Not because I'm a fan of Mr. Clinton, which I'm not. No, I ducked the news because I felt that something immensely unfair was happening, and I couldn't bring myself to participate."