Kenny Ausubel

Heeding the Law of the Land

[This is the opening speech of the 16th annual Bioneers Conference, taking place this weekend in San Rafael, Calif. and 16 remote locations across the continent.]

A friend of mine in Texas had a hobby of doing grave rubbings. She favored old, out-of-the-way cemeteries, the final resting places of the notably not rich and famous. She would place a large piece of thin paper over the tombstone and rub it with charcoal to take an impression. My favorite was one that was roughly chiseled, obviously home made. The epitaph said simply, "I told you I was sick."

That's what the Earth is telling us.

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita may have finally sounded alarms loud enough for the country to hear. The message is crystal clear. When we fight nature, we lose. The disconnect between the state of nature and the nature of the state is producing a state of emergency. The first homeland security comes from environmental security. The law of the land must become the law of our land.

Katrina also unmasked the corrosive injustice that poisons us as surely as the pollution unleashed by the storm. It's an open secret that poor people and people of color are consigned to live amid the worst environmental hazards of industrial civilization. As E.L. Doctorow said, "We have two types of citizenship in the United States: common and preferred."

While an inept, cynical government staged damage-control press conferences, a new Underground Railroad provided real damage control. A fiercely compassionate person-to-person daisy chain surged with the loving determination of friends and relations, and the kindness of strangers. It's largely the American people and local heroes who salvaged the disastrous government response from utter disaster.

This extraordinary public response signified a larger trend. Even as our institutions are failing, people of good will everywhere are rising in waves of caring, conscience and kindness. Our true social security is woven in community.

But the choice we face is stark: an Age of Extinctions or an Age of Restoration. Which do we choose?

The mission is daunting. Katrina and Rita are just coming attractions for the new world disorder. The violence of these storms should come as no surprise. Over the past twenty years, the force and duration of hurricanes have doubled as a result of global warming. There is a certain poetic justice that these ill winds souped up on fossil fuels struck right at the matrix of the petrochemical industry.

Meanwhile, half a world away, American troops fight for more oil in a hopeless war that only deepens our dependency and binds our ties to anti-democratic regimes. No wonder they call oil the "devil's tears."

For once, we got some real reality TV. We saw the poorest people, dazed and traumatized, trapped on the roofs of their flooded lives. These images are familiar to us from impoverished nations: refugee camps, broken safety nets, and indifferent, incompetent governments.

When we see these images from what we politely call lesser-developed countries, we know what it means. It means people live with the daily hardship of collapsed infrastructures. They live with environmental degradation. They are resigned to inequality as a way of life. The people struggle under corrupt ruling elites of big corporations, crony politicians and the military. Citizens face government secrecy, contempt for the rule of law, the loss of civil and human rights, and rigged elections. Families live with the austerity and instability endemic to an insolvent government indentured to global finance capital.

In the words of the late Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas: "As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances there is a twilight where everything remains seemingly unchanged, and it is in such a twilight that we must be aware of the change in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness."

These once faraway images have now tumbled off our TV screens and onto our streets. History teaches us that the demise of empires can come startlingly fast.

Behind this disorder, however, is a purposeful ideology: the dismantling of the public trust for private profit. In fact, the real issue has never been about smaller government. It's about whose interests government serves. The ethic: You're on your own. The vision: Replace FEMA with Wal-Mart. The mission: the care and feeding of corporations. The canvas: globalization. The strategy: "economic shock treatment."

The desperation and fear created by catastrophes such as political upheavals, wars and natural disasters provide perfect political cover for radical social and economic engineering. It presents itself as the conflation of democracy with so-called "free trade." In the Soviet Union after the collapse, this experiment resulted in an authoritarian oligarchy. In Iraq, as journalist Naomi Klein put it, the neo-conservative promise of a free-market utopia unbound transmogrified into a corporate dystopia "where going to a simple business meeting can get you lynched, burned alive or beheaded."

The Asian tsunami provided the next opportunity. The relief aid from the World Bank and IMF came not as grants but as loans. It's not helping the recovery of the 80 percent of victims who comprise small fishing communities. Instead it's supporting the expansion of industrial fish farms and the Club Med tourism sector.

Naomi Klein calls it "disaster capitalism." It's no aberration. In 2004, the White House created within the State Department a new office that drew up elaborate "post-conflict" privatization plans for up to twenty-five countries - nations that are not yet in conflict.

Now disaster capitalism has come home to the Gulf Coast. This is the world the people of the majority world call the Fourth World War.

But the reality on the ground is that the wheels are coming off the globalized race to loot the commons. Simultaneously, a uniquely diverse and pervasive resistance is arising around the world. "The globalization of dissent," Arundhati Roy calls it. Improbably, it first pierced the myth of globalization's inevitability in Mexico on New Year's Day, 1994, the day the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect.

On that day in Chiapas, armed with a few AK-47's and fake wooden rifles, a ragtag army composed mostly of Mayan Indians wearing ski masks declared autonomous zones and burned land records. Calling NAFTA a "death sentence," some of the world's most ancient indigenous survivors rejected the privatization policy that was about to extinguish even their precarious threadbare subsistence and nominal rights. These Zapatistas challenged the authority of national government officials, whom they called globalization's local "company managers."

Their message was simple: Ya Basta: Enough is enough. They refused to be history. They said they took up weapons only to be heard. They wore masks to be seen. They were willing to die to defend their lands, culture and traditions. They chose dignity over oblivion.

Fourteen days after the armed struggle began, the rebels declared a ceasefire. They said their intention was never to replace one ruling power with another. They declined to form a political party. Mexican civil society arose spontaneously and called adamantly for peace from both sides, and for justice. The Zapatistas seized the moment to transform guerrilla war into guerrilla theater. The word became their weapon. Their words resonated in perfect pitch with a nascent global democracy movement.

They identified themselves with a movement of "one no and many yeses." The "no" was to the concentration of wealth and the distribution of poverty, to the whole world becoming one company town. "In the world we want," they said, "everyone fits. In the world we want, many worlds fit. A world capable of containing all the worlds. The struggle has many paths and it has but one destiny: To be one with all the colors which clothe the earth."

"The path we have chosen," they said, "is just one, not the only one. We invite people to do the same, not to rise up in arms, but to struggle for a truly free and democratic government that can fulfill the aspirations of each and every person."

Be realistic: Demand the impossible, the saying goes. Impossibly, the Zapatista uprising helped topple Mexico's corrupt seventy-five-year single-party rule. It placed the rights of the indigenous at the center of Mexican politics for the first time since the Conquest 500 years ago. As Zapatista spokesman and military leader Subcommandante Marcos said, "It is not necessary to conquer the world. It is sufficient to make it new."

The Rand Institute warned that in this new kind of war - netwar, the war of the network - "The war of the flea can quickly turn into the war of the swarm." That swarm has magnified into the "other superpower," quite likely the biggest movement in the history of the world. Paul Hawken calls it "humanity's immune response to resist and heal political corruption, economic disease and ecological loss." It is a quest for justice, for freedom, for dignity. It is a quest for human rights and the rights of nature.

As Naomi Klein wrote, "This is a global call to revolution that tells you not to wait for the revolution, only to stand where you stand, to fight with your own weapon - a video cam, words, ideas, hope. Yes, you can try this at home."

What we the American people need, what the land needs and what the world needs is to reclaim democratic governance and restore the public trust. We have a lot of work to do. We need to reinvent our infrastructure to harmonize with nature's infrastructure. We need to align business with biology. We need fairness and equity and good jobs. As Paul Hawken wrote, "If we are to save what is wild, what is irreplaceable and majestic in nature, then ironically we will have to turn to teach other and take care of all the human beings here on earth. There is no boundary that will protect an environment from a suffering humanity."

As those holding power well know, the creation of wealth is largely dependent on public policy and the public purse. We must change public policy to serve the common good. Imagine creating a Green Deal, a green public works program to jump-start the restoration. We can launch it just by shifting the current existing subsidies to speed the transition to renewable energy, ecological agriculture, and a robust public health system based on wellness, disease prevention and the restoration of the ecosystems on which all health depends.

With a Green Deal, we can reboot a flawed domestic economy that the IMF now warns is heading for a "wrenching correction." We can reverse what Warren Buffet calls our "sharecropper society." We can attend immediately to our crumbling, misbegotten infrastructure, to which the American Society of Civil Engineers just gave a near failing grade of "D."

By doing all this, we will dramatically enhance our national and environmental security. We will catalyze a vast jobs-creation program of meaningful, living-wage work. We will spur countless new businesses and technological innovations that can be disseminated worldwide to spread the wealth.

These kinds of favorable government policies have made Germany and Japan the world leaders in wind and solar energy. Toyota and Nissan are posting huge profits while Ford and GM credit ratings have sunk to junk-bond status. Global business is already moving steadily into clean technology investments, which are expanding exponentially. Ironically, a growing sector of the US business community is chafing at our government's retrograde policies while it watches other countries seize the lead.

What does restoration look like? The South African government started a series of programs in 1995. After the Working for Water program hired unemployed people to clear thirsty alien trees from important watersheds, rivers began to run again that had been dry for forty years. Working for Wetlands is restoring marshes to purify polluted water. Working on Fire sends crews to prevent and control wildfires. Working for Woodlands is reforesting subtropical thickets to sequester carbon from the atmosphere and support biodiversity. These programs serve as job training and often hire the poorest of the poor. This is what restoration looks like.

As David Suzuki says, "The real bottom line is the biological bottom line. We are animals who live within the exquisite confines of the air, water and land where life exists. It's the biosphere that is the source of everything that matters to us including the economy." This biological bottom line offers us the happy marriage of economy and ecology. In great measure, solutions are already present.

Across the country, communities, cities and states are rising up with one "no" and many "yeses." States are voluntarily banding together to cut carbon emissions, install renewable energy sources, and reduce and eliminate toxic chemicals. One hundred thirty-two mayors came together this summer to share practical urban solutions to mitigate global warming at the local level and reinvent their infrastructures. Over 395 communities across the political spectrum have passed resolutions denying the Patriot Act's intrusion on civil liberties, and 280 more are developing them. These are not left-right issues. This is about our common survival, our quality of life, our freedom. This is about the future of our grandchildren and the land that will care for them. This is about what we love. As Pete Seeger said "The world is going to be saved by people saving their own homes."

This movement, this new superpower, has been called the "dreaming revolution." That's what we are here to do together: re-imagine the world. We're dreaming a world where many worlds can fit. It is at once a new dream and an ancient dream.

The Lakota prayer says it with simple elegance: "All my relations." We are learning the hard way that all life is connected, that we are all connected, that we are all related. The scientists are confirming what the poets and mystics have known all along: that we are all one. As Leslie Gray, the Native American psychologist and teacher, puts it, "In a universe of beings intimately related, the biosphere is our family, and that family has family values. The family values of this American land are gratitude - respect for nature's cycles - the sacred - harmony - and above all, reciprocity - don't take something without giving something back. What needs to happen is a return to these traditional American values."

We come together to give thanks, to celebrate, to walk in beauty. What we hold sacred is life itself. It's time for the law of the land to return as the law of our land.

The Long Way Home

You have to figure the Force is with you when Yoda gets on board. In this case, "Yoda" is the Pentagon's term of endearment for Andrew Marshall, a revered military oracle who heads up an elite military think tank that envisions future threats to national security. After reading a 2002 National Academy of Sciences report on global warming, the octogenarian sage decided that indeed the sky is falling. He commissioned two master futurists to produce an analysis.

Their report, titled "An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for US National Security," draws on recent research showing that climate change can be very sudden, occurring in a matter of a decade or two. This has actually occurred at least twice before that we know of – about 8,000 and 11,000 brief biological years ago.

The report lays out several possible scenarios, ranging from worse than we ever imagined to unthinkable. By 2020 we could face mega-droughts and floods, mass starvation in many regions, hordes of desperate ecological refugees and war over scarce resources of food, water and energy. Or, the reports says, if climate change is really abrupt, the world could melt down in three to five years, then flip the switch into an ice age. Think snow for hundreds of years on end.

Yoda concluded that the force of global warming is definitely with us. Call it actionable intelligence. So he decided to do an end-run around the political top brass by leaking the unclassified report to Fortune magazine. His hope was that the business world would get the picture and move decisively to alter the course of civilization. Pentagon spokesmen later confirmed that indeed they had not bothered to pass Marshall's report on to his higher-ups in the Defense Department or White House.

The report demurely suggests this: "Alternative fuels, greenhouse gas emissions controls and conservation efforts are worthy endeavors." It concludes by posing the alternative: "Abrupt climate change is likely to stretch [the Earth's] carrying capacity well beyond its already precarious limits. Disruption and conflict may well be endemic features of life ... Every time there is a choice between starving and raiding, humans raid."

Some choice.

As reporter Andrew Zaitchik summed up the Pentagon's response, "The Department of Defense and Energy have recently installed photovoltaic panels atop the enormous building's five-sided roof. And if a solar-powered Death Star isn't the perfect symbol of humanity's two possible futures, then I don't know what is."

There is indeed a clash of civilizations, but in this case it is not between Islam and the West, or tradition and modernism. It is between a disposable civilization and a sustainable civilization. We have created a civilization that is a suicide bomb. We need to start disarming it right away.

Einstein famously said that "God does not play dice with the universe," but we are. All bets are off when you're gaming the Earth. The house always wins. And the awful truth is that global warming is just the tip of the melting iceberg. We are running evolution in reverse, shattering the very mirror of nature that can show us who we are and how to be in this place in a way that lasts. The jagged shards are so dreadful to contemplate that most people don't want to go there. The problem is – we're already there. Denial and neglect are only going to seal the deal.

As painful as it is, it's imperative that we grasp what's already happening on the ground in order to shift our course immediately. Here's just a fractal of the signs of the times. I promise we won't linger.

One of the best ways to see what's happening is to watch the animals. In Scotland's northern isles, home to some of the world's richest bird life, ornithologists are calling it the "year without young." Birds by the millions have not hatched eggs, if they've laid them at all. This unprecedented nesting failure is caused by starvation from the overnight disappearance of the small silvery sand eels the birds feed on. The ocean warmed, the sand eels went north, and a massive ecosystem that has functioned for millions of years is crashing.

The oceans themselves are turning acid from absorbing all that CO2 from the bonfire of the fossil fuels. The acid environment is killing off coral reefs, shellfish and plankton, the basis for nearly all marine life.

All over England, wildlife are exhibiting a feminization process that could throttle evolution itself. An estimated third of male fish in British rivers are growing female reproductive tissues and organs. Seals, sea otters, peregrine falcons and honey bees are heading for what reporter Mark Townsend calls a "unisex" existence, which is a bee line for eventual extinction. The culprit is gender benders, endocrine-disrupting chemicals that scramble the body's subtle hormonal growth signals and that are now pervasive globally.

Pollution and ecological disruption are also triggering bizarre behavior in animals, reports the New Scientist: "Hyperactive fish, stupid frogs, fearless mice, and seagulls that fall over." Not to mention the fact that a bevy of species no longer know how to mate, parent, build nests, learn, dodge predators or forage.

People seem to have forgotten that we are animals, too. Similar patterns are becoming visible in human beings. All life is connected, and we're in this together.

As the big wheels keep on turning, the environment will increasingly set the agenda. Nature is deregulating human affairs faster than a lobbyist can buy a politician, and we are so not ready. Just ask Florida, Haiti or Bangladesh. We face a perfect storm of environmental degradation and the ongoing collapse of a rickety, misbegotten infrastructure that in most cases is provoking the very conditions that will topple it.

Nature has a mind of her own, and we need to get good at reading the mind of nature and get with the program. The good news is that for the most part the solutions are already present. Even where we don't know exactly what to do, we have a good idea of what direction to head in. The solutions residing in nature consistently surpass our conception of what's even possible. The most vexing problems are not technological. They are political, which makes it both more do-able and more difficult.

What makes matters especially confusing for many people at this crucial juncture is the toxic political cocktail of delusion and deceit. It's one thing to be blind to the fact that we are one with the environment. It's another to cover it up. Arguably we face the most secretive, deceptive and crooked political administration in American history, but make no mistake: These are true believers. This is faith-based politics of delusional grade.

So-called "sound science" is the sound of one hand clapping. The suppression of science for ideological and political ends in the U.S. has reached such epic dimensions as to drive 60 of the world's most influential scientists, including 20 Nobel Laureates, to go public with documented charges of distortion, misrepresentation and outright lying.

Such a unified response to an entire science policy by normally disinterested, apolitical professionals is unprecedented. Hey, faith is great. But as they say in the world of science, "In God we trust. All others must provide data." At this pivotal moment in the fate of the earth, we cannot afford anything less than a clear-eyed view of how the world actually works, as best we can know that inscrutable mystery.

As ecological reality intrudes thunderously on delusion, it's clear we're dealing not only with ideological extremists looped on belief systems; they're also jacked up on greed. There is a dark wind howling across these disunited states. It's polarizing us with one hand and picking our pockets with the other. A more faithful characterization would be "Let us prey" – let us prey on the public, that is. It's edging us toward a feral reversion to a dog-eat-dog world of extreme inequality that is a formula for permanent strife.

As Paul Hawken wrote in Nature's Operating Instructions, "If we are to save what is wild, what is irreplaceable and majestic in nature, then ironically we will have to turn to each other and take care of all the human beings here on earth. There is no boundary that will protect an environment from a suffering humanity."

The greatest weapon of mass destruction is corporate economic globalization. It, too, is more theology than fact, an article of faith that is discrediting itself daily as the world becomes only more impoverished and ravaged.

Cleaning up the environment depends on cleaning up politics. Democracy is key to restoration. To achieve real democracy, we need to enforce the separation of corporations and the state.

We stand on the edge of a vast historical discontinuity in our most fundamental relationship with nature and with each other. It's going to be a long way home. Educator David Orr reminds us of this: "In Irish folklore, the salmon is regarded as the wisest of creatures because it knows how to find its way home. That, in a way, is our challenge. Can we find our way back to a future in which our best traditions, highest values and a sense of connection with place and posterity prevail?"

Biomimicry master Janine Benyus puts it this way: "The criterion of success is that you keep yourself alive and you keep your offspring alive. But it's not your offspring – it's your offspring's offspring's offspring ten thousand years from now. Because you can't be there to take care of that offspring, the only thing you can do is to take care of the place that takes care of your offspring. That's why the one non-negotiable policy that we need to write into law is that life creates conditions conducive to life."

There is a great awakening around the globe today. Unprecedented numbers of people are affirming that our destiny is inextricably tied to the well-being of the web of life. But as the worldwide movement for restoration gains traction, we will increasingly confront the relentless demons of rationalization. They will tell us, "We can't get there from here. We need to go slower. We need to stick with what we've got or face economic ruin." We cannot compromise on what is non-negotiable from nature's point of view. That is sound science. That is sound policy.

We, too, have a pre-emptive strategy. It's called precaution, pre-empting harm before it happens or can happen again. The Precautionary Principle taking hold around the world is transforming the way we operate, and it's spreading rapidly. In German, the word for the precautionary principle means "forecaring" or caring into the future. That is our charge.

Precaution also engenders a profound sense of humility at how little we know. As the Native American restoration ecologist Dennis Martinez observes, "Indigenous people have recognized that you can't control the environment to this extent without serious repercussions. So ethics have been developed which teach us that, if we ignore the needs of our relatives in the natural world, we will suffer serious repercussions. It's no accident that tricksters like Coyote and Raven are often the creators in tribal stories in North America, because it's the nature of the universe to be real iffy. You work with chaos, you work with change, you work with the unpredictable, and you work with humility. Restoration is a community-based intergenerational endeavor. It is more a process than a product. It's about relationship. It's about our responsibility as human beings to participate every day in the re-creation of the earth."

Perhaps our greatest faculty as human beings is our ability to reinvent culture rapidly. Around the world today people are spontaneously spawning a culture dedicated to creating conditions conducive to life. It reflects the unique convergence of the global peace movement, the global justice movement, and now the global environmental and health movements. This has never happened before. It is a historic turning point in human civilization.

The brilliance of the group mind is on the loose. People everywhere are stepping into the breach with real solutions and the social strategies to allow these solutions to take root. It's a culture of restoration, of reconciliation, of healing.

Ecologists say the surest way to heal an ecosystem is to connect it to more of itself, and this movement is rapidly connecting up a globally decentralized nervous system. The environment is the ultimate transnational issue, and solutions on the ground are poised to spread worldwide at the speed of text messaging. But here in the U.S., we have a very special responsibility both to our own country and to the world because, for good or for ill, our actions make an outsized impact.

David Orr reminds us that the Framers of the Constitution never imagined the destruction of the biosphere. "Extermination without representation," he calls it. "No good argument," he says, "can be made for the right of one generation to deprive subsequent generations of the ecological requisites for the pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Constitutional rights in such conditions would be worth little more than legal entitlement to an apartment in a demolished building."

Orr proposes a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to a healthy environment in the recognition that we are trustees poised between our forebears and our posterity, that we are one species in one web of life. These are family values.

The American Revolution is a work in progress. As we move toward a Declaration of Interdependence, our greatest work is yet to come.

Even in these darkest of times – no, especially in these darkest of times – we gather as bioneers to celebrate life. It's what the Tibetans call "crazy wisdom." As Tom Robbins writes, "Crazy wisdom is the wisdom that evolves when one, while refusing to avert one's gaze from the sorrows and injustices of the world, insists on joy in spite of everything. Ancient Egyptians believed that when a person died, the gods immediately placed his or her heart in one pan of a set of scales. In the other pan was a feather. If there was imbalance, if the heart of the deceased weighed more than the feather, he or she was denied admittance to the afterworld. Only the lighthearted were deemed advanced enough to merit immortality."

Several years ago, we held an evening round table on Ecological Medicine here at the Bioneers conference. A midwife got up from the audience to speak. She said she viewed the state of the world through the lens of her work. There comes a moment during labor when a woman knows she cannot possibly draw another excruciating breath; cannot endure even one more agonizing contraction. Right then, said the midwife, she knows the baby is about to be born.

The baby is being born. These are birth pains.

Keep the faith.

This Is Your Brain on Public Relations

New York Times columnist Frank Rich wrote last year to the effect that, "George W. Bush's harshest critics say he's dumb. But the real point is -- he thinks we're dumb."

Well, sure -- W. may be a few beers short of a six-pack -- but just how dumb does he think the American people are?

Perhaps part of the problem is that human beings seem to be hardwired for fraud.

George Lakoff, an author and professor of linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley who calls himself a "cognitive activist," says this: "One of the fundamental findings of cognitive science is that people think in terms of frames and metaphors -- conceptual structures. The frames are in the synapses of our brains -- physically present in the form of neural circuitry. When the facts don't fit the frames, the frames are kept and the facts ignored."

In other words, forget winning on the facts or the science. It's all about the story. And once stories take hold, they're hard to dislodge.

Recently the Environmental Working Group, a public-interest group based in the Beltway, leaked a fascinating story, a kind of story within a story about how to frame the environmental story. Actually it's about instructing conservative politicians how to lie through their teeth to sucker the public into doing the opposite of what people want. After all, survey after survey shows that Americans care deeply about the environment and are even willing to shell out money to take good care of it. So duping innocent people into harming the environment requires an occult technology of trickery.

The Environmental Working Group managed to obtain documents from a briefing book assembled by Frank Luntz, the top public opinion researcher for corporate lobbyists. Luntz was the architect of Newt Gingrich's Contract with America, and he has a Who's Who client list of top lobbyists as well as many conservative politicians.

The briefing book is a playbook on how to frame the current wholesale rollback of environmental and public health protections while avoiding a stinging public backlash like the one that happened to Reagan's ignominious Secretary of the Interior James Watt in 1994. Watt became a political lightning rod by staring the corporate pillaging of the public trust in the eye and proclaiming: "Bring it on." The country felt otherwise; Watt went down in flames. So the new, improved manual counsels a stealth campaign to shine up a hall of mirrors where nothing is what it seems.

Luntz sternly warned Republican leaders that they were overreaching on the environment because 62 percent of Americans -- and even 54 percent of Republicans -- prefer to see Congress do more to protect the environment rather than cut regulations.

He further cautioned that they have an image problem to overcome: "A caricature has taken hold in the public imagination: Republicans seemingly in the pockets of corporate fat cats who rub their hands together and chuckle maniacally as they plot to pollute America for fun and profit. I don't have to remind you how often Republicans are depicted as cold, uncaring, ruthless -- even downright anti-social. The fundamental problem for Republicans when it comes to the environment is that whatever you say is viewed through the prism of suspicion."

Gee, how could that have happened?

As we enter the withering heat of the political season, there's enough spin coming out of Washington to knock the Earth off its axis. So here -- in Luntz's own words -- is an abbreviated guide to help you decipher the shape-shifting doublespeak we're already starting to hear.

The PR headline is: "The Environment: A Cleaner, Safer, Healthier Future." Here are a few of the eight key messages in Luntz's briefing book for Republicans:

Number One: First assure your audience that you're committed to "preserving and protecting" the environment, but that "it can be done more wisely and effectively." Since many Americans believe Republicans do not care about the environment, you will never convince people to accept your ideas until you confront this suspicion and put it to rest. Absolutely do not raise economic arguments first.

Number Two: Provide specific examples of federal bureaucrats failing to meet their responsibilities to protect the environment.

Number Three: Your plan must be put in terms of the future, not the past or present. The environment is an area where people expect progress, and when they do not see progress, they become frustrated.

Number Six: If you must use the economic argument, stress that you are seeking "a fair balance" between the environment and the economy. Be prepared to specify and quantify the jobs lost because of needless, excessive or redundant regulations.

Number Eight: Emphasize common sense. In making regulatory decisions, we should use our best estimates and realistic assumptions, not the worst-case scenarios advanced by environmental extremists.

To fight off the ingrained bad-guy image, Luntz cuts to the chase:

"Indeed it can be helpful to think of environmental and other issues in terms of 'story.' A compelling story, even if factually inaccurate, can be more emotionally compelling than a dry recitation of the truth... The facts are beside the point. It's all in how you frame your argument."

To do this, Luntz says, "The most important step is to neutralize the problem and bring them around to your point of view by convincing them of your sincerity and concern. Any discussion of the environment has to be grounded in an effort to reassure a skeptical public that you care about the environment for its own sake -- that your intentions are strictly honorable."

Luntz goes on to describe "words that work" -- they're road-tested in focus groups. The three words Americans are looking for in an environmental policy are "safer, cleaner and healthier." The solution to global warming is "climate change." Global warming sounds too scary, but climate change sounds like you're going from New York to Florida. (The problem, of course, is that New York is going to be Florida, but later for that.)

Some other buzzwords we'll be hearing a lot are "conservationist" and "preserving and protecting." And you've already heard about the phony "Clear Skies" and "Healthy Forests" initiatives. This is the larger story they're part of, in Luntz' words:

"Americans love the outdoors. The most popular federal programs today are those that preserve and protect our natural heritage through conservation of public lands and water through parks and open spaces.... Becoming a champion of national parks and forests is the best way to show our citizens that Republicans can be for something positive on the environment.

"You must explain how it is possible to pursue a common-sense or sensible environmental policy that 'preserves the gains of the past two decades' without going to extremes, and allows for new science and technologies to carry us even further. Give citizens the idea that progress is being frustrated by overreaching government, and you will hit a very strong strain in the American psyche."

Of the many horrifically destructive technologies of the 20th century, arguably the most dangerous of all is public relations. So when you hear this new stealth story coming at you, you'll know you're being framed. You'll know someone is trying to have public relations with you.

But trust me; it's not going to lead to a cleaner, safer, healthier future.

Kenny Ausubel is the founder of Bioneers.

The Empire Strikes Out

EDITOR'S NOTE: This piece is adapted from Kenny Ausubel's opening remarks to the 2003 Bioneers Conference, which takes place Oct. 17-19 in San Rafael, Calif. Kenny founded Bioneers in 1990.

Speaking once at the Bioneers conference, Paul Hawken re-framed the famous defining image from the movie 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind.' As you may recall, while the horizon fills with a flotilla of space ships, the earthbound scientists are feverishly fumbling to make contact with the E.T.'s. Awestruck, they try sending out a sequence of musical tones to establish communication. Meanwhile, unseen behind them rises the Mother Ship, dwarfing everything else, blotting out the entire horizon. The Mother Ship is the biology of the planet. The Mother Ship is the Mother Earth. And it is bigger than anything we can imagine.

That's about the size of it. For all the chatter about the Age of Information, what we are really entering is the Age of Biology.

We didn't invent nature. Nature invented us. Nature bats last, the saying goes, but even more importantly it's her playing field. We would be wise to learn the ground rules and how to play by them.

When I founded Bioneers in 1990, the impulse originated from my exposure to the work of biological pioneers searching to rediscover nature's own operating instructions. Their quest has been to glean what we might learn from four billion years of evolutionary intelligence and apply it in practical ways.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, what the bioneers are doing is mimicking nature in order to help nature heal and serve human ends harmlessly. In many cases their knowledge is prefigured by ancient indigenous science from First Peoples, the world's original bioneers. These are the true biotechnologies.

The great ecological play takes place in a food web that makes no waste. It's powered by a solar economy that neither mines the past nor mortgages the future. Some of its guiding principles are diversity, kinship, symbiosis, reciprocity and community. It's all alive. It's all intelligent. It's all connected. It's all relatives.

One of the beauties of biology is that its facts can become our metaphors. These underlying codes may also serve as inspiring parables for how as human beings we might organize a more just, humane and authentically sustainable society.

If there is a single story woven within these many stories, it's the grand tale of interdependence. Life is intimacy interconnected, and as a culture we've made a basic systems error to believe that we exist somehow separate from nature, or from one another. That illusion could prove fatal at this momentous cusp where our turbo-charged technologies and overwhelming numbers have given us, for the first time in history, the capacity to blow it on a planetary scale.

Today a globalized corporate empire is menacing the future of the entire biosphere. We all know that empires are castles made of sand that always crumble and fade away, but by the time this empire strikes out, the biological game could be all but over. Corporate globalization is killing off its host -- and ours -- mother Earth.

Gary Larsen once did a great cartoon that sums up the empire express. A ship is sinking, and a pack of dogs crowded into a lifeboat are watching it go down. The lead dog says to the others, "OK -- all those in favor of eating all the food all at once, raise your paws." That's economic globalization in a nutshell.

The real-world situation that's spontaneously combusting today is a perfect storm of extreme environmental degradation and rolling infrastructure collapse. It's by no means the first time this has happened. Previous civilizations bought the farm because of self-induced environmental catastrophe, but in the past the damage was localized.

As Jared Diamond, the author of 'Guns, Germs and Steel,' has pointed out, these societies met their demise by cutting down forests, eroding topsoil and building burgeoning cities in dry areas that eventually ran short of water. Sometimes hastened by sudden climate change, the ensuing disintegration occurred suddenly -- in a matter of a decade or two after a society reached its peak of population, wealth and power. Because that pinnacle also marked maximum resource consumption and waste production, it produced unsupportable environmental impacts.

But there's more to it, Diamond says. "They had foolish leaders...who embroiled them in destabilizing wars and didn't pay attention to problems at home. They were overwhelmed by desperate immigrants, as one society after another collapsed, sending floods of economic refugees to tax the resources of the societies that weren't collapsing."

When Diamond studied the ecological downfall of Mexico's ancient Mayan civilization, he determined that the final strand in its unraveling was a crisis of political leadership. He said, "Their [leaders] attention was evidently focused on the short-term concerns of enriching themselves, waging wars, erecting monuments, competing with one another, and extracting enough food from the peasants to support all these activities." Sound familiar, my fellow peasants??

Today we're going mano a mano with the whole biosphere, and she's responding with her own form of deregulation. Just take global warming. The planet is reeling from record-smashing temperatures, violent storms, long-term droughts, hundred-year floods, unstoppable fires, massive insect infestations, migrating disease patterns, rising seas, and wholesale species extinctions not seen in 65 million years. Fifteen-thousand people died in France this summer from record-setting heat. In Phoenix, Arizona, people's flip-flops melted on the pavement. One woman who tripped and fell face-first on the sidewalk was rushed to a burn unit. As if the atmosphere weren't already unpleasant enough, global warming is just getting going.

Earlier this year, the White House pressured the EPA to hit the delete key in its state-of-the-environment report regarding the forty-weight connection between global warming and the burning of fossil fuels. The US political class says we need more scientific study while they march us backwards into the 21st century carrying a sack of coal. In fact, the science is unequivocal. It's no longer a matter of connecting the dots. It's a matter of connecting the elephants in the room.

Global warming means more and bigger storms, and one of the most striking images from the relatively mild Hurricane Miserabel was the battered mall of the Washington Monument. A large stand of flagpoles forlornly flew the stars and stripes, shredded to tatters by the violent weather. As the great urban farmer Michael Abelman once said here at Bioneers, "After all, what good is a country and a flag if there is no more fertile soil, no ancient forests, no clean water, no pure food? If you really love your country, protect and restore some wildness. Support local agriculture. Plant a garden. Those who work to protect and restore these things are the real patriots."

In truth, the US political class is clueless. It has no plan, besides eating all the food all at once. Although the empire may seem awesomely powerful, it's coming apart at the seams.

What is also true here and around the world is that people are stepping up with real solutions. There's a new superpower: global popular movements. They are growing from the bottom up -- to take back control over our lives, our communities, our economies and our cultures. People are starting to assume responsibility for the lands, the waters, the forests, and the global commons we all share with the web of life.

People worldwide are rejecting the deification of the market over environmental and human rights. As Amory Lovins has said, "Markets make a great servant but a bad master and a worse religion. Markets produce value, but only communities and families produce values. And a society that tries to substitute markets for politics, ethics, or faith is seriously adrift."

There are brilliant scientific and social innovators among us who've been patiently incubating the seeds of successful local, regional and even societal plans for the transformation to a sustainable civilization. An alternative globalization movement of unprecedented proportions is taking shape, weaving a green web of innovative models grounded in true biotechnologies and social equity.

This new world is being born right now before our eyes. It mimics the decentralized intelligence of living systems, the innate democracy of life. It's founded in the recognition that the first homeland security comes from environmental security. Our civilization's out-of-body experience is screeching to a halt as we awaken to our absolute dependence on natural life-support systems and our interdependence with all life. And in a world where half the people live on $2 a day or less, we can have no peace. The Gulf War we need to wage is to end the gulf between rich and poor.

And in terms of global security, it's no coincidence that the world's most dangerous political hot spots and breeding grounds for terrorism are exactly the same places with the worst environmental devastation and poverty. Go figure.

We're entering into unknown territory. There will be little to hold onto. It could be a time of unimaginable suffering and loss, but it will also be a renaissance of flourishing creativity and deep healing. The regenerative capacity of nature is powerful beyond our imagination. And the boundless nobility of the human soul is arising everywhere in waves of caring and kindness. Our social security is being woven in community, as people gather to mend our shredded social fabric and solve problems together. There is as much cause for hope as for horror. And we know we must prevail.

We can start by attending to our worst wounds. In very practical terms, the solution is to invest in our problems. We need a Green New Deal, a massive global investment in repairing the environment, transforming our infrastructures, and restoring people. The measure of any solution is whether it solves for pattern by resolving multiple problems in one fell swoop.

What's called for is strong government leadership to reboot the system. We need an immediate global Marshall plan of clean, renewable energy, and the re-design and rebuilding of our decaying infrastructures and clotted transportation systems. We can jump-start a permanent transition to an ecological agriculture that produces healthy, nutritious food in regionalized foodsheds -- restores the land, air and water -- and revives rural economies thriving with small and medium-sized farms. We need to revitalize public health with an Ecological Medicine anchored in the health of our ecosystems, which is the best investment any society can make. And we need a just legal system that puts human and environmental rights above property rights and corporate rights. All these programs will yield dramatically positive results -- environmentally, economically, socially and spiritually. All of it is do-able.

In great measure, we know what to do in practical terms to realize this vision. The vexing bottleneck we face is political, not technological. The other power blackout we have to fix is the corporate empire turning the lights out on democracy. As the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, known as "the father of fascism," said in a uniquely refreshing moment of candor, "Fascism should more properly be called corporatism, since it is the merger of state and corporate power." As the whole world becomes a company town, democracy is in peril of becoming a phantom limb, severed from the body politic while we imagine it's still attached. Cleaning up the environment will happen when we clean up politics and reclaim our government.

Democracy is not a spectator sport. Voting is not something we can do just every two or four years. We need to vote every day with our lives. The coming environmental blowback and social dislocation could just as easily swing us toward martial law and totalitarian rule. If we don't change directions, we might just end up where we're heading.

The 21st Century Blues

I've got the 21st Century Blues.

Amid rumors of war, threats of terrorist attacks using weapons of mass destruction stalk our national security. But in fact, perhaps the greatest security menace over the coming years is going to be the deteriorating environment. Or so say CIA analysts.

They warn that the wars of the future -- the near future -- will be fought over water, not oil. Water tables are sinking faster than the stock market, and unlike oil, there's no substitute for water. They caution against the global pandemic of AIDS and other deadly infectious diseases. They see tidal waves of desperate environmental refugees on the horizon. They anticipate widespread political destabilization and cascading financial crises.

The skid marks of industrial civilization are everywhere to be seen. Let's take the scenic route.

These are biblical times indeed, but it's no longer a miracle to walk on the water of the Sea of Galilee. Its level has dropped to the lowest ever recorded. Over in Mexico City, a plummeting aquifer is making the famed National Cathedral "bend and droop like a reflection in a funhouse mirror."

Which might remind locals up in Alaska of their "drunken trees" sagging into the once-upon-a-permafrost. Alaska got ahead of the global warming curve. Roads are buckling. Rupturing sewage lines are spawning a return to the old reliable outhouse. But even citizens grateful for those oil royalties are speechless at the death of four million acres of spruce forest, the biggest loss ever of trees to insects in North America. Nobody much wants to talk about the thawing tundra beneath the 800-mile Trans-Alaska pipeline either.

2001 was the second hottest year in 140 years of record-keeping, which might help explain why they were mowing the grass in December at the NY Botanical Garden, or those massive multi-billion-dollar floods raging across Europe. Moaned one of Prague's 50,000 evacuees, "We were prepared for a hundred-year flood, but this was a thousand-year flood." Then again, those epic forest fires sure coulda used some of that rain in the 29 US states strangled by long-term drought.

Even Rip Van Bush's EPA woke up to smell the climate change. Yup, it's for real and it's caused by fossil fuels. But hey, now that we've waited so long, there's nothing to do about it. It's inevitable; get used to it, and say adios to Rocky Mountain meadows and coral reefs. This is about economic growth.

Of course the insurance industry isn't buying it. The global giant Munich Re sets the price tag for global warming at $300 billion a year down the pike.

But for now the climate suits West Nile virus just fine. In the blink of an eye, it hitched a ride with mosquitoes up to the Northern Hemisphere and clear across the country. So we sprayed the little suckers good. Problem is, when researchers did an autopsy of dead birds in New York, they found lots more birds dying from pesticides than the virus.

And now it turns out global warming is going to blow out the ozone hole all over again, just when we thought we had it licked. Those UV rays are already mutating nasty new viruses we've never seen before; they're feeding on all that sewage and farm runoff in those algal blooms off the coasts.

But I dare you to prove the connection, because then there's also the 26 million pounds of antibiotics washing off those factory farms.

Let's not jump to conclusions. The first-ever government report on drugs in the water says those antibiotics are competing for ecological shelf space with prodigious amounts of hormones. Could be that $2.7 billion estrogen-replacement industry too. But then there's all the other meds -- anti-cholesterol, antidepressants, chemotherapy, Viagra, and caffeine (lots of caffeine) -- that are showing up in 80 percent of US streams.

Maybe this pharmaceutical pollution has something to do with all those intersex fish. Seems to be feminizing them, and I don't mean that in a Robert Bly kind of way. Alligators with shrinking penises, sperm counts dropping 50 percent, four in 10 men at risk from a new syndrome called Testicular Dysgenesis.

Same deal in water taps from the bayou to Berlin. Pretty soon those number-crunching drug companies will be inserting special charges in your water bill.

Which doesn't sound all that outlandish if you're Percy Schmeiser, the Canadian farmer who got busted by Monsanto for illegally growing its genetically engineered canola without a license. The thing is -- he didn't plant it. Must've volunteered when some seed fell off a farmer's truck, or pollen drifted over and contaminated his fields. Monsanto won the first two rounds in court, so now it's suing farmers across the Midwest and Canada after this toxic trespassing enlarged its failing market.

Which brings us to other hot potatos, the ones in the Moscow farmers' markets where Geiger-counter-toting officials are confiscating radioactive produce, being as Chernobyl's only 400 miles down the road. Or the three Japanese nuclear plants that temporarily closed after the companies admitted falsifying safety data about cracks in their aging reactors. But folks just didn't believe the government when it said there's no relationship between aging and accidents.

It's a terrible thing when trust in government breaks down. Just ask the guards at US nuclear reactors. They know why half the country's nuke plants have failed mock terrorist attacks. What do you expect with wages the same as custodians? And those floodlights management installed -- heck, they shine on the guards instead of on the terrorists! But hey, it's those whining workers again; I mean, where is Homer Simpson when you really need him?

Homer's probably gorging himself on junk food, and calling in sick with the 76 million Americans who get food poisoning every year from a food supply more dangerous than it was 50 years ago. Or maybe he's at Weight Watchers with the 60 percent of Americans who are overweight. All that super-size fat and sugar has gotta be what's behind the diabetes epidemic, too.

Unless the scientists are right who now say air pollution causes diabetes. So we'll have to study that two-mile-thick, brown cloud hovering over south Asia, which might help explain the half-million people dying from respiratory problems in India every year. Or what about that bubble-gum pink haze showering record amounts of pollutants over Hong Kong? Not great for business either. It's hurting tourism and making Honda shrink-wrap their cars so they don't all look that same weird yellow color in the showroom.

It's enough to make a government delete all this anxiety-inducing data off official web sites, and plug up the Freedom of Information Act. I mean, what if it fell into the wrong hands! Could be dangerous. Italy's Prime Minister, media magnate Sylvio Berlusconi, he's got the right idea. His company just bought up all the country's TV stations. No news is good news. He must've taken a pointer from Bush Lite who quipped: "You can fool some of the people all of the time -- those are the ones to concentrate on."

It's got to send you lunging for the Prozac. Lots of Wall Street traders did, even before that market bubble burst into a national depression. Jim Cramer, the MSNBC pundit and former hedge fund manager, knows first-hand why Wall Streeters never saw it coming. He said, "Prozac and all those other drugs banish the 'This is the end of the world' thoughts. Which means you are not as anxious as you should be about an obvious down side."

Hey, things could be worse. At least he's not one of the 3 billion people living on less than $2 a day. Let 'em eat placebos. Which are proven to work just as well anyway.

But if Prozac doesn't make you feel more secure, try war. Let's take out Iraq! More cheap oil for our national security. So what if improving fuel efficiency by 2.7 miles a gallon would eliminate the need for Gulf oil. Grab the sunscreen and relax. Relax environmental standards, that is, and get with the program. National security. Economic growth. Banish those "This is the end of the world thoughts."

Hmm. Drunken trees. Sinking cathedrals. Thousand-year floods. Intersex fish. Dysgenesis.

Welcome to the 21st century blues.

I don't know about you, but I don't feel real secure. Neither do Gregory Foster and Louise Wise from the National Defense University in Washington DC. Here's what they concluded a few years ago.

"The environment is the most transnational of all transnational issues. It respects neither national boundaries, nor traditional conceptions of sovereignty and territorial integrity."

They say we must confront two questions of fundamental strategic import: Whether humanity's role is to be nature's master, servant, or steward; and whether nature's commons, in affecting us all, demands sustained collective international attention and tending.

They envision the military becoming an environmental exemplar, turning its attention to disaster relief, ecological restoration, and the vigorous enforcement of environmental law.

They see the biggest factor in the environment's future as the universalization of democracy. The environment demands global, multilateral cooperation.

In other words, cleaning up the environment depends on cleaning up politics.

The good news is that for the most part the solutions to our problems are already present. Even where we don't know exactly what to do, we have a pretty good idea what directions to head in. The models percolate up from the deep wisdom of the natural world. Extraordinary human creativity focused on problem solving is exploding the mythology of despair. Over and over, it's the story of how an individual can make a difference.

Biomimicry master Janine Benyus observes with elegant simplicity that what life does is to create conditions conducive to life. That is perhaps the essential mission of the Bioneers. The Bioneers have peered deep into the heart of living systems to see what we can learn from four billion years of evolution. What they are unearthing is a revolution from the heart of nature, following in the footsteps of ancient indigenous traditions. There is great hope in how little we know, and in the little that we do know. The solutions residing in nature consistently surpass our concept of what's even possible.

I propose to you that the tide is already turning. Global society has begun reversing directions into an Age of Restoration. Though this movement remains relatively small today, it's growing by leaps and bounds. It's a matter of when, not if.

But we do not know how much time we have.

There was a paradigm shift this year that exploded the conventional scientific thinking that ecosystems respond slowly and steadily to degradation, that we will see the line coming before we cross it. A new study concludes that humanity's assault on the environment has left many ecosystems in such a fragile state that the slightest disturbance may push them into catastrophic collapse, causing them to shift abruptly with little or no warning. Despite appearing viable, there comes a tipping point once their resilience has been sufficiently undermined. Such changes can be irreversible.

We do not know how close we are to the tipping point. Precaution is the byword, moving from managing harm to preventing it. The Precautionary Principle being adopted around the world echoes grandma's time-tested common sense: Better safe than sorry; an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure; look before you leap. As Carolyn Raffensperger said last year, maybe we should call it the Duh Principle.

"What were they thinking?" future generations will ask. A recent book from Yale University Press called, "Why Smart People Can Be So Stupid" suggests that stupidity is not the opposite of smartness. The opposite of stupidity is wisdom, defined as the ability to apply knowledge to achieve the common good. Duh.

The antidote to the 21st Century Blues is a Declaration of Interdependence. We have a pretty good idea how to lighten our footfall, by 90 percent or more. The enterprise of restoration promises an unparalleled economic boom and global jobs creation, starting with a Marshall Plan for clean energy.

Ecological medicine teaches us that human health security depends on restoring the health of our ecosystems.

Societal security hinges on cultural diversity and mutual aid. The Gulf war to resolve is the gulf between rich and poor.

And democracy is breaking out all over, and it's coming from the bottom up. This is where we will find sustainable security.

It's time to repair our relationship with the living world and with each other. We can take our place -- not as masters, servants, or perhaps even stewards -- but as citizens in the democracy of all life. If we let our hearts guide us, we won't go wrong.

Time is of the essence. The worst failure we could have is a failure of the imagination.

Kenny Ausubel is the founder of the Bioneers Conference.

This Rare Historical Moment

When Frances Moore Lappe posed the question of why societies finally abandoned the divine right of monarchies, she found the reason was that people simply stopped believing in it. Ideas have real power, much greater than political or economic structures. It's what I like to call the B.S. factor -- belief systems.

And everywhere you turn these days, belief systems are crashing and burning like a meteor shower. From Enron to Arthur Andersen to the Catholic Church and even major-league baseball, people's faith in institutions is disintegrating.

People in this country are realizing that we have the best government money can buy. When Bush Lite proudly kicked off his regime as America, Incorporated, you have to wonder why he didn't propose reconstituting the Senate and the House as Fortune 100 and Fortune 500. If we enforced truth-in-advertising laws, Senators and Congresspeople would wear jumpsuits like race-car drivers sporting the logos of corporate sponsors. Then we could easily distinguish the Senator from General Electric and the Congressperson from Disney.

Corporate economic globalization contains the seeds of its own destruction, and we may well be witnessing the beginning of the decline and fall of the corporate empire. Enronitis is systemic. Arthur Andersen globalized fuzzy math, the arithmetic of corporate accounting in 1995, and they're going to have a heck of a time doing a factory recall. Whenever people say free trade, I always ask if free is a verb. What we actually have are highly managed monopolies that epitomize crony capitalism and insider trading as a way of doing business.

The rest of the world is certainly onto it, which is why European and Japanese capital is begining to flee U.S. companies. Consumer confidence is not looking too promising either when three-fourths of American citizens think big business has too much influence over government and society.

Around the world today people are rising up in defense of the Earth and demanding a democratic process over the decisions that affect our lands, our communities, and our lives. The pro-democracy movement is gaining momentum worldwide, and recent events indicate that it is only going to pick up steam, far sooner than many people may have expected.

Just over the last couple of years, countries across Latin America have generated a political groundswell against the failed experiment of so-called "free-market" capitalism. Popular uprisings have derailed the privatization of state-owned companies and utilities, because 44 percent of Latin Americans still live in poverty and the number of unemployed workers has more than doubled in a decade. And with China's acceptance into the WTO, the next giant sucking sound from the South is going to be jobs leaving Mexico for China.

It's going to get even dicier because the never-ending war on terrorism is anathema to economic globalization, which is predicated on the free flow of goods, services and workers across borders. This time they've shot themselves in the foot, or actually a little higher.

Ecology does not recognize national borders, and planetarization demands that we create a restorative economy grounded in healthy ecosystems and job creation. It also calls upon us to celebrate the world's rich diversity of cultures, and to forge a working community of nations committed to social justice. Without social and economic justice there can be no peace with the Earth.

This rare historical moment offers us a gleaming opportunity. It's up to us to step into the breach with alternatives, with solutions that work. We are finding over and over again that solutions residing in nature surpass our wildest conception of what's possible. There is great hope in how little we know and what little we do know.

We can start with a Marshall Plan to hasten the extinction of petrochemicals. Even oil executives acknowledge that we have entered the beginning of the end of the Age of Oil. Large companies including BP, Shell, Daimler-Chrysler, and Ford are making sizeable commitments to renewable energy, though it's still marginal to their core business. The emerging alternative energy industry may well mimic the vertiginous expansion of the oil industry just 100 years ago. Wind and solar photovoltaics grew around ten-fold in the past ten years.

While the United States political class tries to march us backward into the future carrying a sack of coal, much of the rest of the developed world is going green. Iceland is the first nation totally powering its electricity with renewable energy, and it's well on its way to breaking through as the world's first hydrogen economy to run its cars without gas. Germany has committed to doubling its economy by 2060 on half the power, using mostly renewable energy. Japan has seized the global market on photovoltaic cells. Denmark is the world's leading wind producer, a profitable industry employing more people than its entire fishing and shipbuilding sectors. But of course those Danes are crazy: They say environmental protection is more important than economic growth anyway.

Sweden will close a second nuclear reactor in 2003 in its plan to phase-out nuclear energy by 2010. Germany has committed to a phase out of its nuclear plants. It's worth remembering that those four hijacked airplanes flew perilously close to twelve separate nuclear plants, and that no private insurer will back the 103 nukes in the country.

Cars getting 78-235 mpg are already rolling off the line, and zero-emissions hydrogen fuel cells and hyper cars are close behind. Energy efficiency is of course the single most cost-effective approach, capable of halving our energy use by itself.

Wind power from seven Northern Plains states alone could provide all the nation's electricity needs. The North Sea winds have enough force to power much of Europe. Solar collectors in just 2 percent of the world's deserts could supply the hydrogen needed for the world's current energy consumption.

The technology is here now. Solar, wind, and hydrogen technologies are infinitely better proven than any Missile Defense Shield and they will give us true national security by removing the choke collar of OPEC and our own Oiligarchy. The only energy crisis is the energy to make the transition happen faster.

These soft technologies also lend themselves to localization and decentralization. They can be democratic by design. Power to the people is not an abstraction.

This same kind of transformation is starting to happen across the board, demonstrating our capacity to reduce human footprints by 90 percent while improving our standard of living and creating jobs, decidedly better than flipping burgers and telemarketing.

There are many deep wounds to heal, not the least those of the human spirit. This transformation also demands a change of heart flowing from an empathic connection with the fullness of the living Earth. It's about the sanctity of all life.

The choices we make today are going to have long-lasting and far-reaching consequences. As human beings, perhaps our greatest facility is how rapidly we re-invent culture.

Kenny Ausubel is the president of Bioneers. The Bioneers Conference in Marin last weekend drew thousands of participants. To learn more, read Bioneers: Help and Hope for the Planet and Eco-Conferences for Inspiration.

When Healing Becomes a Crime

There is another cancer war -- against "unproven" alternative cancer therapies. But is the medical standard of proof a double standard?

In February 2001, a federal government-sponsored report under the auspices of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was published finding "noteworthy cases of survival" among cancer patients using the Hoxsey herbal treatment. After seventy-five years, Uncle Sam is finally giving a state nod to what is arguably the most notorious alternative cancer therapy in American history.

In the 1950s at the height of organized medicine's crusade against the Hoxsey Cancer Clinics, the American Medical Association crystallized the medical establishment's sentiments in its supremely influential Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). "It is fair to observe that the American Medical Association or any other association or individual has no need to go beyond the Hoxsey label to be convinced. Any such person who would seriously contend that scientific medicine is under any obligation to investigate such a mixture or its promoter is either stupid or dishonest."

The recent NIH report marks a surprising reversal in the longstanding medical civil war between conventional and alternative approaches. After a long exile, alternative therapies are now ascendant, riding a crest of popular demand, scientific validation, and commercial promise. The face of cancer treatment may soon become almost unrecognizable as valuable alternative therapies begin to permeate mainstream practice.

If Harry Hoxsey had lived to witness this apparent sea-change in medicine, he might likely feel very mixed emotions. He would heartily cheer the grassroots surge propelling the movement, the same kind that once carried his Hoxsey Cancer Clinics to unmatched heights of popularity and validation. He would be exhilarated by the philosophical conversion of his enemies. But he would also be cynical, suspicious that a clinging monopoly was fighting to save face and above all keep its corner on the cancer market. But then, Hoxsey survived decades of being "hunted like a wild beast" only to see his clinics padlocked without the scientific test he relentlessly sought. He died a broken man, anguished over the future he felt was robbed from humanity. Yet the Hoxsey treatment did live on, thriving as an underground legend, still attracting more patients today than any of the other banished therapies, irrepressible after all.

The astonishing saga of the rise and fall and rebirth of Hoxsey provides a classic case history of the corrosive medical politics that have long prevented the fair investigation of promising alternative cancer therapies. Paradoxically, this long-standing denunciation has not been based on the objective scientific evidence that is supposed to determine the acceptance or rejection of medical therapies. Rather, the dismissal typifies the kind of pre-factual conclusion that has characterized "scientific" medicine's century-long pattern of condemnation without investigation.

In fact, the unspoken reason for the renaissance of alternative cancer therapies is sadly obvious: The medical establishment has largely lost its celebrated "War on Cancer" based on surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. But what has remained hidden from most people is the existence of the other cancer war: organized medicine's zealous campaign against "unorthodox" cancer treatments and their practitioners. Over the course of the twentieth century, innovators such as Harry Hoxsey advanced more than one hundred alternative approaches, at least several of which have seemed to hold significant promise. Yet rather than inviting interest and investigation from mainstream medicine, their champions have been ridiculed, threatened with the loss of professional licenses, harassed, prosecuted, or driven out of the country.

The facts clearly reveal that a consortium of interests has consistently condemned these treatments without investigation: the American Medical Association (AMA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and the American Cancer Society (ACS), as well as certain large corporations that profit from the cancer industry. It is important to emphasize that this confederation of interests known as organized medicine consists principally of medical politicians and business interests, not practicing doctors. Physicians themselves have often objected to the unscientific rejection of alternative therapies and to restrictions on their own freedom to research or administer them.

The news blackout and disinformation campaign muffling this scandal have been so effective that most people do not happen into the underground of "disappeared" therapies until the fateful moment when they or their friends or relations are diagnosed with the dread disease. Usually only while fighting for their lives do patients discover the plethora of alternative cancer therapies claiming to offer hope and benefit, though with little if any scientific evidence to support the assertions. The story of Hoxsey sheds disturbing light on the many anecdotes of "people who got well when they weren't supposed to," as cancer surgeon Dr. Bernie Siegel terms these remarkable remissions in the netherworld of alternative therapies.

The Hoxsey Legend

In 1840 Illinois horse farmer John Hoxsey found his prize stallion with a malignant tumor on its right hock. As a Quaker, he couldn't bear shooting the animal, so he put it out to pasture to die peacefully. Three weeks later, he noticed the tumor stabilizing, and observed the animal browsing knee-deep in a corner of the pasture with a profusion of weeds, eating plants not part of its normal diet.

Within three months the tumor dried up and began to separate from the healthy tissue. The farmer retreated to the barn, where he began to experiment with these herbs revealed to him by "horse sense." He devised three formulas: an internal tonic, an herbal-mineral red paste, and a mineral-based yellow powder for external use. Within a year the horse was well, and the veterinarian became locally famous for treating animals with cancer.

The farmer's grandson John C. Hoxsey, a veterinarian in southern Illinois, was the first to try the remedies on people, and claimed positive results. His son Harry showed an early interest and began working with him at the age of eight. When John suffered an untimely accident, he bequeathed the formulas to the fifteen-year-old boy with a charge to treat poor people for free, and to minister to all races, creeds, and religions without prejudice. He asked that the treatment carry the Hoxsey name. Finally, he warned the boy against the "High Priests of Medicine" who would fight him tooth-and-nail because he was taking money out of their pockets.

Hoxsey planned to go to medical school to bring the treatment to the world, but soon found he had been blackballed after secretly treating several terminal patients who pled for their lives. With a local banker backing him, he founded the first Hoxsey Cancer Clinic in 1924, championed by the chamber of commerce and high school marching bands on Main Street.

As early word of his reputed successes spread, Hoxsey was invited to nearby Chicago, headquarters of the newly powerful AMA, to demonstrate the treatment. Grisly and indisputable photographic proof of the terminal case Hoxsey treated verifies that the patient recovered, living on for twelve years, cancer-free.

Hoxsey then claimed that a high AMA official offered him a contract for the rights to the formulas. The alleged agreement assigned the property rights to a consortium of doctors including Dr. Morris Fishbein, the AMA chief and editor of the JAMA. Hoxsey himself would be required to cease any further practice, to be awarded a small percentage of profits after ten years if the treatment panned out. Invoking his Quaker father's deathbed charge that poor people be treated for free and that the treatment carry the family name, Hoxsey said the official threatened to hound him out of business unless he acquiesced.

Whatever may have happened, that's when the battle started. The AMA first denied the entire incident, then later acknowledged the patient's remission, though crediting it to prior treatments by surgery and radiation.

Yet one thing was certain: Hoxsey had made a very powerful enemy. By crossing swords with Fishbein, he alienated the most powerful figure in medicine. The AMA promptly dubbed him the worst cancer quack of the century, and he would be arrested more times than any other person in medical history.

Hoxsey quickly found himself opposing Fishbein's emerging medical-corporate complex. As late as 1900, medicine was therapeutically pluralistic and financially unprofitable. Doctors had the highest suicide rate of any profession owing to their extreme poverty and low social standing. Fishbein's AMA would engineer an industrialized medical monoculture. What radically tipped the balance of power was an arranged marriage between big business and organized medicine. Under Fishbein's direction, the AMA sailed into a golden harbor of prosperity fueled by surgery, radiation, drugs, and a sprawling high-tech hospital system. The corporatization of medicine throttled diversity. The code word for competition was quackery.

It was easy for the medical profession to paint Hoxsey as a quack: he fit the image perfectly. Brandishing his famed tonic bottle, the ex-coal miner arrived straight from central casting as the stereotype of the snake-oil salesman. When the AMA coerced the pathologist who performed Hoxsey's biopsies to cease and desist, Hoxsey could no longer verify the validity of his reputed successes. Organized medicine quickly adopted the stance that his alleged "cures" fell into three categories: those who never had cancer in the first place; those who were cured by prior radiation and surgery; and those who died. In exasperation, Hoxsey attempted an end run by approaching the National Cancer Institute. In close collaboration with the AMA, the federal agency refused his application for a test because his medical records did not include all the biopsies.

Meanwhile Hoxsey struck oil in Texas and used his riches to promote his burgeoning clinic and finance his court battles. Piqued at Hoxsey's rise, Fishbein struck back in the public media, penning an inflammatory article in the Hearst Sunday papers entitled "Blood Money," in a classic example of purple prose and yellow journalism. Outraged, Hoxsey sued Fishbein. In two consecutive trials, Hoxsey beat Fishbein, standing as the first person labeled a "quack" to defeat the AMA in court. During the trials, Hoxsey's lawyers revealed that Fishbein had failed anatomy in medical school, never completed his internship, and never practiced a day of medicine in his entire career.

By now Fishbein was mired in multiple scandals, including his effective but unpopular obstruction of national health insurance at a time when doctors had become the richest professionals in the country and the Journal the most profitable publication in the world. Drug ads powered JAMA, but its biggest single advertiser in the 1940s was Phillip Morris. (Camel cigarettes had the largest booth at the AMA's 1948 convention, boasting in its ads that "More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette.") Enmeshed in controversy, Fishbein's stock was trading low, and, shortly after his first loss to Hoxsey, the AMA chief was deposed in a humiliating spectacle.

But ironically Hoxsey's stunning dark-horse victory against the "most terrifying trade organization on Earth" only ended up bringing the house down. He immediately faced a decade-long "quackdown" by the FDA.

By the 1950s, Hoxsey was riding what was arguably the largest alternative-medicine movement in American history. A survey by the Chicago Medical Society showed 85 percent of people still using "drugless healers." Hoxsey's Dallas stronghold grew to be the world's largest privately owned cancer center with 12,000 patients and branches spreading to seventeen states. Congressmen, judges, and even some doctors ardently supported his quest for an investigation. Two federal courts upheld the therapeutic value of the treatment. Even his archenemies, the American Medical Association and the Food and Drug Administration, admitted that the therapy does cure certain forms of cancer. JAMA itself had published the research of a respected physician who got results superior to surgery using a red paste identical to Hoxsey's for skin cancers including lethal melanoma, a skin cancer that also spreads internally.

Medical authorities escalated their quackdown in the McCarthyite wake of the 1950s. On the heels of a California law criminalizing all cancer treatments except surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, the federal government finally outlawed Hoxsey entirely in the United States in 1960 on questionable technicalities. Chief nurse Mildred Nelson took the clinic to Tijuana in 1963, abandoning any hope of operating in the United States. It was the first alternative clinic to set up shop south of the border. Mildred quietly treated another 30,000 patients there until her death in 1999. Like Hoxsey, she claimed a high success rate, but her contention is unverifiable since the treatment has yet to be rigorously tested.

Hoxsey never claimed a panacea or cure-all. He maintained that the Dallas doctors used his clinic as a "dumping ground" for hopeless cases, and that the great majority of patients he got were terminal, having already had the limit of surgery and radiation. He said he cured about 25 percent of those. Of virgin cases with no prior treatment, he claimed an 80 percent success rate. Seventy-five years after Hoxsey began, why do we still not know the validity of his claims?

The "Unproven Treatments"

Organized medicine has systematically dismissed alternative cancer therapies as "unproven," lacking the rigorous scientific proof of clinical trials. But if the Hoxsey treatment is unproven, it's not disproven. Like virtually all the "unorthodox" cancer therapies over the course of the twentieth century, it was politically railroaded rather than medically tested. However, over the last few decades, controlled laboratory tests have shown all the individual herbs in the internal tonic to possess anti-tumor and anti-cancer properties, as I documented in detail in my recent book on Hoxsey, When Healing Becomes A Crime. Though the formula has never been tested as a whole entity, clearly there is a credible scientific basis for looking at it. Organized medicine has not disputed the effectiveness of the external remedies since 1950, and the red paste (Mohs treatment) is listed in Taber's Medical Encyclopedia as a "standard treatment," though it is seldom used.

After all, plants are the cornerstone of pharmaceutical drugs. The very word drug derives from the Dutch term droog, which means "to dry," since people have historically dried plants to make medicinal preparations. It is well proven that many botanicals possess powerful anti-cancer properties. Numerous primary pharmaceuticals derive from plants, as do several major chemotherapy drugs, such as Taxol from the Pacific Yew tree, Vincristine and Vinblastine from the Madagascar periwinkle, and Camptothecin from the wood and bark of a Chinese tree. About 30 percent of chemotherapy drugs altogether are derived from natural substances, mainly plants. A quarter of modern drugs still contain a plant substance, and about half are modeled on plant chemistry.

During Hoxsey's era, surgery and radiation were primitive and excessive. Both were solely local treatments, reflecting the profession's belief that cancer was a local disease. As such they could address just a quarter of all cases, claiming to cure only about a quarter of those. With the advent of toxic chemotherapy drugs in the 1950s, organized medicine at last acknowledged cancer as a systemic disease, which Hoxsey and the other "unorthodox" practitioners had been asserting throughout.

Clearly, conventional cancer treatments have an important place in medicine and save lives. But since the 1950s, evidence has steadily accumulated that surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy are far less effective than the public is being led to believe. Investigative journalist Daniel Greenberg, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review in 1975, produced the first widely reported exposé showing that cancer survival rates since the 1950s had not progressed, and that improvements from 1930 to 1950 were mainly a consequence of improved hospital nursing care and support systems. Greenberg found that even the valid improvements were very, very small, and that there had been no significant advancements in treating any of the major forms of cancer.

By 1969, Dr. Hardin Jones had already released a shocking report on this issue at the Science Writers Convention, sponsored by the American Cancer Society. Jones, a respected professor of medical physics from the University of California at Berkeley and an expert on statistics and the effects of radiation and drugs, concluded that "the common malignancies show a remarkably similar rate of demise, whether treated or untreated." Joining the fray, Nobel laureate James Watson charged that the American public had been sold a "nasty bill of goods about cancer." This eminent co-discoverer of the DNA double helix remarked bluntly that the War on Cancer was "a bunch of shit."

These "proven" cancer treatments are themselves largely unproven. The standard of proof for therapeutic efficacy is in fact a double standard. Surgery was grandfathered in as standard practice early in the twentieth century without randomized, double-blind clinical trials, which only became widespread in the 1960s with the advent of chemotherapy. Its dangers and limitations have since been only superficially acknowledged or studied, and little is known about its efficacy in relation to a baseline marker of no treatment.

Like surgery, radiation therapy was grandfathered in without rigorous testing. Radiation is carcinogenic and mutagenic. In the few tests comparing radiation treatment against no treatment, according to Jones, "Most of the time, it makes not the slightest difference if the machine is turned on or not." Jones went even further, saying, "My studies have proved conclusively that untreated cancer victims actually live up to four times longer." Radiation is often combined with surgery despite the fact that tests have generally shown it made no apparent favorable difference. A recent study with patients with the most common form of lung cancer found that postoperative radiation therapy, which is routinely given, actually raises the relative risk of death by 21 percent, with its most detrimental effects on those in the early stages of illness. Nevertheless, radiation is used on about half of cancer patients.

It was into this disappointing setting that chemotherapy entered as the next great hope of cancer treatment. Chemotherapy drugs are poisons that are indiscriminate killers of cells, both healthy and malignant. The strategy is quite literally to kill the cancer without killing the patient. By the mid-1980s, prominent members of orthodoxy published unsettling assessments that could no longer be dismissed. Writing in Scientific American, Dr. John Cairns of Harvard found that chemotherapy was able to save the lives of just 2 to 3 percent of cancer patients, mostly those with the rarest kinds of the disease. By medicine's own standards, at best chemotherapy is unproved against 90 percent of adult solid tumors, the huge majority of common cancers resulting in death. Moreover, true placebo controls have been almost abandoned in the testing of chemotherapy. Drug regimen is tested against drug regimen, and doctors hardly ever look at whether the drugs do better than simple good nursing care. Because chemotherapy drugs are outright poisons, many carcinogenic, the drugs themselves can cause "treatment deaths" and additional cancers. One study among women surviving ovarian cancer after chemotherapy treatment showed a one-hundred-fold greater subsequent incidence of leukemia over those not receiving chemotherapy. In some studies, when chemotherapy and radiation were combined, the incidence of secondary tumors was about twenty-five times the expected rate. Nevertheless, chemotherapy is given to 80 percent of patients

Amazingly, 85 percent of prescribed standard medical treatments across the board lack scientific validation, according to the New York Times. Richard Smith, editor of the British Medical Journal, suggests that "this is partly because only one percent of the articles in medical journals are scientifically sound, and partly because many treatments have never been assessed at all."

A hundred years from now, medicine will likely come to regard some of these "proven" cancer treatments the way we now remember the use of mercury and bloodletting. As Dr. Abigail Zuger recently wrote in the New York Times contemplating the hundredth anniversary of the 1899 Merck Manual: "We have harnessed our own set of poisons for medical treatment; in a hundred years a discussion of cancer chemotherapy may read as chillingly as endorsements of strychnine for tuberculosis and arsenic for diabetes do today."

The Big Business of Cancer

The medical civil war between Hoxsey and organized medicine has largely reflected a trade war. Profitability has often been the driving force behind the adoption of official therapeutics. At over $110 billion a year just in the United States, cancer is big business, a whopping 10 percent of the national health-care bill. The typical cancer patient spends upward of $100,000 on treatment. It is estimated that each hospital admission for cancer produces two to three times the billings of a typical non-cancer admission. More people work in the field than die from the disease each year. According to Dr. Samuel Epstein, a professor of environmental and occupational medicine at the University of Illinois in Chicago, "For decades, the war on cancer has been dominated by powerful groups of interlocking professional and financial interests, with the highly profitable drug development system at its hub." Global sales of chemotherapy drugs in 1997 were $30.9 billion, about $12 billion of it in the United States.

Pharmaceutical companies pin the high costs of drugs on the forbidding expense of testing and approving each new drug, now pegged at $500 million. In fact, this prohibitive figure has served as a barrier of entry for all but giant corporations. The entire system is founded in patents, twenty-year exclusive licenses that provide monopoly protection. As an herbal product, the Hoxsey tonic cannot be patented and therefore occupies the status of an orphan drug that no company will develop. While approving about forty highly toxic cancer drugs, the FDA has yet to approve a single nontoxic cancer agent or one not patented by a major pharmaceutical company.

Alternative therapies are finally emerging in part because of the dramatic cost savings they represent, and because at least some may well represent a major new profit center. "Alternative medicine is clearly the largest growth industry in health care today," wrote Jane Brody in the New York Times in 1998. Dr. David Eisenberg of Harvard surveyed the American public to find 42 percent using alternative therapies in 1997. The number of visits to alternative practitioners exceeded total visits to primary-care physicians. Spending was conservatively estimated at $21.2 billion, with at least $12.2 billion paid out-of-pocket by committed customers. Total out-of-pocket expenditures for alternative therapies were comparable with expenditures for all physician services.

The numbers are no less dramatic for cancer treatment. A national study estimated 64 percent of cancer patients to be using alternative therapies. A recent survey at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, the world's largest with 13,000 patients, found an astounding 83 percent using alternatives.

Major corporations are already entering the alternative marketplace. Procter & Gamble initially spent millions sponsoring the research of Dr. Nick Gonzalez, who took up the work of Donald Kelley, a dentist who reputedly cured himself of terminal pancreatic cancer using enzymes and other nutritional means. A pilot study with pancreatic cancer patients provided better results than had been seen in the history of medicine for a disease that is 95 percent incurable. The subjects lived an average of triple the usual survival rate, and two patients have lived for four and five years with no detectable disease. Nestlé has also financed the work of Dr. Gonzalez. These studies led to a $1.4 million grant to Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons by the NIH's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and supervised by the NCI. The engagement of large corporations vaulted the formerly reviled treatment to instant plausibility. When big companies start to take a stake in alternative cancer therapies, it signifies the maturation of a market and consecrates a political realignment.

Both M. D. Anderson and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center have been testing green tea, or more accurately several of its "active" ingredients, for anti-cancer properties. Because various studies have shown that green tea reduces the risk of colorectal, lung, esophageal, and pancreatic cancers, Lipton tea company is also testing the substance at the University of Arizona.

In association with the NCI, M. D. Anderson is set to evaluate shark cartilage, which is reputed to have anti-cancer activity and is widely used by a cancer underground in the United States and abroad. (Sadly, this market surge is further endangering several shark species.) The University of Toronto is testing mistletoe, a folk remedy for cancer espoused by the Austrian spiritual philosopher Rudolf Steiner, originator of Waldorf education and biodynamic farming. Mistletoe has shown anti-tumor effects in both human and animals studies in Germany.

The release of the report on Hoxsey through the NIH's NCCAM is a harbinger of the changes to come. As the report concludes, further investigation "is justified not only because of the public health issue to justify the large number of patients who seek treatment at this clinic, but also because of the several noteworthy cases of survival." The report specifically notes a seven-year melanoma patient who had no other treatment besides Hoxsey's tonic and external salves. Average survival time for advanced melanoma is seven months. If such a remarkable remission occurred using conventional treatments, it would be front-page news worldwide.

"It's interesting to contemplate the dilemma that the National Cancer Institute is in," conjectures Ralph Moss, an advisor to the NCCAM and NCI, and a respected researcher and author on both alternative and conventional cancer treatments. "If they do decide to do the tests, then there's always that possibility -- and I think it's a damn good possibility -- that some of these treatments are going to turn out to be quite valuable. If they decide not to do the tests, there's going to be tremendous fury in Congress and the public, because what then are they about? If they're not about scientific testing, what good are they? Why are we wasting our money?

"What we're saying is: Prove them or disprove them. We've had seventy-five years of Hoxsey. Does it work? Doesn't it work? Nobody knows. How do you know? Short of good studies, how does one decide issues like that? We don't want people doing something if it's not going to work for them, not in terms of just conventional treatment, but alternative treatments as well."

"The best-case scenario," Moss speculates, "is that some tests will be carried out with the imprimatur of NCI, NCCAM, and probably other collaborative centers like the University of Texas and Columbia. Some of those will show that there's no effectiveness, and some of them will probably show that there is effectiveness in some treatments. The ones that are shown to be effective that are funded by and based on NCI-reported research are then going to be published in major medical journals. The first one that validates a nontoxic treatment is the beginning of the end of this Middle Ages that we're in. Because once one goes through the door, then a lot of others are going through the door, and that's what they're afraid of. They're afraid that, if a Hoxsey were proven to be effective, the public will run to it because nobody wants the chemo drugs. If chemo is the only choice, then they'll reluctantly take it, but the minute it's known there is something nontoxic out there, everybody's going to want it."

The abiding truth for cancer patients is that they want unrestricted access to all treatments. According to one analysis, only about 5 percent entirely abandon conventional cancer care even when pursuing an alternative. What patients seek is the best of all worlds, an expanded menu of options supported by access to credible information. The stereotype that orthodoxy has long put forth of poor, credulous cancer patients ripe for exploitation by clever promoters turns out to be false. In a study by sociologist Barrie Cassileth, the profile of patients using alternative cancer therapies describes well-educated, middle-income, often female clients who have done a considerable amount of due diligence to make their choice.

While physicians fought fiercely for their professional sovereignty during the twentieth century, the greater social issue today is the sovereignty of the patient. In a market economy, goes the old saw, the customer is always right. The AMA's Oliver Field, an architect of the aggressive repression against Hoxsey and myriad "quack" therapies in the 1950s, responded surprisingly when I posed to him the polarizing question of freedom of medical choice. "This is a free country. You pays your money and you takes your choice. If it's wrong, you're the one who's going to suffer."

It was anomalous to hear the former head of the AMA's Bureau of Investigation, which once boasted a rolodex of over 300,000 "quacks," echo the words of his past nemesis. Judge William Hawley Atwell, who ruled twice in Hoxsey's favor in federal courts and fully affirmed the therapy's value, had stated in 1949 regarding Hoxsey's victory over Dr. Morris Fishbein: "So I wish to say, pay your money and take your choice. Those who need a doctor, if you think one side is the best, go and get him. If you think the other side is best, you certainly have the right to go and get him. This is a free country; that is what we stand for in America."

Why was the Hoxsey therapy not investigated in the first place seventy-five years ago? The overarching truth is that it has been politically railroaded instead of medically tested. The medical civil war has distorted cancer from a medical question into a political issue. The many practitioners and doctors thrust involuntarily into the front lines of the cancer wars would surely prefer to settle the question in a clinic or laboratory, not a courtroom. Meanwhile, cancer patients remain trapped in the crossfire, fighting for their lives.

The Coming Age of Ecological Medicine

Among the many immigrants who arrived in New York City in the summer of 1999, none made a name for itself more quickly than West Nile fever. Traced to a virus spread by mosquitoes, the disease had never been seen in this country, or even in the Western Hemisphere. It first struck birds, then people, killing seven and sickening dozens more.

The city hoped to control it by killing the mosquitoes with malathion, a pesticide chemically related to nerve gas. Though many protested, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani insisted the spraying was perfectly safe.

Within months, scientists at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency were debating just how wrong the mayor had been. The EPA was on the verge of declaring malathion a "likely" human carcinogen when its manufacturer protested. The EPA backed off, saying malathion posed no documented threat, though some in the agency continued to insist the dangers were being downplayed. More suspicion was raised upon news of a massive die-off among lobsters in Long Island Sound near New York. Malathion is known to kill lobsters and other marine life, but officials denied the connection.

Though no direct causal link can yet be drawn, some infectious-disease experts say anomalous outbreaks such as West Nile may be tied to human impacts on the environment, including climate change and the destruction of natural habitats. As noted by Dr. Paul R. Epstein, associate director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School, "West Nile is getting veterinarians and doctors and biologists to sit down at the same table." What they are unraveling is a complex knot linking human health and the state of the natural world.

Welcome to a preview of the health issues awaiting us in the 21st century. Indeed, we're already living at a time when vast social and biological forces are interacting in complex ways -- and with unpredictable impacts. War, famine, and ecological damage have caused great human disruptions, which in turn have transformed tuberculosis, AIDS, and other modern plagues into global pandemics.

Even more disturbing, many of our efforts to fight disease today are themselves symptoms of a deeper illness. Spraying an urban area with a substance whose health effects remain unknown is one glaring example, but there are many others. Think of certain compounds used in chemotherapy that more often kill than cure. Or the 100,000 people who die in hospitals every year from drugs that are properly prescribed. Or the many IV bags and other plastic medical products that release dioxin into the air when they are burned.

That last example contributes to perhaps the most heartbreaking metaphor of our environmental abuse and its unforeseen consequences -- the discovery that human mother's milk is among the most toxic human foods, laced with dioxin, a confirmed carcinogen, and other chemical contaminants. All these cases suggest our culture's deep dependence on synthetic chemicals, and our long refusal to acknowledge how profoundly they've disrupted our ecological systems.

There's a widespread sense that mainstream medicine is blind to this reality, and is even part of the problem. This growing disillusion, coupled with the fact that high-tech medicine costs too much and often doesn't work, has led to a widespread public search for alternatives. One result is the rise of complementary medicine, which combines the best of modern health care with other approaches. Add the immense new interest in traditional healing methods, herbs, and other natural remedies and you get a sense of how much the health-care paradigm has changed over the past 30 years.

What I see happening is a deeper shift that all these approaches are edging us toward, even if we don't fully realize it yet. It's a new understanding of health and illness that has begun to move away from treating only the individual. Instead, good health lies in recognizing that each of us is part of a wider web of life. When the web is healthy, we are more likely to be healthy. But the environmental illnesses we see more and more of these days -- rising cancer rates spring to mind -- are constant reminders that the web is not healthy. How did we reach this tragic place? And more to the point, where do we go from here?

The first step toward a healthier future, I believe, lies in ecological medicine. Pioneered by a global movement of concerned scientists, doctors, and many others, ecological medicine is a loosely shared philosophy based on advancing public health by improving the environment. Its central idea is that industrial civilization has made a basic error in acting as if humans are apart from rather than a part of nature. Just as the knee bone is connected to the thigh bone, human and environmental health are inseparable.

And in a biosphere that is rampantly toxic and woefully depleted, a mounting number of our health problems can only be understood as part of a larger pattern. Ecological medicine could well emerge as a force for dramatic cultural change. It proposes to reshape how industrial civilization operates, in part by redefining the role that the public plays in making the decisions that affect all life on earth.

Simply stated, improving human health is inextricably linked to ecological well-being. The interconnectedness of all life is a fundamental biological truth. What's more, all life is under threat. There simply is no "elsewhere" to dump the hazardous by-products of industrial society. Eliminating them from our production systems is the only solution, and a well-informed public is crucial to realizing it.

In the words of Carolyn Raffensperger, executive director of the Science and Environmental Health Network (SEHN), a "truly holistic medicine extends beyond the mind-body connection to the human-planet whole."

Here are some basic tenets of ecological medicine:

- The first goal of medicine is to establish the conditions for health and wholeness, thus preventing disease and illness. The second goal is to cure.

- The earth is also the physician's client. The patient under the physician's care is one part of the earth.

- Humans are part of a local eco-system. Following the ecopsychological insight that a disturbed ecosystem can make people mentally ill, a disturbed ecosystem can surely make people physically ill.

- Medicine should not add to the illnesses of humans or the planet. Medical practices themselves should not damage other species or the ecosystem.

The main tool for putting these ideals into practice, ecological healers say, is what they call the precautionary principle. As articulated by Raffensperger and many others, the precautionary principle basically argues that science and industry must fully assess the impact of their activities before they impose them upon the public and the environment. Societies around the world have begun to incorporate some version of the principle into law, hoping to rein in bioengineering and other new technologies. That science should objectively prove the safety of its own inventions might seem like common sense, but that's not how most science operates today.

For decades, the scientific and medical community has accepted that a certain amount of pollution and disease is just the price we have to pay for modern life. This is called the "risk paradigm," and it essentially means that it is society's burden to prove that new technologies and industrial processes are harmful, usually one chemical or technology at a time. The risk paradigm assumes that there are "acceptable" levels of contamination the earth and our bodies can supposedly assimilate. It also allows a small, self-interested elite to set these levels, undistracted by the "irrational" fears and demands of the public. The "science" behind it is driven by large commercial interests and can hardly be considered either impartial or in the public interest. Viewed with any distance at all, the risk paradigm is at best a high-stakes game of biological roulette with all the chambers loaded.

There is a global effort afoot today to replace the risk paradigm with the precautionary principle, which is based on a recognition of science's limits in fully predicting consequences and possible harm. The precautionary principle acknowledges that all life is interconnected. It shifts the burden of proof (and liability) to the parties promoting potentially harmful technologies, and limits their use to experiments until they are proven truly safe.

The idea is not new -- a version of it first appeared in U.S. law back in 1958 in the Delaney Amendment, which governed pesticide residues in food and set standards for environmental impact statements. Nor is it radical. At its essence, the principle harks back to grandma's admonitions that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," that we're "better safe than sorry."

The model is already used, in theory, for the drug industry, which is legally bound to prove drugs safe and effective prior to their use. Critics call it anti-scientific; they say it limits trade and stifles innovation.

Ecological medicine advocates disagree.

"The precautionary principle actually sheds a bright light on science," says Dr. Ted Schettler, science director of SEHN. "It doesn't tell us what to do, but it does tell you what to look at." Germany and Sweden have incorporated the principle into certain environmental policies. The United Nations Biosafety Protocol includes it as part of new guidelines for regulating trade in genetically modified products, its first appearance in an international treaty.

As people and their governments face ever more complex scientific decisions, the precautionary principle can serve as what some have called an "insurance policy against our own ignorance." After all, we can't even predict next week's weather or the economy a year out, much less the unfathomable complexity of living systems.

The Hippocratic oath tells doctors to "First, do no harm," yet our medical practices often pose serious environmental threats. In 1994, for instance, the EPA reported that medical waste incinerators were the biggest source of dioxin air pollution in the United States. Dioxin finds its way into our food and accumulates in our fat; it's been linked to neurological damage in fetuses. Even a simple thermometer contains mercury, another potentially deadly neurotoxin.

The medical-waste problem does not stop there. Along with generating radioactive waste from various treatments, the medical industry is now the source of a new peril: pharmaceutical pollution. Creatures living in lakes and rivers appear to be at special risk as antibiotics, estrogen, birth-control pills, painkillers, and other drugs find their way into the waste stream. Fish are already affected; intersex mutations (showing both male and female characteristics) have been reported in various species around the world. But humans are not immune. The war on drugs may soon take on a new meaning as entire populations are subjected to constant low doses of pharmaceuticals in the water supply.

Groups like Health Care Without Harm (www.noharm.org) have made it their mission to halt or curb such damaging medical practices, especially the use of mercury thermometers and the industry's reliance on burning its waste.

With 300 member organizations in 27 countries, the coalition has had a major impact, in part by directly confronting the companies that make such products. Another group, the Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility, has published a report with the Clean Water Fund called In Harm's Way that documents the many toxic threats to child development (www.igc.org/psr/).

Ecological medicine suggests first doing no harm to the environment, then going further, creating a medical practice that itself minimizes harm. Like virtually all earlier healing traditions, it emphasizes prevention, strengthening the organism and the environment to avoid illness in the first place. Ancient Chinese healers, for instance, expected compensation only if their clients remained well, not when they got sick.

But an ecological approach to healing also looks to deeper tenets embedded in nature and how it operates. Again, the new vision reveals itself to be in many ways an old one. It borrows from the insights of indigenous healing traditions, many of which are now being confirmed by modern science -- including the fact that nature has an extraordinary and mysterious capacity for self-repair.

However resilient the biosphere may be, it's crucial to understand that the planet's basic life support systems are in serious decline. From climate change to plummeting biodiversity to gargantuan quantities of toxic wastes, the ecological stresses are reaching dangerous thresholds. Much of the damage can be traced to the 20th century's three most destructive technologies: petrochemicals, nu-clear energy, and genetic engineering.

- Apart from helping to induce potentially cataclysmic climate change, the petrochemical industry has un-leashed 80,000 or so synthetic compounds that now permeate our land, water, and air as well as our bodies. While some may be benign, the truth is that most have never been adequately tested -- and even fewer have been measured for their cumulative effects or how they interact with other chemicals.

- Nuclear energy has concentrated and spread radioactivity and virtually indestructible toxic waste products into living systems worldwide. While public dread may focus on cataclysmic accidents like the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986, other ill effects may come from steady exposure to low levels of radiation.

- Genetic engineering is introducing yet another threat: biological pollution that literally has a life of its own, a gene genie that cannot be put back in the bottle.

In addition to instructing healers first to do no harm, Hippocrates also instructed them in a lesser-known passage to "revere the healing force of nature." For years, that's been my quest: working with nature to heal nature. I founded the Bioneers Conference in 1990 to bring together people exploring ways of doing this -- biological pioneers from many cultures and disciplines, and from all walks of life. All had peered deep into the heart of the earth's own living systems to understand what we can learn from 3.8 billion years of evolution. Their common purpose was to heal the earth.

Their basic question: How would nature do it? They were all using their knowledge of living systems to devise solutions to our most pressing environmental and societal problems. I now realize these people are modern healers, too.

As their work repeatedly illustrates, we already have many of the technologies we need to retool our industrial system. Many of the bioneers show how we can replace existing industrial practices with sustainable alternatives that run on clean, renewable energy sources. Government has a role to play in this process too. Several years ago Sweden imposed a steep tax on pesticides, a measure that greatly reduced their use. Europe recently banned four antibiotics from animal feed. On the other side of the equation, governments are using tax subsidies to promote sustainable technologies such as chlorine-free paper production and organic farming. The city of Munich pays German farmers to grow organically in the watershed that supplies drinking water.

The ecological medicine movement, one focus of the Bioneers conference to be held this fall, aims to do something similar for the health care industry. Medical errors, for instance, now constitute a leading cause of death in the United States. Influenced by the success of safe, effective, popular alternatives, mainstream medicine could become safer itself.

The ethic of preventing harm as seen in both environmental protection and ecological medicine will continue to spread, but what about existing messes? Many treatment methods modeled on living systems have shown dramatic capacities for bioremediation -- that is, for detoxifying land, air, and water.

Visionary biologist John Todd's "living machines" mimic natural ecologies by utilizing bacteria, fungi, plants, fish, and mammals to purify water and industrial "wastes." The work of mycologist Paul Stamets has shown that fungi can help digest diesel spills and even chemical and biological weapons components.

Similar success stories are found across many fields. By looking to the principles of ecological healing to restore the earth and ourselves, we create not only the conditions for individual health, but also the basis for healthy societies and robust economies.

Biology is not rocket science. Rather, it is the superb art of relationships in the fantastically complex web of life. By mimicking nature, these approaches foster the healing that is the essence of living systems.

Consider again the relationship between a nursing mother and her child. Despite the toxins that are now found in mother's milk, it is still the best food for babies. Children fed breast milk are healthier because the mother also confers immunity and unmatched nutrition. Which brings us back to the essence of ecological healing: In the wisdom of nature also lies the solution.

Alternative medicine is arguably the single largest progressive social movement of our era. As it goes ever more mainstream, those working to advance public health are increasingly linking with those working to restore the earth's ecological health. Growing public awareness of the direct links between our personal health and environmental health is stirring as a potent force in global politics. As suggested by Michael Lerner, founder of the Commonweal Institute, environmental health could well emerge as the central human rights issue of our age. We all have the right to be born free -- from poisons.

As human beings, we have a remarkable ability to reinvent our societies very rapidly. The task now is to create an earth-honoring culture founded in the sanctity of life and the sacred human-nature relationship. Along with many others, I herald for this new century a Declaration of Interdependence, flowing from the simple recognition that all life is connected. At its heart is ecological medicine, teaching us that we are the land and water and air.

By restoring the earth, we restore ourselves.

Kenny Ausubel is the founder of the Bioneers Conference, which this year will focus on ecological medicine.

BRAND NEW STORIES

Happy Holidays!