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A MASTER PLAN FOR POLITICAL VICTORY
We are living in the middle of the greatest wave of extinctions since the Ice Age. Never before in human history has there been such a wholesale destruction of other forms of life. Many experts believe that the very biological foundations of human life are in grave danger as a result of human changes to the global environment.
While there have been some improvements inside the rich nations since the Club of Rome warned the world of trouble in 1969, the global situation has continued to move relentlessly downward. These powerful downward trends remain very much intact for the forseeable future.
As a result of the failure of global ecological reforms efforts, the plight of the billions of the world's poorest citizens has taken a particularly grim turn for the worse. Pollution of all kinds in the Third World stands at record levels. It is here that the destruction of 50% of the world's rain forests has taken place. The failure of the rich nations to develop solar energy had led to a situation where many key poor nations must still rely on wood for fuel, producing still more deforestation and air pollution. In Latin America and Africa average wages are actually below where they were 20 years ago.
Famine has only been averted by short term measures that may make things far worse in the future, such as the pumping out of underground aquifers, a massive use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers and the replacement of biologically diverse seed banks with new uniform "designer gene" crops, whose long term viability has virtually no ecological history in the real world. It should be remembered that giant drops in world population are not all unheard of world history. 30% of the population of Europe died during the Black Death. A death toll in the hundreds of millions or more as a result of today's irresponsible ecological and population policies is entirely possible. It should be kept in mind that ecological problems are very likely to lead to political and religious instability, greatly increasing the chances for war.
WEALTH AND POVERTY
The deepening global environmental crisis is the greatest challenge facing the world. It is a challenge that cannot be disconnected from the deepening and unprecedented social crisis on the planet. As a result of the global ecological crisis and other matters, billions of human beings have been sinking deeper into poverty. Human suffering has been growing while those at the top of the current "new" world "order" talk of "progress" and "development". Average wages in sub-Saharan Africa are below where they were in 1970. Wages in Latin America are below where they were in 1980.
The global gap between the richest 20% of the world and the poorest 20% has reached positively astronomical levels rising from 30 to 1 in 1960 to 83 to 1 in 1997. 20% of the world's people control 85% of the world's income. The top 500 billionaires now have more money than the bottom 50% of the world's people.
The concentration of wealth at the top of the present world system has reached levels never even remotely seen before in the entire course of world history.
THE FAILURE OF AMERICAN LEADERSHIP
Thus, it is among the top 20%, particularly America, that a responsibility lies for providing both leadership and resources for dealing with the global environmental crisis.
Unfortunately, America is near dead last among developed nations in aid to the poor of the world as a percent of its GNP. Its commitment to foreign aid has been steadily dropping for 50 years and now stands at its lowest level in the postwar era. Meanwhile, private aid has dropped 25% in the last ten years from levels already well below that of other nations.
In environmental matters as will be noted later, America has one of the worst and most irresponsible records in the developed world. In fact, America's opposition to environmental reforms proposed by Europe nearly destroyed the Kyoto Conference.
THE AMERICAN ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT
A key reason for America's disastrous record in global environmental leadership is the sorry state of America's current environmental leadership. After leading America into ten years of some of the greatest victories in environmental policy in the 1970's, the leadership of many of America's key environmental organizations has clearly lost its way, spending most of its time reacting to events and totally failing to develop a global strategy for reform.
This failure of leadership in the comfortable executive suites of America's environmental movement is particularly inexcusable since there is strong public support in America for environmental reform. According to all major public opinion polls the American people want more government efforts for a clean and safe environment. Even among the ranks of Republicans there is very strong support for sound environmental policies.
During the last 20 years the current leadership of the U.S. environmental movement has presided over a truly mind boggling record of failure, incompetence and defeat. Consider the following realities:
In 1993 there was a huge opportunity for reform with the return of a Democratic president to power. Yet it soon became obvious that American environmentalists had no clear plan for action. In 1993 and 1994 the U.S. environmental movement was so politically impotent and disorganized that it failed to pass a single piece of major legislation in spite of a Democratic President, a Democratic Senate, a Democratic House and the most pro-environmental Vice-President in American history. In fact the movement was so feeble that it was not even able to enact Clinton's modest campaign promise to make EPA a cabinet position. American remains the only modern state without a cabinet level environmental agency. The EPA budget was actually cut under Clinton in spite of the huge series of cuts in constant dollars since 1980.
In the 1994 disaster at the polls, environmental political ranks in Congress were decimated. Budgets for key environmental programs were cut even further, and a bill was passed by Congress to ban "unfunded mandates" in future federal legislation. This would have prevented the passage of many of our current key environmental laws, like the Clean Air Act if it had been on the books at that time.
In 1996 the Republicans actually increased their power in the Senate, and the Democrats failed to regain the House. This is particularly troubling because one of the few ways that some anti-environmental legislation was stopped was through the prospect of a filibuster in the Senate.
In 1997 it became apparent that the U.S. environmental movement was so feeble that it was unable to get Clinton to keep America's commitments in the 1992 Rio Treaty on greenhouse gas emissions that could change the weather of the planet. At Kyoto, the Clinton administration actually opposed viable climate reform plans from Europe and other nations. The conference nearly collapsed. Finally, a weak and ineffective compromise was reached, and its value may be worth little since Clinton has stated that he wont even bother submitting it to Congress until the Third World nations take more actions.Even more troubling was the humiliating disaster that befell the environmental movement in the 1997 budget agreement, where cuts in environmental and energy programs were mandated for years to come.
In 2000 the environment was not a major issue. Gore conducted a weak campaign and lost.
In 2001 Bush pushed through a huge tax cut that will hamper government spending for years to come.
THE NEGLECT OF GLOBAL ISSUES AND THIRD WORLD POVERTY
While presiding over defeat after defeat at home, the international record of America's environmental leaders has been so bad as to really be a global disgrace. Particularly troubling has been their lack of any serious attention to the issue of poverty and human suffering in the Third World. In hearings on Capital Hill few environmental leaders have even bothered to show up to call for increases in American aid to the Third World, which now stands at a record low for the postwar period. In fact, America is dead last in the developed world in terms of aid to the poor as a percent of GNP.
While the giant reforms of the 1970's have produced huge improvements in America's air and water, the global environmental situation has continued to decline. Just as the gap between the rich and poor has reached unprecedented dimensions on a global basis, so has the gap in ecological health conditions for the world's people.
This is particularly serious since the Third World is ground zero for global environmental reform. The world's rain forests, the lungs of the planet, are almost exclusively concentrated in the Third World. In the next ten years, China is expected to pass America as the world's largest generator of carbon emissions. The majority of the world's people live in the Third World, and over 90% of the new births in the world are taking place in the countries least able to afford them.
GORE'S $100 BILLION A YEAR GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN IS IGNORED BY CLINTON AND U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL LEADERS
Vice President Gore in his book, Earth in the Balance, proposed a $100 billion environmental fund to create the financial foundations for a global system of genuine sustainable development. Such a plan is needed. Unfortunately, no such plan was ever proposed by the Clinton Gore administration and little interest in such plan was displayed by America's environmental movement.
Meanwhile, global environmental trends have continued to move relentlessly downward. Great successes in the U.S., Europe and Japan have been totally eclipsed by soaring levels of pollution in the Third World in places such as China. Consider the following realities:
THE AMERICAN ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT
A REFORM PLAN: STRATEGY AND POLICY
Will the next 20 years of the U.S. environmental movement be as big a disaster as the last 20 years? How long can the planet and the world's poorest citizens afford the massive internal management problems of America's largely upper middle class white environmental organizations? Can we continue to ignore the deepening crisis of the world's poor? Living standards in Africa are below where they were in 1970. In Latin America wages are below where they were in 1980.
In terms of strategy here are two major problems.
1. There is a lack of adequate focus on government actions to create a new economy. It is a fairy tale to believe that a shift from our present nonsustainable global economy can be created without major government actions. These will involve massive funding for new technologies and taxation of harmful ecological actions. There also must be phase-out of subsidies for harmful actions. Instead of vague slogans and hot air, we need specific plans for specific government agencies about what to do.
It is a fairy tale to suggest that we have "free enterprise" in U.S. energy policy. We have spent hundreds of billions of dollars subsidizing an automobile-based economy, while the tiny funds for solar power research have actually been cut 80% since 1980.
To make up for the huge economic and environmental distortions produced by current policies we need massive government intervention in the economy to change priorities.
2. There is a near total lack of focus on global solutions and the Third World.. Environmental groups need to be deeply involved in U.S. foreign policy. In particular, we need more aid to the Third World and more sanctions against crimes such as the destruction of rain forests, coral reefs and the overfishing of key fish species. Vague talk about "fair trade" and "human rights" is of limited value. What Third World people need is resources and technology - not bromides. We need Gore's $100 billion a year development plan. We need solar power so that nations like Ethiopia are not forced to cut down their forests for fuel. We need the widespread adoption of drip irrigation to reduce Third World water consumption. All this costs money, a lot of money. Environmentalist need to get the billions of dollars appropriated by the government. Debt relief is also essential.
Here are some details of reform:
SOLAR POWER AND RENEWABLE ENERGY. Today, we are more dependent on imported oil than ever before in our history. Solar power has never received major funding. Today, solar energy research is actually 80% below its 1980 level in constant dollars. We need a government project similar to the Manhattan project that built the atomic bomb. We should also offer tax incentives such as a solar research tax credit to encourage private efforts. Solar power should be seen as a national security priority. A particular priority should be the creation of low cost mass production solar products that could be used in the Third World. Solar ovens in arid areas would be a good example.
GAS TAX. America remains the only modern state with no serious gas tax even though gas prices today are so low that they are almost back to their level in the 1920's in constant dollars. We need at least a dollar a gallon.
MASS TRANSIT. America remains the only modern state that concentrates government subsidies on the auto industry and largely ignores high speed passenger rail. With a gas tax, mass transit would be become more cost effective. Major subsidies should be allocated here. A particular priority should be to link major U.S. airports to major cities as is done in Europe. It is ludicrous that New York City has no rail links to either of it two major airports.
CLEAN CARS. Does it really make sense to use an engine that generates the gas, carbon monoxide, that was once used by the Nazis to kill Jews? Carbon monoxide is one of the most deadly chemicals in existence. We need huge research projects to develop a clean car engine
WATER SUBSIDIES. American has still not raised water prices to at least cover government costs. Billions are being spent to subsidize growers and deplete aquifers. Water prices need to rise to market levels and perhaps even way above market levels in areas with severe aquifer depletion problems.
CHEMICAL TESTING. This is a total disaster. The giant budget cuts in the EPA have left us with the insane situation where the majority of the top 3,000 chemicals have not even been properly tested. Massive research funds are needed here.
INDOOR AIR.. Huge cuts in the EPA budget in the Reagan-Bush era decimated the indoor air regulation plans of the EPA. Today indoor air is literally many times more polluted than outside air and most Americans spend 80% of their time indoors. We need a massive campaign of research here to determine what it happening. The current situation is an utter farce where we in fact know little about the impact of a lot of chemicals indoors because so little testing has been done.
FAMILY PLANNING, WOMEN'S RIGHTS AND ABORTION RIGHTS AT HOME AND ABROAD. Few global problems have created more human suffering than the vast increases in population in the lands least able to afford new citizens. Unfortunately, misguided religious forces have done severe damage to essential programs like family planning:
A GLOBAL DEVELOPMENT ECONOMIC PLAN
Currently, America is dead last among industrial states by a wide margin in foreign aid to the developing world in terms of a share of GNP. Americas claim to be the "worlds most generous nation" is a hoax. The center of gravity in global ecological reform is the developing world. Until there is a commitment to give serious aid to the developing world, it will not be possible to create a political environment for Third World states to face the short term economic pain that may be required to shift from suicidal "development" to sustainable development.
A lot of past foreign aid has been a waste or actually a form of environmental destruction in the developing world. A key focus in the future should be the development of appropriate technology in a form of mass production for poor nations. A classic example would be the development of low cost solar ovens for people in desert areas who are presently cutting down their own forests to survive.
Another example would be the mass production of technology to reduce waste of water in irrigation. There are few things that are more needed than the adoption of "drip irrigation" by key Third World states.
THE AMERICAN ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT
A REFORM PLAN: TACTICS
Today, the third most powerful party in Germany is the Green Party. Environmental concerns have been moved to the front of party politics. This is a truly amazing achievement, particularly in light of the severe weaknesses of the Greens. A good part of their agenda is from the radical left, and their key leader committed suicide a few years ago. It would be a mistake for American environmentalists to adopt a lot of the radical left ideas of the German Greens but there are clearly lessons to be learned from them about bring environmental concerns to the center of national politics.
Can one imagine what would have happened if the Greens had adopted the head in the sand policies of America's overpaid, upper middle class white environmental leaders?
Here are some elemental reforms that are needed to shake up the dead wood in the executive suites of America's environmental movement.
The majority of the environmental groups are 501 (c) 3 corporations (with the notable exception of the Sierra Club). This means that their ability to engage in direct political action is severely limited. These organizations need to set up up 501 (c) 4 corporations to tap their member base for direct political action. More environmental political action committees are also needed.
A particular priority should be monthly newsletters to keep members up to date. E-Mail newsletters are particularly valuable in light of their low cost.
It is a very serious problem that none of the three largest politically active American environmental groups (Sierra Club, EDF and NRDC) have their headquarters in Washington. This is a major disaster in light of the importance of U.S. national government legislation and regulation. It is also a problem because the World Bank and American overseas aid programs are formulated in Washington.
Environmental problems are global. Nuclear radiation clouds from Russia, acid rain from America and water pollution in the world's rivers have a very nasty habit of failing to register with government customs and immigration officials when they approach national borders.
Unfortunately, unlike Europes Greenpeace, most of Americas well-funded environmental groups have done practically nothing to organize on a global basis. There is not even an annual global environmental political action conference.
Both these shortcomings need to be corrected.
There are few more dangerous trends in the world today than the attack on the institution of the national state. "Big government" we are told is bad. "Little government" is the future. Apparently, we are led to believe that global environmental problems can somehow be solved at the local and state level by some sort of decentralized political structure.
Few ideas could be more disconnected from reality. Global environmental problems are by their very nature global and cannot be controlled at the local level. Reform will require even greater concentrations of political power than before. Central government power be increased, and political power must exercised on a global scale to implement the needed reforms.
In America the major successes of the environmental movement have been through federal government action. The Clean Air and Clean Water acts have been some of the most successful bills in American history. Clearly, "Big government" was the right solution.
The loss of 20 years in reforms makes the need for the concentration of political power even more urgent. Had this 20 years not been lost, we would have commercial solar power today. Population growth levels would not be in the emergency zone. Drip irrigation would have been implemented on a global basis, and the giant aquifers of the world would not be in their current dangerous condition.
We need massive government programs to shift the structure of the American and the world economy towards genuine sustainable development. A central focus of this plan must the energy industry.
We do not live in a "free enterprise" economy. We have had hundreds of billions of dollars of government subsidies to an economic system that represents a Faustian bargain with the future. This will not be reversed without a major federal government commitment to reverse these policies and move towards a sound economic system. Such a system could generate high levels of economic growth by creating giant ecologically sound industries such as electric cars and a renewable energy systems.
Until there is a massive government intervention on behalf of solar power and other renewable fuels, it is a fairy tale to expect a change that will make up for the hundreds of billions of dollars of government subsidies that have produced the present economy.
THE AMERICAN ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT
The American environmental movement has played defense for 20 years since the very important victories of the 1970s. It is now time to present a positive political vision and a practical plan for global sustainable development.
The current focus on a kind of "Fortress America" strategy exclusively concentrating on protecting the U.S. environment and the current network of government regulations is a road to disaster. There must be a massive shift towards political action for major government policies that will build a sound long term economic system. We need to develop a global political network for this goal.
These internal reforms in the American environmental movement will not be easy to implement. While generating vague statements of good intentions, they will probably provoke a certain degree of turmoil inside the comfortable board rooms and executive suites of Americas well-funded environmental movement. Budget priorities of organizations will need to be changed. A reform plan would involve the creation of the following major policy and tactical goals:
POLICY GOALS FOR GOVERNMENT ACTION
For major environmental organizations, at least one professional staff member should be assigned for direct political and lobbying action for each of the policy goals. A key priority would be to locate and develop political alliances with powerful forces in America on these issues. For example, companies involved in renewable energy and their workers could be very useful allies.
Until these reforms are implemented, it will not be possible to reform an economic system that is a Faustian bargain with the future. Current U.S. environmental political strategies are a road to certain failure and defeat. We need a positive political program for safe global future.
Today, the world is in the grip of the most dangerous trends in all of the history. Never before have the biological foundations of life been so severely damaged. The world cannot afford another 20 years of failure and defeat in the American environmental movement.