WORLD FUTURE FUND, BOX 1829, OLD
TOWN, ALEXANDRIA, VA. 22313 U.S.A.
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GLOBAL FUTURE WATCH INDICATORS PROJECT
POLICY CASE STATEMENT
The goal of this project is to construct one of the best system of indicators to track the relationship between U.S. government policies, particularly budget policies, and global indicators that relate to the future of the planet. This system will provide a non-partisan platform for effective and responsive government planning for the future. Another key part of this project is to educate citizens in a non-partisan manner about how to participate in democracy directly (see our Non-Partisan Citizen Education Guide).We do this by showing them how their government works and informing them about how to find and join organizations that share their views. In the long run we want to build a model indicators system that can be exported to the major economic and political powers of the world.
CREATING AN INDICATORS SYSTEM TO ENCOURAGE GOVERNMENT PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE
Since 1995 we have created one of the most sophisticated databases of global environmental, social and government budget indicators. We have created charts of over 250 indicators in a standard digital format used around the world, Microsoft Office (click here for a complete list list). Many of these indicators are available nowhere else.We have interviewed experts from all over the world in order to develop our indicators. Our project was created via a global network of sources of information.
It is our belief thattoo much of today's political debate is connected to bitter ideological disputes. It is crucial that we improve the value of the public debate by creating greater awareness of key indicators about the realities of life on our planet, based on sources that are respected by all. Although many indicators systems exist, ours is unique in that it organizes global indicators in a form understandable to the average citizen. (click here for some of our most important charts)
A key point we are trying to communicate is the need for government planning to operate according to a system of priorities. Concerning the national and international environmental situation, no coherent system of U.S. government policy planning exists. This needs to change. In particular, the national security decision making system of the government should be directly linked to a global system of indicators.
A unique aspect of our indicators system is its relationship to government policy. Unlike almost all other indicators systems, our indicators system not only tracks what is happening, it also links indicators to key government agencies (click here for example). For example, we do not discuss renewable energy in the abstract, we show the key budget figures for renewable energy funding from the Department of Energy (click here for chart). Our system also differs from those of other organizations in that it tracks the history of key budget figures in constant dollars. This is very important since it is then possible to see huge changes. For example, EPA funding is down 50% in constant dollars since 1980. Similarly, renewable energy funding is down 75% in constant dollars over the same period.
We also list the key committees of the U.S. Congress that handle the annual appropriations for the Department of Energy (click here for list). Government policy does not take place in the abstract. We need to follow specific programs. The ability to monitor the Congressional Appropriations process is particularly important since this directly controls the resources that we as a nation commit to various projects.
Another unique aspect of our study is the time frame that we use. We try to go back as far as possible into the past. In the case of economic matters, for example, we have used OECD data going back hundreds of years.
We do both historical comparisons and international comparisons. Using this system it is possible to see radical differences between America and the rest of the developed world. For example, American gas taxes are a tiny fraction of the gas taxes of other developed nations, creating huge incentives for the consumption of gasoline. By contrast, American subsidies for passenger rail are a tiny fraction of other nations, creating huge disincentives for energy-efficient rail transport. Our indicators system tracks figures into the past far longer than most government indicators. We are one of the few think tanks whose economic indicators go back hundreds of years into the past.
OUR NON-PARTISAN EDUCATION PROGRAM FOR CITIZENS
Most major issues require national and international government action. They cannot be solved at the local or state level. This makes it crucial that we show citizens how to find out what the government is doing to solve specific problems.
The founders of our country made it very clear that the government "of the people" can only take place when the people participate in the political process. Unfortunately, over 50% of today's American citizens do not even bother to vote. This is dangerous. Too many people thinkthat participating in the political process is "hopeless". In reality, there are many ways for people to participate in an effective manner.
The indicators system alone provides the raw data people need to understand problems on a national and international scale. We have also developed aNon-Partisan Citizen Education Guide that lists relevant government offices and agencies, sources of additional information, and political organizations that deal with the issues the users of our indicators system may find important. Using this guide, visitors to our site can learn how easy it is to become involved in the democratic process and make their voices heard. What we are creating is an interactive system for making democracy work.
People need to know what is happening to their tax money and what to do about it. We show people how to communicate with their leaders. Also, we list the web sites of public interest groups from different points of view so that an active citizen can join one groups with common interests and participate in a more effective manner in our democracy. Finally, we list media and reference web sites so people can find out what is happening. (Click here for the WFF Internet Index)
The internetcan be a powerful tool for democracy. You no longer have to be a rich Washington lobbyist to get access to huge amounts of vital information. Our plan is unlike most other indicators systems in that it has been designed from the ground up to be interactive and to be used on the internet.
OUR NON-PARTISAN EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM FOR LEADERS
Each year, the President delivers a "State of the Union" address. Believe it or not, he is under no legal requirements to report on any key indicators that affect peoples' lives. It is as if a corporate CEO could produce a financial annual report on the "State of the Company" that did not give out any information on profits, losses, expenses or debts. We feel that the President should be required to report on at least 20 key indicators. Progress or failure would be reported. Future projections would be required.
As noted earlier, in the case of the national and international environmental situation no coherent system of U.S. government policy planning exists. This needs to change. In particular, the national security decision making system of the government should be directly linked to a global system of indicators.
The end result is todevelop a coherent system of government policy planning, particularly in relation to global environmental matters. It is very important to grasp the connection between domestic policy and foreign policy. For example, America's addiction to gasoline has huge foreign policy implications. It drives up world oil prices, adds to global pollution and forces America to depend on the nations of the Persian Gulf for its economic survival.
GEOGRAPHIC FOCUS OF ACTIVITIES
We are focusing on the major centers of world power:The United States, the European Union, Japan, China, and India. Our primary focus, however, is on the American government. By creating a non-partisan educational set of indicators to monitor the U.S. government, we want to create a model that could be used on a global basis. We have already taken steps toward this goal by creating and extensive list of foreign government web sites.
By means of our headquarters in Washington, DC we hope to influence institutions like the World Bank, which is a key source of data on world development, and the United Nations in New York.We could also influence the network of think tanks and foundations in the U.S. that focus on environmental and development issues.
Everybody agrees that we should have a coherent system of government planning for the future. The devil is in the details. What are the "key" indicators? How would they relate to the annual budgets of which agencies?We believe that effective government policy should not be made according to vague public statements by politicians. It must connect to reality. We need a system for monitoring success and failure. Our indicators project offers a careful, one step at a time approach to setting up a system of planning.
The future does not just "happen". It is the result of choices. Unfortunately, many key projects require years of work. Ending our addiction to Middle East oil will not just "happen". This problem also cannot can be quickly corrected. Confronting complicated problems that demand long-term solutions is why it is crucial to set up a coherent system of planning now. A one-time "blue ribbon" commission will not do it. We need a system to monitor progress year by year connected to the annual appropriations process of the U.S. Congress for the key agencies of the U.S. government.
We also need to strengthen democracy in America.What we are creating is an interactive system for making democracy work. All too many indicators system have a message of hopeless doom. There are a lot of charts bringing bad news with no real solutions offered to the citizen. The government can and does respond to citizen action. We want to show people how the government functions and how they can participate either directly by contacting their government or by supporting various public interest groups.
Government policy is currently a massive system of economic rewards and punishments based on years of political lobbying. We certainly do not have "free" market. Should the future be controlledfor short term political gain or for long term realities? The choice should be obvious. However, we cannot make the right choices without an organized system of business information. This is what we offer. We certainly, do not claim to have all the answers for the giant task ahead. We do not suggest that we can do the job alone. However, we do believe that we have viable plan and base of power that will make a decisive difference. This is why we need your support.
DETAILS OF PROJECT