Change through Clarity of Awareness and Right Action
An Earth Manifesto essay by Dr. Tiffany B. Twain
CHANGE was the new mantra on the campaign trail
after an unprecedented turnout of voters in early presidential caucuses and
primaries. Capitalizing on the clamor
for change, all candidates for the position of President claimed to represent
the veritable voice of change. They all
said they are the best vehicle for implementing change. They all declared, disingenuously, that they
are strong advocates for change, ‘24/7, 365’, yes siree!
The public seemingly senses that low voter turnout
in the past two presidential elections has helped allow our political system to
be hijacked by a regressive coalition of ideologues who have worked tirelessly
against the best interests of the majority.
High turnouts in the 2008 primary elections were therefore not
surprising. It was a positive portent
that heightened civic concerns in the workings of our government were
revitalizing our democracy. This
presented a good opportunity for large scale systemic changes to be made. We have a compelling need for such reforms
in order to more fairly and effectively cope with daunting challenges.
People are beginning to recognize that there is a
critical need for new directions in both domestic and foreign policies. It has becoming apparent that
business-as-usual policies are failing --- failing the young, failing the
majority, failing the middle class, failing women, failing the poor, and
failing future generations.
Einstein once observed that “We can't solve problems by using the same kind of
thinking we used when we created them.”
I strongly believe that we must collectively find better ways of
ensuring the general good. The best way
to do this is to strike a more reasonable and fairer balance between competing
depend on your judgment when your imagination is out of focus.”
--- Mark Twain
The need is becoming obvious for us to choose leaders who we can trust to
unite us in doing the right things, leaders who will lead us in the right
direction. We are tired of being
cleverly divided in order for wrong-headed, shortsighted and unfair policies to
be perpetuated. More than three-fourths
of all Americans now feel that our country is headed in the wrong direction
under current leadership.
Jared Diamond wrote a book titled Collapse
- How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, in which he explains his
findings from a study of many different civilizations throughout history. He concludes that resource mismanagement has
been a common factor in the decline and collapse of many societies. The professor contends that, to prosper and
survive, we must think long-term and plan ahead with better foresight. He
further indicates that we must be willing to reconsider core values, ones that
may have served society well, once those values become outmoded and detrimental
due to changing circumstances or deteriorating environmental conditions.
Global trends reveal
that the human race is living in ways that are unsustainable. Our behaviors are seriously damaging the
ecological systems upon which we ultimately depend. We have essentially seized the responsibility for the stewardship
of the Earth, yet instead of protecting Creation we are carelessly harming and
mismanaging it. We are allowing narrow
interests to exploit it to the detriment of the common good. We are inadvertently damaging ‘the commons’
by devastating old-growth forests, overfishing the seas, overusing and
degrading fresh water sources, depleting mineral resources, causing topsoil
erosion, fighting ruthless resource wars, and contributing to ominous increases
in atmospheric and ocean temperatures worldwide.
Our actions are
effectively fleecing future generations of a fair legacy of adequate resources
and healthy ecosystems. We are
extensively endangering our own well-being as well as that of our communities
and our descendents. And we are
imperiling thousands of species of life, driving many to extinction.
into Causes and Consequences of Shortsighted Activities
is a distinct conundrum in human affairs that Robert Reich discusses in detail
in his recent book Supercapitalism. As consumers, we generally want good deals
and cheap prices. This is why CostCo
and Wal-Mart have been so successful. In
our roles as investors and speculators, we want the best possible returns on
our investments. In contrast, as
citizens we want to have important things that are often contrary to what we
want as consumers and investors. We
want healthy communities and social justice, for instance. We want good quality public education and a
fair shake for workers. We want
affordable health care for all. We want
at least a minimal social safety net, and safeguards of our liberties, and equitable
institutions, and clean air and water, and protected public lands and parks and
other words, as consumers and investors we DO NOT want products and services to
contain all of the costs of a healthy society, because we want prices to remain
low and profits to be high. As
citizens, however, we DO want prices to include the fair and sane treatment of
workers and sensible protections for communities and the environment. Over the last few decades, things have
gotten better for consumers and investors in many ways, but worse for
economic ideology that dominates our society shrewdly advocates that the
benefits of capitalism should be privatized, while as many costs as possible
should be socialized. This is an irresponsible
course of action. Big corporations are
allowed to externalize enormous costs onto society such as those related to the
welfare of workers and to resource depletion and environmental damages. Also, corporations have used ideology, powerful influence and institutional mechanisms to
reduce the amount of federal taxes they pay.
The Congressional Budget Office reports that American corporations are
paying 60% less of the share of the federal budget that they paid in
Businesses have managed to gain such privileges by
using the influence of lobbyists to get direct subsidies and favorable tax
loopholes. They shelter profits through
accelerated depreciation and a wide variety of special perks. Many big corporations evade taxes by using
offshore tax shelters. By allowing
these corporate gambits, we give benefits to established industries at the
expense of small businesses and innovative companies that are struggling to
compete. This discourages new technologies and more efficient production
methods. It also foolishly delays the
development of better, more energy efficient and ‘greener’ products.
It should come as no surprise that oil companies,
with their powerful influence in the Bush Administration, are making the
biggest profits in world history and that they have a much lower effective
income tax rate than other kinds of corporations. We should change this. Instead
of allowing generous oil depletion allowances and other tax breaks and
subsidies, these companies should be taxed so that the proceeds can be used to
contribute to the development of alternatives and to mitigate the harmful
effects of the combustion of their products.
See the Earth Manifesto essay ‘The
Reality and Ramifications of Peak Oil’ for a better understanding of these
Domination of Our Politics
political system can much more accurately be understood as a form of ‘corporatism’
than as a fairly representative democracy.
Corporations have much greater influence than citizens. Corporations control decision-making and the
legislative process through insider access and big money contributions. These are forms of institutional bribery. The corporate strategy of obtaining tax
breaks and other benefits, and profiting from government largess, allows companies
to charge lower prices and make bigger profits for their shareholders. By externalizing costs onto society and
paying less tax, corporations effectively understate the costs of their products. This affects resource allocations, and it upsets
rational forces involved in supply and demand.
Thus it perverts the free market system. To create a far better system, we need to ensure that all
products are required to fairly include all costs related to their production,
plus a fair share of taxes.
compulsion to make ever-bigger profits is the corporate bottom line. The corporate mission is to maximize profits; it is the corporate reason for being. It is even the legal mandate for
corporations. This precedent was
established by a Michigan Supreme Court ruling in the Dodge vs. Ford Motor Company case in 1919. By failing to require fairer rules and
regulations, the government allows corporate America to diminish and undermine
almost everything we want as good citizens.
This creates colossal challenges and presents us with profound
existential dilemmas both domestically and abroad.
Why do we allow corporations to fleece us with
these strategies? Why do we let the
Establishment stand in the path of creating better societies? Why do we hype growth and create speculative
bubbles? The reason seems to be simple,
and narrowly focused: we do this to benefit
CEO’s, investors and speculators, often at the cost of the greater good. It is because of inertia, complacency, fear
of change, ignorance, delusion, self-deception, emotionality and vested
interest opposition that we allow entrenched interests to impede the causes of fairness
and progress and farsighted planning.
We have the power to change this system, but to begin to make this
change we need to be clear about its true nature.
Robert Reich notes that “The only way for the
citizens in us to trump the consumers and investors in us is through laws and
regulations that make our purchases and investments a social choice as well as
a personal one.” We must redesign our
laws and restructure our economies and institutions with this in mind.
The brilliantly sensible
businessman and author Paul Hawken wrote the following in his important book, The Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of
“We must design a system … where doing good is like
falling off a log, where the natural, everyday acts of work and life accumulate
into a better world as a matter of course, not a matter of conscious altruism.”
fairest way to adjudicate between competing interests is to have fair
institutions and fair laws that are fairly applied with the purpose of securing
the best interests of the common good over the longest period of time.
It is vital that we perceive reality in ways that
accurately correspond to the way things really are. We should articulate clear and realistic ideas and understandings
in our own minds. We must upend
prevailing selfish ideologies and embrace a new worldview in which broadminded
and progressive ideas reign. Regressive
ideas have been discredited; they must
now be emasculated. All of the
extensive and wide-ranging essays in the Earth
Manifesto provide insights into pragmatic ways that we should be going
about achieving this. As Barack Obama
has said, "We can't just tell people what they want to
hear, we need to tell people what they need to hear. We need to tell them the truth!"
The proverbial ‘invisible hand’ of free markets, as
enunciated by the famous economist Adam Smith in 1776, has been insidiously
manipulated in capitalist societies by hidden hands that sanctify greed and
profiteering and militarism at the expense of the common good. Whereas Adam Smith believed strongly that
the welfare of whole of society would be improved by private interests and
self-motivated behavior, he did not foresee that social and environmental ills
of industrialization would be exacerbated by abuses of power that are inherent
in human nature and capitalist systems.
He also did not imagine the degree to which the masses would be
manipulated and disenfranchised by the corrupting influence of Big Money,
powerful vested interests, and marketing on political decisions.
The Current State of Affairs
Financial markets began to panic in early 2008 due to the bursting
of the housing bubble and a related credit crisis and American trade and debt
imbalances. Stock market volatility has
become pronounced on stock exchanges worldwide. The Federal Reserve made an unprecedented emergency interest rate
cut of three-quarters of a percent on January 22, 2008, and another half
percent on January 30th, and more since then.
Congress and the White House jumped on the bandwagon to stimulate the
economy to prevent recession.
The rare bipartisan eagerness to compromise on an economic
stimulus package in this election year is criticized by some insightful
observers. Why? Because it emphasizes the same old
shortsighted ideas and failing ideologies.
A substantial portion of the bright ideas advocated by Republicans
emphasize economic stimulus in the form of tax cuts and depreciation write-off
perks for big businesses. Fairer
Democratic ideas include helping people who are losing their homes and giving
the neediest people tax rebates and better unemployment benefits and additional
food stamp assistance.
All of these stimulus ideas involve short-term goals, not
investments in competitiveness or structural solutions or sustainable economic
strength. Wiser ideas would include
investing in public works like renewable energy, mass transit, infrastructure
repairs, improvements to public schools, green building initiatives, small
business incentives, and providing help to hard-hit States by giving them more
federal budget assistance. Economic
bailout ideas target investors and consumers, but as usual ignore the more
important good citizen goals adduced above.
World War II, the United States strived for multilateralism and democratic
government for the benefit of all, including a large middle class. Initiatives such as the G.I. Bill helped to
create a prosperous and healthy middle class.
Since Ronald Reagan’s presidency and the ascendance of narrower
conservative ideas, however, this orientation towards fairness has given way to
government for vested interests by small elites of privileged people. Corporations have gained too much power, and
this has resulted in a variety of dysfunctional outcomes, including the aforementioned
foolish externalizing of worker and environmental costs onto society. The consequence is the rise of a new ‘Gilded
Age’ in which social inequities have multiplied, and economic insecurities have
markedly increased, and our supporting environment is under increasingly
Many types of thinking and activities have gotten us into the
dangerous state of affairs in which we currently find ourselves. The status quo has developed in tandem with
wrong-headed priorities, shortsighted economic policies, fiscal
irresponsibility, and political expediencies that pander to entrenched
interests. The resulting abuse of power
has facilitated the exploitation of workers and resources. These trends are contrary to the greater
of our leaders are insular and shortsighted in their thinking. They inflexibly and stubbornly embrace narrow
ideological convictions. They are closed-minded
and not responsive to the best interests of the majority of people. By rationalizing greed and preemptive
warfare, for instance, people in the Bush Administration undermined our
national integrity and our safety. They
have perverted the true sense of justice on the international stage and actual
well-being for the majority in the domestic arena.
another vital regard, our leaders are helping to create conditions of
profligate consumerism, debt financing and mindless depletion of resources. One serious consequence of this course of
action is to exacerbate the ‘Tragedy of the Commons’ phenomenon. Our societies, as a result, are becoming
more vulnerable to natural disasters and heightened potentials for the collapse
of ecological systems. People are also
becoming more susceptible to increased injustices, social instability and
expanded conflicts. (See the Note at
the end of this essay for an explanation of the Tragedy of the Commons
gain Big Picture perspectives and clearer understandings, we need to use
anticipatory reasoning and critical thinking.
To plan better and make smarter decisions, we must be open-minded to
learning. We should cultivate a good
knowledge of history and be able to apply rational logic to novel
situations. When we use our personal
experiences to make valid comparisons and contrasts, we can achieve clearer
insights that allow us to evaluate options in better ways. This in turn results in fairer and wiser
solutions to problems that are more salubrious for the common good.
Underpinnings and Other Causes
civilization has been convulsed in the past century by intense competition,
rapid change, violent clashes of ideas, and battles between competing interests
for control and dominance. The
predominant ideological conflict of the second half of the 20th
Century was between communism and capitalism. Communism in its ideals represents equality
and the rights of people in the face of the many serious social ills caused by
capitalism and urbanization and industrialization. In contrast, capitalist societies represent ideals of protected
individual liberties and the supreme rights of capital and private
communism and capitalism have been discredited by their collaborations with
authoritarian leaders, selfish elites, repressive rulers, inegalitarian
influences, unjust aggression, and violent and costly militarism. Independent of corrupting factors like these,
it is clear that the long-term interests of humanity are best served by a fair
and sensible balance between all competing interests, including consumers,
workers, capital, owners, investors, citizens, young people, future
generations, and other life forms. We
live, after all, in an interrelated and ecologically interdependent whole, and
we wholly depend upon its healthy balance.
communism nor capitalism is an optimum system.
The best form of government would be an intelligent amalgam of reasonably
regulated capitalism and democratic fairness which is characterized by prudent
protections of people and the environment.
We need to buttress our republic so that democratic governance is
ensured and fair representation of all interests is taken into account. This would be in better accord with our
great American Constitution, in which the General Welfare was held to be
amongst the highest of values and checks and balances were built into the
system of government to prevent abuses of power.
democracy is under severe siege for three primary reasons:
Globalization has had the impact of spreading ‘Supercapitalism’ around the
globe, together with its distorted priorities, its susceptibility to corrupting
influences, its wrong-headed preoccupations, its material obsessions and its
innate inequalities. The overemphasis
on consumer and investor goals in this undemocratic form of capitalism is a
glaring problem, because it gives short shrift to vitally important good
citizenship goals. This is a ‘Tragedy
of the Social Commons’, a phenomenon in which inadequate value is accorded to
good citizenship goals, even though it is these goals that are ultimately most
crucial for our collective well-being and prosperity and survival.
Short-term-oriented interests and Big Money are firmly entrenched. They wield the biggest influence in
policy-making decisions. Politicians who
favor the wealthy embrace economic fundamentalism and ‘social Darwinism’, and religious
fundamentalism has an outlandish influence.
As a consequence, unfairness, policy gimmickry, misinformation and
secrecy have increased; and honesty,
transparency, accountability and effective oversight have been diminished. Rationalizations for selfishness have gained
ascendance, and democratic ideals of egalitarianism, fair representation and good
governance have been emasculated.
The Media, which so powerfully affects public opinion, is dependent upon
consumerism and sensationalism and shallow entertainment and seductive
advertising. Big Media is often in
cahoots with corporate interests and hawkish political movements, so it has a
lesser integrity. It is failing to do
an adequate job of investigative reporting.
The media is also faltering in its important role of fairly educating
the populace on domestic and foreign policy issues. Citizens have a basic right to know what our government is up to,
and to have shenanigans and ethics violations and scandalous activities exposed. For this reason, secrecy by our government
is anti-American. We must encourage
whistleblowers and investigative reporters rather than intimidating and
better manage our economic, social and environmental challenges, we must
cultivate new modes of thinking, and embrace enlightened paradigms of behavior
and action. One of the fairest and most
effective ways of accomplishing this would be by creating new incentives for
beneficial behaviors, and by simultaneously instituting new disincentives that
are designed to effectively discourage waste, cheating and behaviors that are
harmful to our communities.
subsidies and pork barrel spending must be reduced. Powerful impetuses that militate for war must be challenged. Our economies must be redesigned so that
every consumer and investor automatically contributes to good citizenship
goals. In other words, we must
restructure our economies and our societies in light of our clearest, fairest,
and most insightful, propitious and reasonable understandings. We must embrace progressive ideas!
Cultivating Win-Win Solutions
We are living in an extraordinary time in
history. A tipping point of ecological
awareness is washing across nations worldwide.
At the very same time we are reaching a tipping point of converging demographic
and social and environmental calamities.
Daunting challenges face the human race, yet there are great potential
solutions that tantalizingly appear on the horizon. I heartily encourage people to watch Amory Lovins’ rousing and
speech, “Imagine the World …”. This
talk, which was given at the 25th anniversary celebration of the
Rocky Mountain Institute, can be accessed from the Institute’s Home Page at
Amory Lovins’ ‘win/win’
ideas contrast dramatically with the ‘win/lose’ paradigms that affect so many
aspects of the status quo. The human
race is essentially embarked on a rash uncontrolled experiment in consumerism, stimulated
economic growth, profligate resource depletion, debt financing, rapid population
growth, and the alteration of habitats and ecosystems. We cannot know exactly what the consequences
of this experiment will be, but it seems quite certain that the current modes
of our economic activities are not precautionary or sustainable or sensible in
the long term. By upsetting the balance of
nature through unwise activities, we are harming the ability of natural
ecosystems to continue providing invaluable services to us. Extinctions of thousands of forms of life
are reducing biodiversity and making natural systems less resilient. This is a bad omen for our species, because
we are dependent on diverse and healthy ecosystems.
Although the consequences of these developments
may be largely unintended and cannot be fully comprehended or accurately
predicted, it seems clear that instead of being paralyzed with either worry or
knee-jerk denial, we should whole-heartedly embrace measures that are
precautionary in nature in order to mitigate looming problems. We must do this with far-sighted conviction
and long-term commitment. Our goals
must be to achieve greater public safety and peace and well-being, and to leave
a fairer legacy for our descendants.
A Concise Summary of
A ‘perfect storm’ of
gathering risks is swelling up into a tsunami-like wave that could cause
extreme disruptions to our civilizations in the course of next few decades. These risks include the following:
(1) Risks related to the
depletion of fossil fuels. Peak Oil and
the subsequent decline in production will result in higher energy prices and
economic disruptions and intensified impulses for resource wars. We would be wise to boldly begin a
transition to renewable alternatives and make greater commitments to
conservation and efficiency measures in our energy policies. We must shift our development planning from
a mindset that encourages suburban sprawl to one that embraces the revitalization of
urban centers. And we must find much
better ways to reduce our dependence on dirty fossil fuels and limited
(2) Risks related to escalating
conflicts over fresh water shortages.
As global demand for water grows, water conflicts are contributing to
increased tensions and hardships.
Access to safe drinking water for everyone must become a cooperative
priority of all governments. Water
privatization scams must be prevented.
A more forward-looking balance must be established between competing
water demands. Agriculture needs, urban
requirements, sustainable aquifer usages, and the natural flows of rivers for
wildlife and ecosystem integrity must be taken into account.
(3) Risks related to increasing
inequities and disparities of wealth and poverty. Economic and political forces and wrong-headed public policies
are magnifying income inequalities and social unfairness and economic
insecurities. This is likely to cause
more desperation and crime, corruption, repression, terrorism and militarism. It will probably make it increasingly
difficult to achieve sensible goals of fairness, justice, mutual cooperation,
sustainability, societal stability and peace.
(4) Risks related to detrimental
impacts caused by the continued rapid increase in human numbers. The carrying capacity of Earth’s natural
systems to sustain us is being steadily diminished by excessive extraction,
over-consumption, and ecosystem damages.
The continued rapid growth in population, together with extensive
poverty, makes it certain that the demands of the poor will increase --- and
the rich will no doubt continue to consume lavishly, wastefully and
unmindfully. These are not auspicious
trends; we must avoid crashing so
recklessly against looming limits.
(5) Risks related to global
warming, which are being made worse by accumulating quantities of
human-generated greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. All nations are currently failing to
significantly step up efforts to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse
gases that are being spewed into the atmosphere. This will cause further dramatic changes in climate and weather
patterns. Intense droughts like those
in the Southeast and Southwest regions of the United States will become more
frequent and prolonged. Crop failures
and disruptions of agricultural production will be caused by desertification
trends in some regions and catastrophic flooding in others. Severe wildfires like those in Southern
California in October 2007 will become more widespread due to the feedback
loops involved in global warming. The
intensity of hurricanes and tornados will likely increase, according to
scientific climate models. The
worldwide melting of glaciers and ice sheets and Arctic and Antarctic ice caps
will cause sea levels to rise, flooding islands and low-lying coastal
areas. Millions of people will be
forced to become environmental and geopolitical refugees. Tropical and infectious diseases are
expected to spread.
times of great uncertainty, people become more insecure, so conservatism
becomes more appealing with its assurances of keeping order and combating
change and exerting discipline and controlling others and offering the solace
of certitude. Leaders who are socially
conservative tend to divert our attention from economic and social problems
with divisive hot button issues and bold militarism and appeals to
nationalistic and patriotic impulses.
Paradoxically, it is at such times that what is needed most is an intelligent
approach that is proactive and progressive so that we deal effectively,
flexibly and adaptively with change.
Ideas about Desirable Solutions
must unflinchingly reform the socially and ecologically negative aspects of
unbridled capitalism. We must control
anti-social, anti-democratic and anti-environmental abuses of corporate
power. We must mitigate globalization
and privatization schemes that are damaging to the greater good. We must plan ahead more intelligently. We must stop encouraging unwise land
use. We must prevent the externalizing
of significant costs onto society.
Strict disciples of the ideologies of Milton Friedman and other economic
fundamentalists must admit that, in the real world, the practical, the fair,
and the pragmatic are most probable to prove to be most propitious to the
public good, as the years slide past.
What is right? Who should be
intolerant of what??
are faced with a basic need to alter our corrupt electoral system that obeys
Big Money over all other influences.
American citizens should have more influence in determining public
policies so that our societies are not overwhelmingly dictated by rich people,
insiders, war hawks and control freaks.
We must rein in the trends toward authoritarianism, imperialistic
aggression, hawkish nationalism, and disadvantageous forms of centralized
control that come at the expense of the common good.
our foreign policies are bolstered by clear legitimacy and fair-mindedness,
they enhance our power and prestige.
Positive ‘soft power’ values are attractive because they are admirable
and decent. Attributes of ‘soft power’
include democratic fairness, good neighbor policies, generous foreign aid,
support for individual opportunities, respect of human rights, protections of
individual liberties, adherence to rules of law, and foreign policy approaches
that are multilateral and mutually beneficial.
Soft power policies are deeply seductive to people because they are
intrinsically moral, so they encourage cooperation.
power and prestige in the world are diminished when our foreign policies are
founded on repulsive ‘hard power’ gambits like unilateralism, intimidation,
coercion, deception, heartless economic sanctions, naked aggression,
self-serving ideologies, ruthless covert operations, military occupations, trigger-happy
security forces, kicked-in doors, harsh interrogations, and extensive
‘collateral damage’ from air strikes.
This is why injustice, brutality, torture, hypocrisy, arrogance and
triumphalism create insurgent opposition.
we rely so exclusively on hard power policies, our power and influence are
eventually eroded and our national security interests are harmed. We would be wise to embrace ‘soft power’
options with greater enthusiasm, and we should develop stronger institutions to
prevent the forces of domineering and profiteering from dictating our foreign
“An inglorious peace is better
than a dishonorable war.”
--- Mark Twain
‘Soft power’ tends to
encompass different modalities of communication and negotiation than those that
characterize hawkish ‘hard power’. Soft
power more readily embraces diplomacy, mediation and compromise to meet the
needs and achieve the goals of all concerned.
Francis Fukuyama has pointed out that the U.S. is discovering that it is
necessary to implement “a dramatic demilitarization of American foreign policy
and a re-emphasis on other types of policy instruments." Please!!
Mark Twain called war “a wanton waste of
projectiles”. How do we really see war
today, mired as we are in the midst of occupations of two Middle Eastern
have sold many Americans on the idea that “weakness is provocative”, as if the
most powerful nation in history could be considered weak. I believe that unjust aggression and
hard-line militarism are arguably far more provocative. Such actions make conflicts worse, and they
increase the risks of retaliatory ‘blowback’.
We have provoked millions of Arabs and Muslims as well as Islamic
extremists with our harsh economic sanctions and arrogant military
interventionism in the Middle East. In
fact, the use of soft power is smart and sensible, not a weakness.
urge readers to check out “Reflections on War” at www.EarthManifesto.com. Far-sighted and illuminating
ideas therein offer valuable insights into the dilemmas of U.S. foreign
policies, together with historical perspectives and vital prescriptions for
better ways forward. Also, see the
essay, ‘Sow Justice, Harvest Peace!”
drumbeat for an attack on Iran is reverberating ever more distinctly in the
United States. It is emanating from the
same regime that has brought us war in Iraq that has been driven primarily by our
addiction-oriented desire to control oil resources and enhance opportunities
for profiteering. Concomitantly, avarice
and drives for supremacy and dominance are exerting undue influence on our
national decision-making. It appears that
a hubris-filled and absurd our-God-is-better-than-your-God conflict is taking
place, judging from the vituperation of various groups toward “Islamofascists”.
Do we not see that our religious
fundamentalists share distinctly similar characteristics to those ‘despicable
any case, there is grave danger in this re-run of the run-up to war in
Iraq. The politicians beating the drums
against Iran have proven that they do not merely bluff. However they DO use the same old tricks over
and over again. This is demonstrated by
the Bush Administration’s belligerent allegations about Iran and talk of World
National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) published by all the U.S. Intelligence
agencies in early December 2007 revealed a disconnect between propaganda and
reality, just like there was in the run-up to the attack on Iraq and the
allegations of Saddam Hussein’s supposedly threatening (though non-existent)
weapons of mass destruction.
neoconservative philosophies have been discredited in the past decade. So have dishonest tactics and
‘shock-doctrine’ strategies. ‘Disaster
capitalism’ is being milked for all that can be gotten out of it. Read Naomi Klein’s book about this! There is a frightening possibility that
desperate Neocons, their influence waning, believe that their only hope for
redemption and renewed support lies in an even greater gamble: a manipulative tail-wags-the-dog escalation
of war in the Middle East by attacking Iran.
This is madness!
our leaders cry wolf too many times, it stands to reason that we will stop
believing and trusting them, just like the villagers did in Aesop’s fable, The Boy Who Cried Wolf. When politicians exaggerate and deceive
people about enemies, they create new forms of vulnerability and danger.
of the Bush Administration’s military aggression are acting out of a type of
crowd psychology that tends to surge during times of uncertainty and
insecurity. They are accepting an
ideology that exploits people’s trust in authority and panders to a distorted
sense of patriotism. The abuse of
presidential powers in the past 8 years has grown remarkably, as examined in
detail in “Power of the Presidency” on Bill
Moyers Journal (google it!). Read
Charlie Savage’s book, Takeover – The
Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy
to discover deeper reasons that it is reckless to allow the president to expand
executive powers and undermine the checks and balances in our Constitution. It is totally unwise to allow the appointment
of partisan political operatives and to use fiscally imprudent expediencies and
to embed “propaganda pundits” in the media and to spy on citizens and to use abusive
interrogation practices and to choose ideological Supreme Court Justices.
appears that Barack Obama represents the best hope for America to move boldly
forward to heal deep divisions and conflicts that confront Americans at home
and abroad. Terrible wounds are
associated with our war-making. Challenging
calamities are being caused by initiatives that increase economic insecurities. Extensive social unfairness has been
institutionalized through ‘trickle-down’ economic policies that primarily
benefit the wealthy. A deeply cynical
injustice underlies healthcare inequities and cost inflation that is associated
with corporatism, bureaucracy and profiteering. Environmental injustices and unacceptable shortsightedness
clearly afflict our national energy policies.
And the drug war is a decimating and costly prohibition approach to
substance abuse that is racist in its demographic effects. Right-wing policies have seriously harmed
To solve these problems,
we need to have them clearly articulated.
We need honest leadership that tells us what we need to know, not just
what we want to hear. We need someone
who can unite us, and who can inspire us to work together to make America a
better country. We need to courageously
reduce the overweening power and influence of corporations on our government,
and correspondingly increase the power of the people. To achieve these goals, we need to implement more effective
corporate lobbying restrictions, and Congressional ethics reform, and public
financing of election campaigns. And we
need to reaffirm a stronger system of checks and balances between Congress, the
Executive Branch and the Supreme Court.
the Republican leadership in the past eight years doesn’t seem to truly give a
damn about good citizen goals, or true justice, or democratic fairness, or the
sensible limitation of presidential power, or Constitutional checks and
balances in our government. They use
antagonizing rhetoric instead of effective diplomacy. They have not made adequate efforts to ensure peaceful coexistence. Their policies are not focused on the most
sensible, intelligent, fair and cost effective ways of achieving national
security. They seem to be unfazed by
the outlandish costs and the astonishingly shortsighted folly of debt-financed
wars, deficit spending, dishonesty, tax cuts targeted to benefit the wealthy,
deceptive accounting, or anti-women and anti-gay policies.
mark twain must know the prezelhead:
"it ain't what you don't know that gets you in trouble.
it's what you know for sure that just ain't so."
Teddy Roosevelt once said that our nation should
“Walk softly and carry a big stick.”
George Bush and Dick Cheney and their gang today seem to believe that it
is a better idea to divide to conquer by (1) using hot-button social issues to
gain support for the enactment of
regressive social policies, and (2) using fear-mongering to get the public to
tacitly go along with shock-and-awe aggression. Having achieved power by these means, they figuratively rattle
the saber, threaten loudly, scare the hell out of us and ‘the enemy’, indulge
in dastardly intrigue, belittle opposing views on critical issues, oppress
dissent, outsource government functions, facilitate profiteering, evade
oversight, make preemptive attacks, occupy other countries, torture prisoners,
subcontract military security to prospering crony corporations, and strive
without precautionary sensibilities for a full-spectrum dominance of the world.
I submit that such gambits are making everyone
everywhere less secure. Preemptive war based on hyped up threats is NOT a
healthy form of thinking in advance or wise planning. Wars of aggression are the ‘supreme international crime’
according to the Nuremberg Principles. Our
national security depends on finding a path to mutual security amongst
nations. We should commit ourselves to
international cooperation in solving the big challenges facing us. We need to cultivate visionary ideas and
common sense initiatives that are targeted toward achieving peaceful
coexistence and ecological sanity.
I encourage readers to peruse “Reflections on War”
because it provides a cogent, coherent and comprehensive worldview in support
of smart soft power objectives.
"America's bellicose response to the 9/11
provocation was not only dishonorable and unethical, given the cruel suffering
it has inflicted on thousands of innocents, but also imprudent in the extreme
because it was bound to produce as much hatred as fear, as much burning desire
for reprisal as quaking paralysis and docility. Some of the sickening effects are unfolding before our eyes. That even more malevolent consequences remain
in store is a grim possibility not to be wished away."
--- Steven Holmes, The Matador’s Cape: America’s Reckless
Response to Terror
According to author Chalmers Johnson, Steven
Holmes is committed, as a legal scholar, to the rule of law. "Law is best understood," Holmes
writes, "not as a set of rigid rules, but rather as a set of institutional
mechanisms and procedures designed to correct the mistakes that even
exceptionally talented executive officials are bound to make and to facilitate
midstream readjustments and course corrections. If we understand law, constitutionalism, and due process in this
way, then it becomes obvious why the ‘war on terrorism’ is bound to fail when
conducted, as it has been so far, against the rule of law and outside the
constitutional system of checks and balances."
Johnson adds: “There is, I believe,
only one solution to the crisis we face.
The American people must make the decision to dismantle both the empire
that has been created in their name and the huge, still growing military
establishment that undergirds it. It is
a task at least comparable to that undertaken by the British government when,
after World War II, it liquidated the British Empire. By doing so, Britain avoided the fate of the Roman Republic ---
becoming a domestic tyranny and losing its democracy, as would have been
required if it had continued to try to dominate much of the world by
In thinking about the
priorities of attractive ‘soft power’ and the tactics of repulsive ‘hard
power’, an illuminating parallel curiously arises in the religious arena. A slow disintegration of right-wing
evangelical Christianity may be taking place as a result of the growing
awareness that political identification with mainly negative issues like
anti-abortion, anti-gays and hawkish war policies is repulsive and counterproductive. True spirituality is much more consistent
with an affiliation with positive values.
After all, the ideas that prophets like Jesus would have espoused
include social justice, peace, caring about poverty, and loving or respecting
New Ways of Seeing the
I encourage evangelicals
to develop a respect for life that is not principally restricted to first
trimester fetuses. Issues that are far
more important affect real people’s lives, like poverty and unfairness in
educational and job opportunities and the lack of universal access to good
healthcare. It is retrogressive to
oppose stem cell research that could improve the lives of millions. It is socially wrong to work to stop other
people from using sensible prophylactics that could prevent unwanted
pregnancies and sexually-transmitted diseases like AIDS. It is socially reprehensible to continuously
favor the fortunate and neglect the poor.
And it is folly to side with vested interests that strive to profit from
the destructive exploitation, pollution and depletion of ‘God’s creation’.
of the World, Unite! There are better
ways of coping than just going along with domineering, punitive, puritanical,
cold-hearted, moralistic, and patriarchal ‘macho dude’ doctrines. Empowered women should help lead the way!
believe that empathy and permissiveness are wrong-headed, and that they lead to
a lack of discipline and even -- oh, horror! -- promiscuity. But the demands of Neocons have been given
too much sway, with results that are quite disturbing. It is now time to address the causes of
problems, not merely the symptoms. We
must embrace progressive ideas, empathetic understanding, and
"We make our destinies by the gods we choose."
The way I see the world,
we have collectively chosen gods in the course of history that have helped us create
astonishingly complex and varied cultures, but at the same time the individual
has been subjected to compelling forces of conformity. Narrowing, puritanical, materialistic, and
unfulfilling influences have repressed the child-like freshness of our
perceptions, the creativity of our self expression, the nobility of our
imaginations, the playfulness of our spirits, the earnestness of our souls, the
independence of our dreams, and the connectedness to our authentic inner
selves. We have all been adjusted to
the mythological ‘Procrustean bed’, either by being stretched beyond our
capacities or by having parts of our selves chopped off to force us to fit. Yet we are all spiritual beings at our
cores, and our souls are an ineffably inexplicable product of our conscious and
unconscious awareness, the yearning in our hearts, the electrochemical
processes of our brains and senses, and the existential exigencies involved in
finding our way in the world.
Far out! My point is that we DO have a certain amount
of free choice in our lives. To the extent
that this is true, we must collectively choose a more hopeful path, and one
that is most likely to lead to a sustainable future. There may be a ‘system bias’ for the goals of consumers and
investors against those good citizen goals that are desirable from standpoint
of healthy communities, but it is time that we start faithfully acting to bring
this condition into a more rational and fulfilling balance.
Our rapid population
growth is having unprecedented global impacts.
Our collective hunger for ever-greater quantities of food, fuel, fresh
water, minerals, forest products, building materials, territory and profits is
resulting in the unsustainable harvesting of the bounty of the topsoil and the
seas. Wildlife habitats are being
destroyed. Rivers, lakes and oceans are
being unsustainably exploited and polluted.
We are even altering the gaseous composition of the atmosphere. These actions are upsetting the dynamic
balance of nature to which all forms of life, including us, are so well
Students and faculty in high schools, colleges and
universities represent a vital part of the future of humanity, so I challenge
them to study the ideas found in the Earth Manifesto. Educational institutions play an important
role in our societies. They are thus
the perfect place to begin a revolutionary undertaking to make the world saner
and more sustainable.
British author H.G.
Wells wrote in 1920: "Human history becomes more and more a race between
education and catastrophe." To win this race, we need better public
education. Unfortunately, misguided
ideological forces are being used to subvert high quality and safe public
education. The No-Child-Left-Behind
law, for instance, emphasizes a narrow curriculum, together with an
overemphasis on testing in public schools for memory and recall skills. It does not encourage more important
‘advance thinking’ skills. Underfunding
of educational needs, together with expedient actions and this glaring
shortcoming in educational goals, are having a distinctly unfavorable impact on
the success of public education.
American economic competitiveness is consequently suffering. So are our roles as good citizens in helping
to formulate intelligent decisions in our democracy.
fundamentalism represents primitive drives that are principally about power and
control. They are not about morality,
peaceable relations, healthy conservatism, or what is best for our
communities. Fundamentalism, whether
economic, political or religious, is a form of authoritarian dominion with a
side: it motivates and rationalizes
harmful acts of merciless exploitation, inhumanity, intolerance, violence,
greed and cruelty. Such ideas have contributed to wars, genocide, repression,
pogroms, torture, the burning of women at the stake and other terrible
atrocities throughout history. Give us
is crazy and potentially calamitous to cling closed-mindedly to convictions
that are completely contradicted by overwhelmingly contrary evidence. Here is what I mean: fundamentalism is dangerous because it clings
to inflexible doctrines, even when far more logical, reasonable, intuitively
sensible and probable explanations exist.
It is one thing if such beliefs were harmless, like if a conviction
posited a benevolent god in the heavens who loves all human beings
equally. But it is quite another when
such beliefs involve a Special Creation that favors only true believers,
especially when this conviction leads people to behaviors that are
discriminatory, predatory, violent, belligerently supremacist, or otherwise
“Prophesy is a good line of business, but it is full of risks.”
--- Mark Twain
believe that it is becoming vital for us to be more honest with ourselves and
with each other. We must seek greater
truths and more accurate understandings of important issues. We must transcend narrow parochial beliefs. The global scope of our human impacts has
never been greater. Our ignorance,
delusion and denial are becoming more dangerous to ourselves and future
generations. The problem with simplistic thinking is that it is seductive to people
who have not developed critical thinking abilities and who are consequently
vulnerable to sheep-like obedience toward those who use persuasive propaganda,
control of the media and the bully pulpit of authority to get more power and
use dishonest and unlawful means to accomplish narrowly partisan and
economic fundamentalists and religious extremists are often driven by the
desire to control and dominate others.
Using demagogic rhetoric, misinformation, and deceptive doctrines, they
manipulate the public’s emotions, fears and insecurities in order to gain
support for regressive social policies and the aggressive waging of wars. There is a chance that such indulgence in
ruthless and heedless competition for dominion and ascendance could cause
conflicts so devastating that they would result in a nuclear winter of
planetary destruction that could drive even versatile humankind to
extinction. I reckon that we should all
do whatever we can to prevent this!
Righteous supremacist ideologies and ‘Manifest
Destiny’ rationalizations for military aggression are wrong. Ambushes and retaliatory blowback and
terrorism in response to such actions are also wrong. And hawkish militarism and military occupations in reaction are
wrong. All of these actions are signs
of a kind of rational irrationality that the human race must find more
effective means to prevent.
Human nature does not change; but we can modify our behaviors and we can
change our policies and institutions --- and we arguably must change them to avoid disaster and heightened conflict as the
world becomes a more crowded and desperate place.
do not feel obligated to believe that the same god who has endowed us with
sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forego their use.”
may be bliss for some, but it is generally a part of the problem, not a part of
the solution. No
one is infallible or omniscient.
Profound complexities and ever-changing conditions make it valuable for
people to be open-minded, versatile, intelligently engaged, adaptable and
resilient. We need to question
assumptions and authority. We need to
courageously give at least skeptical consideration to all reasonable ideas, even
those that are opposed to our cherished beliefs. A kind of scientific rigor of thought is needed to trump
oversimplification and absolutism and stubborn dogmas and other limited ways of
In addition to Reflections
on War, I recommend that readers peruse other writings found on the Earth
Manifesto website. All of the
issues detailed in this essay are analyzed in extensive observations in Comprehensive Global Perspective: An
Illuminating Worldview. Also,
important ideas and prescriptions for better ways forward are summarized in One Dozen Big Initiatives to Positively
Transform Our Societies, and the Progressive
Agenda for a More Sane Humanity.
Need for a Modern Religiosity
evolution is an on-going process of adaptation to changing circumstances. It occurs in a kind of ‘punctuated
equilibrium’ process, with a slow background rate of change that is punctuated
by more rapid changes during times that the climate or competitive influences
are in rapid flux. During such times,
ecological niches open up as varieties of life become extinct or lose competitive
advantages. In the case of human
beings, evolution also takes place in social, cultural and behavioral
attitudes, and it does so much more quickly than in more ‘conventional’
physical adaptations that characterize the do-or-die evolution of most other species
It is abundantly clear that life on Earth today
faces greater challenges than it has in almost all the ages of existence. The geological and fossil records show
overwhelming evidence of an eons-long evolution of life punctuated by occasional
episodes of mass extinctions of species.
The most prominent of these mass extinction events are:
(1) The Permian
Extinction, which took place about 250 million years ago. This event wiped out
more than half of all species of life.
It is an extinction episode that marks the end of the Paleozoic (‘old
animal life’) Era and the beginning of the Mesozoic (‘middle animal life’) Era.
(2) The Cretaceous
Extinction, which took place about 65 million years ago. This event caused thousands of species to
become extinct, including many kinds of dinosaurs. This ended the Mesozoic Era and marked the beginning of the
Cenozoic (‘new animal life’) Era.
Life today is undergoing
another accelerated extinction episode -- and this one is, for the first time,
being caused not by some geophysical calamity but by a single species on the
planet: us! Bill Bryson writes in
his great book, A Short History of Nearly
is an unnerving thought that we may be the living universe’s supreme
achievement and its worst nightmare
Thinking and acting with the long-term in mind is arguably the
best way to ensure that we help to save ourselves, and even metaphorically help
to ‘save the world’. Our best bet is to
plan ahead wisely, and not to passively depend on prayers to God for salvation,
because God is clearly and demonstrably not a partisan ‘guy’, no matter what
your local preacher may tell you. When
we observe nature and natural circumstances, we see that impersonal cause and
effect determines all outcomes. The
forces operating in the Universe are ruthlessly indifferent to any individual
or species of life. Nature favors
individuals that work with ‘her’ rather than against her, over the long run. This is what the process of biological adaptation
is: adaptive changes to natural
conditions that allow survival in the context of changing physical conditions
or competitive forces or weather patterns.
In 1909, Mark Twain wrote Letters from the Earth, a book in which he gave readers clever
insights into the preposterous nature of religious myths and dogmas. It is a witty book that ridicules ‘holy book’
absurdities and provides a healthy perspective of the nature of religious
orthodoxies. Ninety-nine years have
passed since Mark Twain published this book, and we can see that ridicule has
proved to be inadequate in mitigating the harm that religious fanaticism is
capable of causing in the world. In
fact, terrorism supported by religious Islamic extremists has strengthened the
hand of the Christian ‘religious right’ in the United States, and this has
caused dramatically negative impacts on the lives of women, blacks, young
people, gay people, educators, religious minorities, and people convicted of
crimes. It has helped conservative
Republicans to gain power and to implement a regressive agenda that has harmed
the prospects for social justice, personal freedoms, cultural modernity and
We arguably need a new religion that enunciates a
morality based on higher principles and bigger picture insights and more
salubrious understandings and more comprehensive policies and more inclusive
worldviews. This new religion must
represent an enlightened moral code based on sensible fairness as envisioned in
the Golden Rule. It must honor and
emphasize sustainable goals, meaningful prosperity, and an overarching
ecological respect for others, including future generations and other denizens
of the Earth. It must help advance a
new worldview that is more adaptive and intelligent and secure and healthy for
our communities and our descendents. See
Revelations of a Modern Prophet for further
ideas about this topic.
Wrongful ‘righteousness’ and dishonorable motives
lie behind many of the doctrines of established religions. Too often the right-wing of religious
traditions gains ascendance and tramples the saner ideas of more moderate and
progressive factions. Demagogic leaders
steer the faithful in directions that contribute to detrimental impacts,
conflicts and discrimination. Instead
of contributing to peace, justice, social health and ecological well-being,
churches have too often in history found themselves on the wrong side of the
greater social good. Today their
anti-social influences are primarily oriented around supporting retrogressive
politicians and repressive agendas, and moralizing against gays and lesbians,
and opposing contraception and the reproductive rights of women. That they accomplish this TAX-EXEMPT galls
those who see the inequity of this situation.
Reason alone has a curious inability to push aside
the terrible ramifications of spiritual exploitation and ruthless dominance
ideologies. This may be partially due
to the physical nature of our brains and our related susceptibility to be
hijacked by our emotions. Our thinking
is affected by a multitude of influences, yet the genesis of our thoughts is
ultimately a mystery. Ideas arise in a
complex subconscious process that defies full comprehension. Ideas sometimes seem to be channeled into
our conscious awareness through a mysterious tumult of creative
revelation. Philosophers and scientists
have noted this throughout the ages. So
have the founding prophets of major religions, like Jesus and Mohammed and
Buddha and Joseph Smith.
Consider the implications of this
observation from Mark Twain: “If you
beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a
curse upon a neighbor at the same time.”
No God can be socially acceptable in this modern conflict-escalating
world if those who act as spokespersons for God preach that there is an
absolute righteousness of their deity alone, and they consequently discriminate
against those with differing beliefs or persecute those with different cultures
and values and goals.
We’ve all seen football games where a receiver
makes a great catch in the end zone and celebrates with fervent signs thanking
God, while the defender exudes woe because God did not help him to prevent the
mortifying catch. Wait a minute! -- God
is not an entity that intervenes, folks!
Pray as you like, and believe as you like -- but do not imagine that God
is on your side against others. Faith
and prayer may help athletes to achieve a state of being ‘in the flow’ which
helps them succeed, and it may help others to focus or to find purpose, confidence,
meaning, resignation, or motivation for living a good life. But when prayerful intention and religious
beliefs contribute to terrible injustices for others, they cannot be condoned
John Lennon sang provocative words in his
there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...
there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace ...
may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...
may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one.
I can imagine some readers
being dubious about the premises herein.
There are many reasons to explain why people do not collectively think
in long-term contexts. Our thoughts and
beliefs are strongly influenced by subtle biases, clashes of values, social
conditioning, anthropocentrism, self-delusions, opinion manipulation, personal
insecurities, illogical decision-making, the hijacking of our emotions, Big
Lies, and persuasive promotion. It
seems clear that we must find ways to transcend our solipsistic self-centeredness,
our selfishness, our fear-influenced perceptions, and our ethnocentric dogmatic
faiths -- and to begin to connect with awareness of the validity of our inner
intuitions and instincts and understandings.
Our sense of conscience arises from a subconscious suspicion
that our actions and cherished political beliefs may be founded on erroneous
assumptions. Most Americans believe
that there is good and evil in the world and that our nation largely represents
the good, and it is rare for us to be able to get our minds around an
understanding that differs from this.
Nonetheless, opinions are relative;
there is no doubt to me that our nation’s hubris, militarism, ruthless
economic sanctions, covert operations and other ‘hard power’ actions represent
evil incarnate to great numbers of people who are direct victims of such
attitudes and policies. Ask the Iraqi
Moral absolutism is a
failure of the imagination. The
complexity of true understanding encourages us to strive to see reality in a
clearer light, and one that is more empathetic, fair-minded and compassionate.
Life can be beautiful,
hopeful, enervating, sublimely joyful, wonderfully fun, and filled with a heartening
rapport towards others and a healthy connectedness to the natural world. But we are often distracted from what is
really important. We seem to not even know
what really matters in life. Let us
adjust our focus, and do whatever we can to make ours a better world! This is the way to advance
understanding. And in a sense, it is a
quest for something that always resides within.
“The only real voyage of discovery consists
not in seeking new landscapes,
but in having new
eyes.” ----- Marcel Proust
the New Year 2008 arrived, as I began this essay, I recommended that we shout
out, in a sort of reverential prayerful kind of manner, “Let us give THANKS,
and make a New Year’s resolution that we will try to show our appreciation for
the natural world in more meaningful ways.
Let us help protect the natural world, and combat ‘nature deficit
disorder’ in our children. Let us do
our part in making a positive difference in our own families and
communities. Let us strive to
personally do whatever we can to make our world a better one.”
GET ORGANIZED, and work to achieve the best of purposes, and not just more of
the same chasing after the whole set of ‘worser’ purposes. Let the revolution begin!
free to provide your feedback to me at SaveTruffulaTrees@hotmail.com. Voice your opinion -- I am open to it, and
will make Wikipedia-like modifications of the ideas herein, according to the
clarity, logical consistency, insightfulness, broad-mindedness, constructive
criticism, or more valid perspective of any particular suggestion or
Dr. Tiffany B. Twain
June 1, 2008
give a tip of the hat, with this essay, to our wise progressive ancestor, the
pamphleteer Thomas Paine, and I commemorate the 172nd anniversary of the
November 30, 1835 birth of the great Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain.
Note: The Tragedy of the Commons phenomenon is
explained in Chapter #27 of the “Comprehensive Global Perspective” essay on the
Earth Manifesto site. I quote:
Rational behaviors contribute to the phenomenon
known as the ‘Tragedy of the Commons’. The rational self-interest of many
people who are competing for benefits from a shared resource often results in
unreasonable damage to that resource. The reason that this occurs is
simple: self-interested individuals are
motivated to get immediate benefits from an activity, while the unintended
consequences and negative impacts are insidious and less immediately apparent,
and they are borne by the less-focused entire community.
The Tragedy of the Commons describes what is taking
place in many different arenas of resource exploitation. For instance, the decimating impact on
formerly rich fisheries by fishing fleets from many competing nations occurs
because unregulated competition results in the over-harvesting of fish stocks. Actions by rational individuals can thus
result in outcomes that are utterly insane for the entire group. This is a tragedy that extensively affects
the ecological commons.
It turns out that better cooperation, not less-regulated
competition, is necessary to improve the prospects of sustainable resource usages.
The only sane way for the whole of society to benefit is to create a system of
far-sighted rules which are designed to protect common resources from
depletion, damage or destruction. This requires the agreement and the
honest compliance of all participants to such rules. It also requires oversight and effective enforcement.
The parable of the Tragedy of the Commons also
applies to the issue of pollution. In this case, rather than the
consequences of exploitation being a depleted commons, it is a polluted
commons. Rational companies make bigger profits by the disposal of wastes
into the commons, because then the costs are borne by all.
The current resistance to international efforts in dealing with global
warming can be clearly understood as an instance of this accumulating
tragedy. Some 160 nations have ratified the Kyoto Accords to help protect
the Earth from the looming damage that will be caused by global warming and
related climate change. But the United States refuses to comply, selfishly
and shortsightedly opposing these accords. China and India are also
unwilling to take dramatic initial steps to control emissions, because they see
that the process of industrialization without heed to the global commons has
allowed developed countries to benefit, and they regard it as an injustice for
them to now be required to follow a different and more expensive path that is
more strictly cognizant of reduced emissions requirements.
Thus the world is failing to boldly act to solve the ominous problems
associated with pouring billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere
every year. Our inaction sends a message of presumptuous disregard for
the well-being of all life on the planet, and particularly for people living on
low-lying islands of the South Pacific and areas of every nation with ocean
coastlines and bays.
The United States insists on acting in the myopic self-interest of big
corporations instead of making reasonable commitments to cooperate for the
common good. This is done because we have the power to ignore
rational and intelligent cooperation, NOT because it is the right thing to do.