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†††††† The U.S. Constitution -- Progress and Reaction

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Earth Manifesto Insights

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††Dr. Tiffany B. Twain††

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††July 4, 2005

Eleven score and nine years ago, in the year 1776, our fathers brought forth upon the American continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

The Founding Principles of the United States were these: fairness; equal rights under the law; the promoting of the General Welfare; the limitation of federal power; and the establishment of rules of law that create reasonable justice and that protect the freedoms of individuals. We hold these rights to be self-evident and inalienable: that citizens are guaranteed certain privacies and liberties, including the freedom of speech and the freedom of religion, and that there must be strict limitations on the government in its ability to interfere with our individual liberties and our pursuit of happiness.

The Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights together form a brilliant and visionary system of principles and laws that is strong, fair, flexible, and forward thinking. These documents were very far ahead of their time in terms of American society being able to fully embrace the promises they made. In fact, it took almost a century, and the Civil War, before black slaves were given equal rights under the law (with the ratification of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution in 1868). And it took another 52 years after that before women won the same right as men to vote (with the 19th Amendment, 1920).

The 56 men who courageously signed the American Declaration of Independence in 1776 were generally men of means and education. They were not rabble-rousing ruffians or crazed terrorists. They were true American patriots, honorable men who stood for liberty and justice for all. Their declaration of independence was a courageous risk of their fortunes and their lives. We should honor their sacrifices by respecting the bold principles for which they stood.

We may individually feel powerless in influencing the course of events and political policies in the United States, but collectively we can make a great difference. We must speak up and stand up against the powerful, who are abusing their power and seriously betraying the trust placed in them. As Abraham Lincoln said, "Government of the people, by the people, and for the people cannot be allowed to perish from the earth."

Today, we have a momentous and increasingly urgent need to better understand the fuller context of the past, of current trends, and of the nature of the great challenges facing humanity. We must strive to see issues more clearly, and more comprehensively. We must grasp wider truths, and cultivate fair-minded long-term perspective.We must do so in order to formulate wiser and more sustainable national plans to improve our society and the world.

The 229 years that have elapsed since our Independence from British colonial rule have seen extensive economic, technological, scientific, social, and demographic changes in America and on Earth.The Industrial Revolution and capitalist economics have been extremely effective in harnessing human motivation.They have helped lengthen human life spans quite significantly, and facilitated the growth of the population from 2 billion people to 6 billion people in the last 70 years. They have facilitated the feeding of these additional billions of people using mechanized agriculture, fertilizers, pesticides and monoculture plantings. They have encouraged great advances in scientific knowledge and in technological innovation. Unprecedented wealth has been created for a small minority, and a sizeable middle class has been created. In accomplishing these things, capitalist economic has produced an amazing variety of goods and services, and it has been a driving force behind the creation of an incredibly complex infrastructure of civilization.

Behind all of these developments, an infinitely complex groundswell of social change has been taking place. Scientific insights have given us much better understandings of our physical world, and of the context of the evolution of life. Breakthroughs have been made in such wide-ranging disciplines as biology, genetics, anthropology, psychology, sociology, geology, physics, and astronomy. Dramatic demographic shifts have occurred, and enormous cities and suburban areas have grown with their own unique problems.

Human rights and greater protections of the public have been sporadically advanced through progressive legislation that has been enacted in the past two centuries. This social and legal evolution has served to strengthen, clarify, and further secure people's rights. Laws have been passed to help abolish slavery, protect workers from unsafe working conditions, outlaw monopolies and unfair business practices, establish consumer and investor protections, provide a minimal social security net, guarantee civil rights to minorities, end mandatory racial segregation, establish women's rights, set aside open spaces and National Parks and Wilderness Areas, and defend people and the natural world from worse pollution, environmental abuses, and toxic wastes. The Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Wilderness Act were passed to help protect people and biological diversity and natural resources and the healthy foundations of our existence.

A powerful backlash has unfortunately been taking place in the 25 years. This reaction against progress has been driven by an alliance of giant corporations and rich people and social conservatives who strive to reverse positive adaptive economic and social changes. Charles Darwin noted that "It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change." This is an important concept!Humanity must understand this, and be more flexible and adaptable in the face of accelerating change. Proactive planning and intelligent action in response to accelerating changes constitute the best ways for us to adapt. This makes far better sense than timid and belated reforms and the defense of the status quo.Progressive initiatives must always fight against the stubborn reactive opposition of traditionalists and conservatives.When we postpone difficult choices in order to continue to allow narrow vested interests to dominate our decision-making, we arguably increase foolish and unconscionable risks.

New challenges now confront mankind which are increasingly global in nature. These new problems pose more significant risks than ever before in the history of civilization. Our human activities threaten the world with climatic instability, diminished biodiversity, devastating conflicts, a heightened vulnerability to man-made and natural disasters, and inexorably greater demands on the planet's finite resources. The main causes of these increasingly dangerous risks are the unsustainable stimulation of consumerism and waste, and extreme ruthlessness in competition, and the continued rapid growth in the number of human beings on Earth.

These trends put us on a collision course with the limits of the Earth's carrying capacity to support humanity. We are contributing to these profound dilemmas by logging great tracts of ancient rainforests and temperate forests, rapidly depleting fisheries, paving over wetlands, stimulating suburban sprawl, "developing" wildlife habitat, altering the atmosphere, and simultaneously depleting aquifers, farmlands, topsoil, minerals and fossil fuels worldwide. These activities are causing an accelerating deterioration of basic life support systems.This makes it ever more important that we immediately begin to enact bold conservation measures, public lands protections, greenhouse gas emissions controls, sustainable business practices, Ďgreení economic reforms, and supportive family planning programs. And we need to make our business leaders and politicians more accountable.

A basic premise of these observations is that we could be building far better societies. All that is required is a stronger sense of individual responsibility, a willingness to defend fiscal discipline, and citizen pressure on corporations and politicians to work together for the common good, rather than for selfish, shortsighted and greedy motivations.

I would personally love to believe that our leaders are trying to make the world fairer, more sustainable, and more secure for all -- safer for poor people as well as for the rich; fairer for everyone, not just more and more favorable for the fortunate and the powerful; and more sustainable for our children and theirs, and theirs, and theirs.

I would love to be convinced that our predominant American motivations are generosity of spirit, enlightened wisdom, virtuous compassion, ecological wholesomeness, respectful concern for the balance of Earth's ecosystems, and caring about future generations. I would love to be proud of American foreign policy, and to think that behind our policies and rhetoric there are noble and truly righteous motivations, rather than the aggregation of private and corporate greed and reckless opportunism and obsessive drives for power and control.

I would simply love to be able to believe sincerely that this is the best of all possible worlds. As an objective observer and a skeptical realist and a thoughtful historian, however, I have come to believe that this is NOT actually the best of all possible worlds.Far from it!We can make it better -- and therefore it is our obligation to strive to do so. It is our obligation as human beings, as responsible citizens, and as loving parents to try to leave a better and more responsible legacy to our descendants.We must overcome our current lack of intelligent long-term planning in the service of short-term expediencies.

"God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

--- The Serenity Prayer          

Thatís my opinion!Whatís yours?

†††††††††† ††Truly,

†††††††††††††† Dr. Tiffany Twain  

†††††††††††††††† SaveTruffulaTrees@hotmail.com