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                An Open Letter to Barack Obama                                                                                              

                                                                                                                           Dr. Tiffany B. Twain  

                                                                                                                           September 16, 2009

Dear President Obama,

Congratulations of your historic victory at the polls last November!  The presidency seems to be a rather thankless job, but you have handled it so far with dignity.  You have inspired great hope in billions of people worldwide, a hope that you will succeed in changing our great nation and the world in fair-minded, positive, progressive and peace-engendering ways.  Good luck!!!

The purpose of this letter is to introduce the online Earth Manifesto, and to make you aware of its primary message that humanity must responsibly choose to leave a fairer legacy to future generations.  We are already pursuing courses of action that will leave our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren a legacy of depleted resources and damaged ecosystems.  To compound this inequity by leaving our descendents a burden of enormous debt obligations is astonishingly irresponsible.

I have specific proposals that would be revolutionarily effective in solving the crucial ecological problems we face.  These plans would simultaneously address the looming national security threats that are posed by two other overarching problems that confront us:  the folly and intergenerational unfairness of relying of rapid increases in our national debt, and the current dangerous extremes of social inequities and healthcare and environmental injustices in our societies.  These proposals are contained in an Earth Manifesto document that is attached to this communiqué, Three Bills of Right: A Triumvirate of Responsible Actions for the Greater Good.  Please read this!  It can also be viewed in Part Four of the Earth Manifesto at www.EarthManifesto.com.

Ecological insights similar to those of the Earth Manifesto were revealed in the 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, and also in the provocative film Home which was produced by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, the renowned French aerial photographer and ecologist.  The film has visually stunning images and evocative music and a compelling narration by the great actress Glenn Close. 

The film Home begins with these words: 

“Listen to me, please.  You’re like me, a Homo sapiens, a wise human.  Life, a miracle in the Universe, appeared around 4 billion years ago and we humans only 200,000 years ago.  Yet we have succeeded in disrupting the balance that is so essential to life.  Listen carefully to this extraordinary story -- which is yours -- and decide what you want to do with it.” 

One segment in this film shows the view as a camera sweeps in across the Pacific Ocean past the monumental stone statues on Easter Island in the South Pacific.  Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, is one of the most isolated inhabited lands in the world, and its story is one with an urgent and sobering message for our time.  The enormous iconic carved stone faces were sculpted from the island’s volcanic rock by the native people.  These giant and mysterious sculptures loom large in our modern imaginations with a powerful message of singular importance to us today. 

To fully comprehend this cautionary tale, one must know the human history of Rapa Nui.  The original inhabitants of the island had arrived by canoe from other Polynesian islands somewhere between 1,600 and 1,200 years ago.  Over the course of the next millennium they created a complex civilization of cultivated crops and an artistic culture and rule by chiefdoms.  The Rapanui people were so isolated from other islands that they chose to channel their energies into monumental efforts to create giant platforms near the sea and to carve and transport and erect gigantic stone statues on these platforms.  Whereas other Polynesian islanders had devoted their energies and resources to inter-island exploration and trading and raiding and colonization and emigration, the isolation of the Easter Islanders eliminated such competing outlets for their ambitions.  The gigantic volcanic stone statues are the apparent result.

The island had been covered with a large variety of native trees when the first people arrived, including a species of palm trees that exceeded in size any other ever known in the world.  The island also teemed with many kinds of land birds and sea-going birds.  The indigenous forests were used for many purposes, including as fuel for cooking and warmth and in the construction of houses and fishing canoes and funeral pyres to cremate the remains of the dead.  The enormous palm trees were likely the best to be used to construct the tracks on which hundreds of imposing stone statues, some weighing as much as 80 tons, were hauled from the volcanic quarries of the Rano Raraku crater, where they were carved, to positions as far as 10 miles away around the perimeter of the island. 

By the 1600’s, the human population had grown to more than 10,000 people, and the pressure of all these people on the available resources finally caused the total decimation of the native forests.  The civilization of the Rapanui was completely dependent on these trees, so as people devastated them, their society began to fall apart.  The harvesting of the forest severely damaged the island’s ecosystems, and soil erosion led to crop failures and famine and intense conflicts and sickness and death.  By the mid-19th century, the population had crashed from more than 10,000 people to less than 120. 

The parallels of our human trajectory today, on a global scale, are daunting.  We should adopt visionary precautionary principles, and stop going down a similar path to the one that had such catastrophic consequences for the Rapanui.  Professor Jared Diamond emphasizes this point in his insightful book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.  He indicates that the inability to think sensibly and plan ahead wisely, and to be flexibly adaptable, is a form of ecological insanity that is likely to have calamitous consequences for us and the marvelous biotic diversity of our home planet.  Chapter 2 of Diamond’s book is an insightful perspective of the ecological calamity of Easter Island. 

You, Mr. President, and every American should also be fully aware of the critically important understandings of the 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.  The findings of this report were compiled by more than 1,000 experts in 95 countries over a period of four years, from 2001 to 2005.  This makes this ecological Assessment one of the most extensively researched undertakings in the history of the human race.  This report, together with many farsighted remedial recommendations, is available online. 

The report essentially concluded that human beings are unsustainably consuming natural resources, and that we are significantly degrading the ecosystems upon which we depend.  Such courses of action are colossally foolish and unsustainably unwise, just like those activities of the Rapanui which led to such severely calamitous consequences.

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment warns that we need to restructure our economic activities, and to adopt common sense strategies and powerful incentives that will help protect the vitality of the ecosystem services upon which we rely.  To ensure that future generations have good prospects for a fair quality of life, we must adopt these bold and straight-forward ways of achieving wholesome and sustainable modes of living. 

The findings of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment profoundly concern each and every person on Earth.  A March 2005 headline of a national newspaper stated, “Humans’ basic needs destroying planet rapidly”.  This news oddly barely made a splash, appearing on page 16 instead of the front page.  Not long after the findings were published they curiously disappeared from the radar of public attention like a skipping stone sinking in the riffles of a great river.

Scientific tomes have a way of being less than scintillating, so perhaps it is not surprising that they receive less attention than imaginative but insubstantial things like a Harry Potter adventure novel or a Stieg Larsson thriller.  Evocative imagery, on the other hand, is capable of influencing us at a more profound level than the written word, so film is a medium that is uniquely able of communicating to our awareness in ways that are more visceral and effective than scientific studies.  This is why I highly recommend that people watch the film Home.  It can be viewed on the Internet at YouTube.com/homeproject.  Toggle to minute 53:40 for the specific footage of Easter Island and the accompanying observations about it. 

Just after the Home segment about Easter Island, narrator Glenn Close makes the following observation:  “Since 1950, the world’s population has almost tripled, and since 1950 we have more fundamentally altered our island, the Earth, than in all of our 200,000 year history.”  Crucial understandings like this are also explored in Chapter #7 of the Earth Manifesto’s Comprehensive Global Perspective – An Illuminating Worldview.  Recognition is given therein to the foolish risks that humanity is taking by our indulgent involvement in a ‘rash and uncontrolled experiment’. 

This rash experiment involves:  (1) stimulated consumerism, (2) the profligate use of resources, (3) uncontrolled population growth, (4) rapid industrialization, (5) dramatic urbanization, (6) large-scale monoculture agriculture, (7) economic globalization, (8) a far-reaching modification of habitats and ecosystems, (9) the generation of pollutants, toxins and wastes, (10) the alteration of the gaseous composition of the atmosphere, (11) divisive and hyper-partisan and short-term oriented politics, (12) inegalitarian social policies, (13) aggressive militarism, (14) irresponsible deficit-spending and debt financing, (15) financial deregulation, and (16) inadequately supervised asset speculation.  Almost every other species of life on earth is harmed by the aggregate impacts of these courses of action. 

The stakes are enormous.  No one knows exactly what the outcome and consequences of these risky gambles will be, but surely we risk not only the quality of life of every child, and of all future generations, but ultimately the very survival of our species.  We are contributing to irreversible climate change, widespread habitat damage, unbalanced societal instability, escalating conflicts and ominous species extinctions.  These are NOT good things.  And yet we collectively refuse to accept intuitions that tell us that new and courageous ways of thinking and acting must be embraced to reduce these risks and mitigate the damages done.  We simply must change the status quo in light of our best understandings.  We cannot continue to ignore the signs of resource depletion like the Rapanui did.

Albert Einstein was surely correct when he observed, “We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”  I call on you, Mr. President, to better manage the economic and social and environmental challenges that we face.  It is extremely foolish for us to procrastinate, because the gathering crises will get worse as we reach the condition known as Peak Oil, and as liabilities mount, and as continuing population increases occur.  These crises will likely be characterized by national security threats such as energy cost inflation, severe scarcities of resources, disruptions in economic activities, unsupportable debt, exacerbated environmental injustices, and possible ‘abrupt climate change’ or other forms of ecological collapse. 

Economic recessions, financial crises and high unemployment pose grave risks, but they also create exceptional opportunities for politicians, entrepreneurs, investors and even the general public.  Your Administration, President Obama, has made epic efforts to deal with the deepest recession in decades.  You have done this by bailing out Wall Street, and by introducing hyper-stimulative government spending into the economy.  This stimulus has taken Keynesian economic philosophy to an unprecedented extreme, leading to deep concerns about the enormous size of federal deficit spending every year since Bill Clinton was in office, and about the rapidly growing trillions of dollars of national debt. 

This debt represents a serious gamble that could result in higher interest rates, inflation that skyrockets, a plunging value of the dollar, and another financial meltdown that would make the current recession and economic instability look like a picnic in the park.  We must find a way to finance our societies without borrowing so heavily from people in the future!  The Earth Manifesto proposals in Three Bills of Right: A Triumvirate of Responsible Actions for the Greater Good would dramatically help solve this challenge.

As you are well aware, Mr. President, our democracy is inflexible and not adequately adaptive because it is far too deeply influenced by vested interests and wealthy people and shortsighted Federal Reserve-stoked ‘bubble economics’ expediencies.  As a result, protections of the U.S. banking system like the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act were repealed, and anti-regulatory legislation like the Commodities Futures Modernization Act of 2000 was passed.  These gambits made it easier for bankers and speculators to game the economic system.  The resulting lack of government supervision and inadequate regulation and widespread speculation led to dangerous levels of risk-taking and debt leveraging and ‘irrational exuberance’ in the stock market.  When this game became too hot, a severe correction in equities occurred in the bear market from 2000 to 2002.  This volatility created fears of systemic risk, so the Federal Reserve then cut interest rates to historic lows to pump up a new economic bubble -- the real estate market -- to get growth going again.  The Great American Bubble Machine inflated once again.

Inevitably, this housing appreciation bubble became overvalued and also burst, sending home prices and ‘securitized mortgage instruments’ plummeting in value.  Severe damage to economies worldwide resulted, and extensive hardships were wreaked on people around the globe.  The tonics and tactics of your Administration have been laudable from a short-term perspective, but in the big picture we must not lose sight of the overarching challenges facing civilization.  The unrestrained increase in federal debt will be the next risky bubble that could collapse.

Some say that the current economic emergency was intentionally engineered by bankers and Wall Street insiders and politicians and the Federal Reserve through the support of these narrow interests, using deregulation and inadequate supervision and accountability of financial markets and Wall Street.  Others say the circumstances that took place were completely unforeseeable, and that GOSH, no one could have anticipated that stoking the real estate bubble so that homes appreciated 20% a year for 5 years in a row would lead to the bursting of this bubble.  People in the latter camp ignore the implications of the trillions of dollars in ‘credit default swaps’ that were created to insure against the probability that the bubble would in fact inevitably burst.  This is especially hard to ignore, because the American taxpayer is paying hundreds of billions of dollars to those involved in engineering the bubble and its collapse, in the form of bailouts to the insurer AIG and to banks and businesses that were hurt by the giant profiteering scheme. 

Whether intentionally engineered or inadvertently mismanaged, this episode is criminally wrong-headed.  All public policy decision-making must begin to take into account the probable impacts that actions will have on the proverbial ‘Seventh Generation’ to come, and not just the short-term benefits that will be gained by narrowly-focused interests that are obsessed with making profits over all other values.  Our decision-making horizon must be broader even than the four or eight years of a Presidential tenure.

This sounds naïve, due to the political realities of our lobbyist-dominated politics and the powerful influence of narrow interests that are vested in the status quo.  Our system of democratic capitalism is supposedly governed by free markets and free elections, but it is extremely vulnerable to organized greed, which easily triumphs over less organized democracy.  Allowing our system of legalized institutional bribery to continue without courageous and effective efforts to honestly reform it is foolish and shortsighted.   

Our government is extremely weak-willed when it comes to making hard decisions like paying as we go, or eschewing the convenient expediency of borrowing to spend, or changing our tax structure to assess higher marginal rates on rich people and highly profitable businesses.  Politicians seem to be unable to avoid wars, or to extricate our nation from military occupations like those in which we have been involved for so long in Afghanistan and Iraq.  And political leaders have done little to reject abuses of power by corporations and federal officials. 

Our leaders are as yet unable to regulate our profit-oriented health insurance system or reform the unjust healthcare care system itself, with its high annual increases in premiums, and its reliance on emergency rooms for tens of millions of uninsured people, and its perverse focus on drugs and surgery rather than good health and prevention.  How could so much angry opposition arise to try to prevent reform of a system that is as unjust and bureaucratic and costly as the care-obstructing American health insurance system? 

The forces of inertia that resist change in human societies are amazingly strong, so adaptive change tends to come in jolts rather than intelligent and confident strides.  Large corporations are dead set against progressive and smart common-good changes to the status quo.  Giant agribusiness and fast-food companies have manufactured demand for obesity-causing foods and sodas and nutrition-poor corn products, but they evade the costs and liabilities that result.  Big Oil and Big Auto have promoted fuel-inefficient vehicles and opposed pollution mitigation and supported wars-for-oil and fought initiatives that would establish any form of carbon-dioxide emissions taxes.  They have helped to prevent increases in gasoline taxes that would help finance the necessary transition to renewable alternatives, and to deal with the adverse impacts of climate change.  Big Businesses have created generous subsidies and tax loopholes and profit-making schemes for themselves, through institutionalized bribery, and they are staunchly unwilling to accept any meaningful changes to the status quo, even when the changes to the system would simply require them to include externalized costs in the price of their products rather than forcing them upon the government and taxpayers and future generations.

Capitalism flirts with financial collapse and ecological devastation specifically because our economic system is set up to privatize profits while allowing costs and risks and liabilities to be socialized.  Economic fundamentalists clamor for free markets, but they really just want a free lunch.  They want the system to remain structured so that CEO’s and top management and shareholders and insiders retain the privilege to irresponsibly make profits by freely speculating to gain enormous upsides, but to limit their downside risks, and to foist the costly outcomes of these risks upon the government and taxpayers.

These are some of the reasons we need ‘Clean Money for Clean Elections’ or other truly serious reforms of our electoral system and Congressional ethics.  You intelligently called for vigorous debate, Mr. President, in your recent town hall meeting in New Hampshire, and you decried the scare tactics and misrepresentations that have been propagated by opponents of reform like Sarah Palin with her ridiculous allegations of “death panels”. 

I am a gal in my fifties, and I have recently signed an Advance Health Care Directive and Power of Attorney for Health Care.  I want my end-of-life wishes known, and I do not want anyone else making decisions for me, and especially not some Schiavo-mad politicians who want to impose their beliefs on me.  The provisions in the pending health care reform plan that would help people establish similar directives are a good plan, and a smart one, not some form of insidious government conspiracy to kill off old people.  The anger and fears and misinformation and deep biases that are being expressed in town hall meetings are a pathetic reflection on the state of our public discourse.  Shame on Sarah Palin!

You were ‘right on’, Mr. President, when you told Americans at an August New Hampshire town hall meeting:  "Where we disagree, let’s disagree over things that are real, not these wild misrepresentations that don't bear any resemblance to anything that's actually being proposed."  You were talking about distortions and scare tactics of social conservatives, and of people who angrily oppose changes in the current system that allows giant drug companies to make such obscenely large profit margins and health insurance companies to make profits at the expense of the public by raising premiums while freely denying coverage and claims.

It seems bizarrely foolish for people to rationalize and defend the status quo in such starkly problematic arenas, and to scorn the progressive ideas of those who want to reduce the severe inequities of the current system.  It is like a person swimming in the ocean yelling praise to circling sharks while heaping invective on rescuers who approach in lifeboats.  But far worse than this, from my own long-term perspective, are right-wing ideologues and those who they have misled, who defend the status quo and criticize farsighted precautionary principles like those advocated by ecologists.

The crux of the problem arguably resides within each and every one of us.  We manifest a collective tendency to consume and waste and deplete and pollute.  This is indisputably unfair to future generations.  So this propensity should be mitigated by the creation of a fund to offset the far-reaching adverse unintended consequences of these actions.  The fact that we are adding the brutal insult to injury of following a diametrically contrary course of action by borrowing heavily from people in the future is selfishly irresponsible.

The national debt when Ronald Reagan took office was $845 billion.  During his 8 year tenure, this debt increased 78% to $2.35 trillion.  George H.W. Bush managed to increase this debt by 56% in four years.  Bill Clinton increased it another 54% in 8 years.  George W. Bush increased the national debt about 75% during his profligate 8 year tenure, to more than $10 trillion.  The latest estimate by the Congressional Budget Office is for this debt to increase to $19 trillion in the next 10 years.  This trend is obscenely irresponsible.  We simply must not let this happen.  We must pursue more fiscally responsible courses of action! 

My proposed Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2010 would prevent such a risky course of action.  See the Three Bills of Right: A Triumvirate of Responsible Actions for the Greater Good.   A copy is attached to this letter being sent to the President, and it can also be viewed online by all others in Part Four of the Earth Manifesto.

In order to shift our societies to fairer and more responsible ones, we should enact a clearly-articulated Bill of Rights for Future Generations, as outlined by the Cousteau Society.  And we should add a provision to this new Bill of Rights that advocates greater fiscal responsibility by national governments.  This provision would recommend against the shortsighted expediency of borrowing money from future generations, because deficit spending is almost as directly a form of depletion of resources as the clear-cutting of rainforests, the use of dynamite in ‘fishing’ around coral reefs, or the profligate burning of oil for fuel-inefficient vehicles.

Think again of the lessons learned by the Rapanui on Easter Island.  The anthropological purpose of their monumental volcanic stone statues appears to have been to honor the spirits of their intrepid ancestors who had come by canoe from distant Polynesian islands between the fourth and ninth centuries A.D.  An internet site provides this cogent explanation:  “Archaeological and iconographic analysis indicates that the statue cult was based on an ideology of male, lineage-based authority that incorporated anthropomorphic symbolism.  The statues were thus symbols of authority and power, both religious and political.” 

Humankind clearly must adaptively embrace a new worldview in which we respect those yet to be born in future generations, and NOT just honor those who came before us.  We must commit our civilizations to protecting and restoring Mother Earth and the vital ecosystems upon which we completely depend.  And we would be wise to elevate feminine nurturing principles and women’s status to a fairer balance in our far-too-authoritarian and discriminatory patriarchal societies.  Women in politics today tend to be better champions than men for environmental protections and social justice.  They are stronger advocates for families, and they are more committed to promoting nonviolent conflict resolution.  These are critical perspectives for us to cultivate.

The Easter Island statues, or moai, were erected on long platforms known as ahu.  These platforms were constructed all around the perimeter of the island.  In addition to being the sturdy foundations for the gigantic statues, they were used as repositories of cremated remains of thousands of people over the centuries.  Curiously, the moai all face inward, away from the ocean and toward the houses of the elite, which are on the best land closest to the coast.  Houses of the commoners were further island, in less desirable locations.  The moai have tall torsos and chiseled faces with sharp chins and prominent noses and deep eye sockets.  The tops of their heads are flat, and the most elaborate statues are topped with cylinders of red volcanic stone that are a kind of ostentatious headdress, or hat, that weighs up to 12 tons. 

These statues were great feats of erection!  The inward-looking megalomania of the Rapanui rulers that led to these giant artistic erection projects seems to have been fueled by a testosterone-infused preoccupation with competition and ‘one-upmanship’.  How ironic that this unmindful exploitation and depletion of resources seems not to have been foreseen as a risk that would cause an ecological calamity which would devastate their civilization! 

The characteristic that most separates human beings from all other animals on Earth is the size of our brains and our correlated ability to remember the past and imagine the future.  Fore-thought is our most important human ability.  It is the quality that allowed us to hunt and gather successfully for untold millennia, and it is the quality that offers us the greatest hope of salvation.  Blind obedience to fading dogmas and faithful belief itself will not save us.  Au contraire!  Wisdom and nimble versatility in the face of inevitable change offers us the best hope for a kind of salvation.  Wisdom is synonymous with good judgment.  It is based on learning from experience and combining knowledge of the past with intuition and insight to predict future outcomes.  Attaining wisdom should be the highest goal of our collective ambitions. 

As change accelerates in human affairs and our civilizations become more complex and populous, we seem to be becoming more aware, and yet we are still hubristically heedless of ecological limits and of the ill-advised impacts we are having on the life support systems that sustain us.  Our best hope of adapting to the rapidly changing conditions on our home planet is that we choose to take a quantum leap in our understandings, and begin to embrace worldviews that respect and protect and restore the ecosystems services upon which we rely.  One part of this human equation is the inextricable need to make a quantum leap to greater fiscal responsibility and fairer commitments to equitable societies. 

Stephen Jay Gould is the prominent American evolutionary biologist and historian of science who first proposed the theory of ‘punctuated equilibrium’.  In doing so, he came up with an idea that modified the earlier conception of evolution as taking place over the eons through continuous and gradual biological change.  Critics jokingly referred to his theory as “evolution by jerks”.  Gould responded in kind by describing gradualism as “evolution by creeps.”  Ha! 

From my point of view, religious fanatics that deny biological evolution altogether, in order to cling to their antediluvian myths about God creating us in ‘his’ own image to have dominion over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, are the ones who embrace the most preposterous doctrine.  Even in Genesis 28, which commands mankind to ‘Be fruitful, and multiply’, and to subdue the earth, a caution is adduced that we should replenish the earth.  The idea of responsible stewardship of the earth thus has early roots.

Stephen Jay Gould’s idea that evolution has taken quantum leaps in the past, like the 50% increase in brain size of our ancestors from 3 million years ago to 2 million years ago, is compelling.  It makes one think of a far more rapid kind of change that has taken place in human societies:  social and cultural and political change.  Kinds of change like this can take place very quickly, for better or for worse.  Ecological circumstances on Earth today are changing rapidly, and they are aggravated by our growing human numbers and the increasingly significant impact of our aggregate activities on vital ecosystems. 

This is why the understandings of the Earth Manifesto and the film Home and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment are so important.  All of them warn that humanity must be smarter and more courageous in the conduct of our rash experiment on our home planet.  Unlike the Ecosystem Assessment, the film Home has a poetic beauty and evocative imagery and a haunting soundtrack, so it affects viewers more deeply.  “It is too late to be pessimistic,” the narrator Glenn Close intones. 

The film Home was made of footage taken by Yann Arthus-Bertrand in more than 50 countries around the globe.  Yann Arthus-Bertrand previously created the beautiful large-format book Earth from Above, which contains scores of beautiful images and incisive ecological observations.  The film richly portrays dramatic and colorful scenes from the Arctic to the Antarctic, and from mountain tops to the deep seas, and from dry deserts to watery wetlands, and from wilderness areas to the blighted hearts of urban metropolises like that of Lagos, Nigeria. 

Images are an effective medium for the transmission of information for two reasons.  They provocatively inform our rational and analytical left-brain selves, and at the same time they make a deep impression on the more intuitive and holistic hemisphere of our emotional right brain.  Our society is arguably in critical need of a better balance between these two spheres of understanding, each with its own distinct ways of seeing and feeling and making sense of the world.  I believe that widespread attention to this film will help galvanize us into creating this needed balance between what is essentially the masculine-oriented and word-dominated left brain and the feminine-oriented and image-influenced right brain. 

Everyone on Earth is essentially going along with the gambits that allow overly generous opportunities for people today to fleece all people in the future by foisting the bondage of debt and the costs of energy modernization, infrastructure investment, resource depletion, pollution, global warming, climate change, environmental justice initiatives, and war recovery costs upon our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 

This is an incomprehensibly irresponsible state of affairs, which curiously mimics the jealous God of the Bible, who gave ‘Ten Commandments’ in Exodus 20 that promised to “visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation” for all who were not obedient to ‘His’ words.  Today, we are the ones visiting iniquities upon our children, and we are doing it to all generations to come.  Are we being hateful, God?  Or just myopic and selfish and stubborn and unethical and sheepishly stupid!

All Americans, and all people worldwide, must SOON begin to contribute to making our aggregate activities more sustainable.  The smartest way to ensure this is to re-structure our economies and social institutions so that people have compelling incentives to do the right things, and effective disincentives to dissuade people from doing the wrong things.  Our current system in effect gives people incentives to waste resources and rapidly deplete them, and to pollute the commons.  We must create a new system that includes all the costs related to the production and delivery of products in the sales prices of all products, plus a surcharge to cover the cost of investments needed to replace depleted resources. 

Every iota of oil that we burn, for instance, should include an allowance to cover both the costs of pollution and the costs of needed subsidies for the development of alternative energy sources.  Gasoline should be taxed so that funds are generated to cover the costs of respiratory diseases and lost employment caused by air pollution, plus a contribution to cover the costs incurred by our military to ensure access to oil in the Middle East, plus a contribution of funds that are required for the relief of natural disasters that are getting worse due to global warming, such as more severe wildfires, hurricanes, flooding and crop failures.  We should devise a method of ensuring that such taxes are non-regressive, so that higher costs for things like gasoline would be partially offset for low-income people.

I am well aware that borrowing money by means of deficit spending is far more popular than paying as we go, and that it is much easier to cheat future generations than to live within our means.  But we are already foisting heavy costs on our descendents, and it is our obligation to begin to live more fairly and responsibly and sustainably.

I believe in positive progressive change.  I know it can happen.  Where there is a will, there is a way, as they say.  Our collective will must be one of overarching civic concern, of constructive cooperation, of fair-mindedness, of collaborative long-term thinking, and of intelligent planning.  It must NOT be one of wrong-headed priorities, misguided goals, uncompromising ideologies, shortsighted expediencies, obtuse obstructionism, divisive politics, hateful anger, or destructive extremism. 

Healthy societies are ones that foster constructive outlets for the energies of their people.  They support the arts, and cultural activities, and community involvements and participatory sports.  Misguided societies exhaust themselves on shortsighted goals like the Rapanui one-upmanship, or exhaustive wars, or imprisoning their peoples, or making futile efforts like the one undertaken by the first Emperor of China to memorialize himself by conscripted 700,000 laborers over a 20-year period to build an enormous mausoleum for him in Xian that was to be protected by thousands of terra cotta warriors.  (As destiny and poetic irony would have it, this project was laid waste soon after the Emperor died in 210 B.C., when the aroused Chinese citizenry raided and destroyed the enormous monument and its contents.)   

Consider, for a moment, the perspective of Ambrose Bierce, who gave us this definition:

 Conservative, n.  A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished 

   from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.”

Ha!  There is some truth here.  I feel strongly that we need to correct the ‘existing evils’, but also that we should replace them with new plans that are consistent with the greater good, and NOT with other plans that are wrong-headed and shortsighted and heavy with debt financing.  We need to gather together all points of view, and representatives of all competing interests, and to formulate the best compromise between the varying ideas and interests.  We need honest and civil discourse that recognizes the crucial importance of collaborative long-term thinking.  And we need to properly prioritize the issues and their funding, and boldly implement the best solutions. 

The best plans are those which are formulated only after clear understandings are achieved of the nature of problems and their causes.  In order to make the best public policy decisions, we must:

 (a)  Utilize the broadest range of relevant facts and information; 

 (b)  Listen to all voices, and assess the integrity of their viewpoints, and make the fairest and smartest compromise between all of these competing interests;  and,

 (c)  Strive for the greatest good and the long-term best interests of human societies, not forgetting a voice representing the interests of those in future generations. 

In conclusion, it is as if a specter haunts humanity today.  This is not some shadowy vision that forebodes a cataclysmic class struggle or a terminal crisis of the capitalist system like the spectre Karl Marx envisioned in his Communist Manifesto;  nor is it a vision of fear at the spread of socialist or communist ideologies;  no, it is more accurately seen as a specter of extreme social irresponsibility and intergenerational inequity and ecological calamity. 

This specter is being manifested in five principal ways:

 (1)  The establishment and the ruthless defense of economic systems that enable 50% of all income and wealth around the globe to be usurped by 2% of the people;

 (2)  The profligate exploitation and depletion of natural resources without regard to the well-being and needs of our descendents;

 (3)  A ‘Tragedy of the Commons’ gambit that allows giant corporations to externalize costs and risks and liabilities and obligations upon everyone now AND in the future, doing so in order to primarily benefit the small percentage of people who wield the most power and influence, and give them the lion’s share of the resulting artificially increased profits;

 (4)  The insidious expediency of borrowing enormous amounts of money and indulging in deficit spending and drastically increasing the national debt in order to create jobs and stimulate consumption and facilitate the concentration of wealth for the few;  and,

 (5)  The damage to Earth’s habitats and ecosystems being caused to accomplish these wrong-headed goals through rampant global deforestation, the overfishing of the seas, urban sprawl, unmitigated pollution, unsustainable agriculture, uncontrolled population growth, the devastation of biotic nurseries like wetlands and coastal mangrove forests and coral reefs, and the uncontrolled emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Future generations are being given short shrift by the shortsighted policies that permit and encourage such activities.  Good solutions exist, ones that could be implemented THIS YEAR, as articulated in Three Bills of Right: A Triumvirate of Responsible Actions for the Greater Good, and as explored thoroughly in A Second Open Letter to President Obama - Provocative Proposals for Real ‘Change We Can Believe In’. 

I can easily imagine that many people may regard these proposals as radical, but let’s be honest, what could be more radical than sticking with the status quo and defending the forces that are hell-bent on exploiting and depleting and wasting resources?  What could be more radical than financing this unwise course of action by irresponsibly borrowing bigger and bigger amounts of money from our heirs?  What could be more radical than allowing a tiny establishment of wealthy people to gain more and more privileges while undermining fairness and exacerbating inequities in human societies around the globe?  Throughout his career and writings, the aforementioned Stephen Jay Gould spoke out against cultural oppression in all of its forms, and especially against what he saw as pseudoscience and ideologies that are used to perpetuate racism and sexism and injustices.

The website EarthManifesto.com contains one of the most extensive collections of good ideas and in-depth understandings ever assembled.  I would love it if you would review them and consider implementing the most important ideas they contain.  The general public is also encouraged to check out these ideas.  In particular, see Part Four of the Earth Manifesto, which contains the Three Bills of Right, plus One Dozen Big Ideas to Positively Transform Our Societies and the Progressive Agenda for a More Sane Humanity.

Thanks for your consideration!


      Dr. Tiffany B. Twain       

         Contact email address:  SaveTruffulaTrees@hotmail.com


Attachment to President Obama’s copy (Part Four of Earth Manifesto):

  Three Bills of Right: A Triumvirate of Responsible Actions for the Greater Good.

Copy to:

       All Americans, via the Earth Manifesto at www.EarthManifesto.com

       Future Generations Petition, The Cousteau Society

            930 West 21st Street, Norfolk VA 23517

       Katharine Weymouth, Publisher of the Washington Post

           1150 15th St. NW, Washington D.C.  20071

       Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr., Publisher of the New York Times       

           620 Eighth Avenue., New York 10018

       Rachel Maddow c/o NBC News, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, N.Y. 10112

       Jack Whitaker, Publisher of the Hannibal Courier-Post  

           200 N. 3rd St.  Hannibal, MO  63401

        Earth Justice, Because the Earth needs a good lawyer, and I may too!

           426 17th Street, 6th Floor;  Oakland, CA  94612

        The Nation, c/o Submissions, 33 Irving Place, 8th Floor  New York City 10003  

        Graydon Carter, Editor-In-Chief, Vanity Fair

           4 Times Square, 7th Floor  NYC 10036