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The Big Picture

Earth Manifesto Insights

Dr. Tiffany B. Twain

October 2005

The human race has a greater capability to determine its own destiny than any other species of life in the long history of the life on Earth. This is due to our ability to think and reflect and understand and plan ahead to influence our destinies.

Unfortunately, we are creating numerous adverse impacts on the ecological soundness of our biotic environs. The growth of these negative impacts arguably constitutes the most serious problem that we face. It surpasses and including all other challenges.

Our impacts are the consequence of two compounding factors: 1) the growth in per capita consumption of food, water, resources and fuels, and 2) the rapid growth in the number of people on Earth. Ways of addressing these serious problems are easy to identify, but unfortunately, taking bold action to correct these problems is hindered and opposed by dominant economic, political and religious institutions.

We must begin to live in sustainable ways. We must recognize and accept that we need to begin demonstrating a responsible stewardship of the beautiful planet where we live. We are 100% dependent on it for food, fresh water, healthy air, energy, and materials for shelter. Our every organ and sense is nearly perfectly adapted to the current conditions of Earth, so it is irrational for us to so obtusely upset these conditions that give us such providential sustenance. We must begin immediately to transform our societies into sustainable ones by limiting our population growth and consuming more responsibly.

Our economy is currently predicated upon growth. When are essentially addicted to growth, no matter how detrimental some of the components of this growth may be. The nature and quality of growth must become more clearly identified. Current measures of growth, as defined by Gross Domestic Product (GDP) make little distinction between beneficial increases and undesirable ones like healthcare inflation and greater military spending and bureaucratic waste. Our businesses are engaged in activities that are similar to a Ponzi Scheme that will collapse unless new players and additional resources are continuously pumped into it.

It is increasingly obvious that someday soon we must figure out how to survive and prosper without increasing consumption and a growing population. And it seems quite apparent to me that we inevitably will either proactively choose to tackle these problems, or we will suffer the consequences and be forced to address them at a later date when the problems will be much more intractable and difficult to solve.

Our societies are myopically failing to consider how to redesign and restructure economic activities to exist without endless growth. Our leaders are in denial, completely obsessed with doing what it takes to stay in office. Corporations strive daily to promote their products, often propagating deceptive information to sell things and increase their profits. All players in the game strive to keep the populace in ignorance in order to continue with business-as-usual strategies that benefit irresponsible corporations, rich people and other entrenched interests. This is almost always done at the expense of the common good.

Our "ecological footprint" of consumption implies that on a long-term basis, we would need three or four planet Earths to sustain our current levels of production, consumption and population growth. Yet we have only one planet. We must direct our cleverness towards new ways of living sustainably and a better quality of life, not a greater quantity of people living in increasingly degraded habitats and ecosystems. We must transform our societies so that they do not have structural and behavioral propensities that rely on resources to be squandered to be successful. We must cease marching lockstep towards a future overcrowded with desperate beings fighting wars over depleted lands and dwindling resources. And we must find ways to keep the arrogance of power from continuously humiliating the powerless.

There are no other frontiers to which we can flee; there is no place to which we can emigrate where we can escape the shortsighted economic and political paradigms of our dominant institutions and self-promotion prepossessed politicians. We must face the truth, and effect intelligent change from within!

We are animals at the height of our success in lording our exploitive power over all other species. Many feel that this is our Divine right, our special prerogative in a universe created especially for us. A fundamental tenet of our human worldviews and belief systems holds that we rightly have dominion over all that "creepeth and crawleth upon the face of the earth." But deep ecology and our submerged spiritual consciences whisper ever more urgently that this is ethically and morally wrong, and that it is extremely risky. We are suffering a crucial misunderstanding that severely threatens the well-being of our species, now and in future generations.

We have evolved from common ancestors long ago that did not have our reasoning abilities. But we are faced today with a clear choice: we can choose to live like rabbits and die like rabbits, or we can more intelligently use our unique abilities to understand and plan wisely. This course of action is best: to wholeheartedly accept more ecologically sound policies and conservation initiatives, and to embrace family planning programs, and to support the empowerment of women to freely choose contraceptives to reduce the growth of our population.

We have passed the tipping point on the seesaw of our success. The clear consequence of this is that our reproductive success and our overly materialistic purpose-driven lives now threaten the very foundations of the continued healthy existence of our species. Our mercilessly competitive and corrupt economic and political systems and our undisciplined consumption activities are devastating the biological diversity of planet Earth. We are diminishing the capacity of agriculture, forestry, fisheries, mineral extraction, and fresh water resources to sustainably support our ever-growing numbers. We are turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the absolute necessity for us to appreciate and respect the bounty of nature, and to consequently live our lives with a more responsible stewardship of resources and biodiversity.

It may be preposterous to suggest that we will be able to change the mantra that says that we must each always get MORE, no matter what we have. It may seem absurd to imagine human beings transcending the antiquated vehemence of religious teachings and the power of sexual drives to begin limiting the number of children born. Nonetheless, women are having fewer children per capita in almost every country on earth. We are still in the midst of a dramatic demographic mega trend in which millions of people are making an economic and social transition from a rural agricultural society to an urban industrial society. In the former, additional children meant cheap labor and greater security for families; in the latter, more children means dramatically greater costs and less food and resources for every family member, and a correlated increase in individual insecurity.

But the transition to fewer children is taking place too slowly. Within 30 years, there will be another two billion people on Earth competing for food and resources. We must support and encourage people to use contraception. We must not allow religious extremists and right-wing politicians to obstruct progress towards a saner future.

We must redefine progress to recognize true social well being. The aspects of growth that are distinctly negative must be clearly accounted for and discouraged by means of an intelligent and clearly prioritized system of incentives and disincentives. We must recognize the definite costs of environmental degradation and resource depletion. There are uncertainties involved in these determinations, and disagreements in what priorities we should support. But we must do a far better job of recognizing and including all production costs in every product; we must not allow so many costs to be externalized onto society. We must utilize science and innovation in order to create better public policies, and redesign our economic and political systems to eliminate stupid wastefulness and profligate pork barrel spending. An we must shift our priorities so that we accomplish greater good goals like reducing time wasted in clogged traffic, and taking into account the actual costs of poor mileage vehicles and greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.

We must also reevaluate the wrong-headedness of repressive social policies and unjust elitist politics and investments in punishment rather than prevention, particularly for victimless crimes. And we must be more honest in accounting for the true costs of the arms race, aggressive militarism, and preemptive warfare.

The United States simply must alter its course. We must reduce the susceptibility of our political system to domination by Big Money and corruption. We must reform our economy to be made sustainable for the long term and to make it less dependent on militarism and disaster opportunism.

Our democracy must be made fairer and more representative of the best interests of the people. We must make our societies more flexible, more adaptable, more resilient, and more just, NOT more unfair, more authoritarian, more closed-minded, more intolerant, and more reactionary. We must strengthen the checks and balances of our Constitution to prevent political opportunists who pretend to be patriots from advancing deceptive ideological propaganda and fooling the people into supporting unjust aggressive wars, the torture of prisoners, foreign occupations, and various other outrageous forms of power abuse.

The American people need leadership that demonstrates honesty and integrity. We need a President who cares primarily about the American people's best interests, not a deceiving cheerleader who puts power, the wealthy elite, corporate profits, extractive industries, and religious fundamentalists far ahead of citizens' well-being and the environment and intelligent long-term planning. For the best interests of future generations, we need sustainable economic policies and sound ecological policies and cleaner energy sources.

We need people in the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department who care about the environment, and they should not be former oil and mining company lobbyists or executives. We need officials in charge of the Food and Drug Administration whose primary concern is the health of the public and the safety of foods, not religious fundamentalism or the interests of giant drug company lobbyists. We need courageous statesmanship in the role of Ambassador to the United Nations, an individual that represents the best interests of the American people, not an ideological extremist like John Bolton who has poor people skills and who opposes international cooperation.

We need a Defense Department leader who defends America and makes us more secure, not a tough ideologue that believes in aggressive preemptive warfare on other countries. We need Supreme Court Justices who are fair-minded, and who respect women's reproductive rights and the privacy of American citizens and the protection of the environment. We need a Treasury Secretary and a Federal Reserve Chairman that are honest about the shortsightedness of deficit spending and who acknowledge that we should not foist costs on people in the future in order to benefit people today. We need experienced disaster-relief managers, not good old boy cronies in the job of managing FEMA. These things I believe!

In conclusion, we must prevent deceitful leaders from advancing doctrinaire agendas that harm the public health, bankrupt the treasury, increase inequities, make taxation more regressive, despoil the environment, and deplete natural resources.

These are word of passionate hope. They are channeled from a dispassionate observer beyond individual minds, beyond the psychic numbing of reinforced fears, beyond our graves, far beyond from deep in the well of our collective awareness where we can visualize that the world could be a much better place, one with empathy and peace, one with social justice and fairness, and one that is far more secure in its framework and constitution and design.

The principal argument herein is that the preservation of our species, and a committed, caring concern about the impacts of our activities on future generations, must override our narrow interests and selfish shortsightedness. Our values and social perspective must shift from exploitation and domination to a higher purpose of responsible stewardship!


Dr. Tiffany Twain