Social Justice Articles 4
be as inclusive and whole earth as possible. For many years I eagerly anticipated my State of the World issues and kept them front and center on my bookshelf.
The Worldwatch Institute declares its main purpose to be “to deliver the insights and ideas that empower decision makers to create an environmentally sustainable society that meets human needs. Worldwatch focuses on the 21st century challenges of climate change, resource degradation, population growth, and poverty by developing and disseminating solid data and innovative strategies for achieving a sustainable society.”4
Its third principle focus is “developing a sustainable global economy that meets human needs, promotes prosperity, and is in harmony with nature.” Lester Brown himself is a humming powerhouse of information and insight, with long lists of articles, books, awards, and milestones.
Brown is quoted by Celsias as saying in his new book, Eco-Economy: Today we need a similar shift in our worldview, in how we think about the relationship between the earth and the economy. The issue now is not which celestial sphere revolves around the other but whether the environment is part of the economy or the economy is part of the environment. Economists see the environment as a subset of the economy. Ecologists, on the other hand, see the economy as a subset of the environment.
Like Ptolemy’s view of the solar system, the economists’ view is confusing efforts to understand our modern world. It has created an economy that is out of sync with the ecosystem on which it depends.
We have created an economy that is in conflict with its support systems, one that is fast depleting the earth’s natural capital, moving the global economy onto an environmental path that will inevitably lead to economic decline. This economy cannot sustain economic progress; it cannot take us where we want to go.5
Brown now is director of the Earth Policy Institute and recently wrote, "we're doing exactly the same thing as Enron - leaving costs off the books. Consuming today with no concern for tomorrow is not a winning philosophy."6
If humanity ever makes the changes essential to its survival, it will take not only the incisive analyses of prophets like Lester Brown but, even more, it will take the concerted efforts of millions of political, corporate, and religious leaders who realize that “it’s a small world after all” and we must transcend the narrow interests of tribes and nations to embrace a battle plan that includes everyone in every land. Anything less may portend the swift demise of “intelligent life on this planet”.
3 RFF’s initial studies were almost entirely devoted to U. S. interests but later they began to focus on problems in other countries, perhaps to obtain a wider spectrum of funding?
5 Full title: Eco-Economy: Building an Economy For the Earth, New York: W.W. Norton. Celsias is Climate Change Is Not a Spectator Sport.
6 From Lester Brown’s speech at Catawba College November 12, 2008
Like Locusts We Are
By Rich Koster
Twice I was pooh-poohed and ballyhooed by my fellow clergy colleagues in the Allegan County Ministerial Association. One time was when I told them I believed we will all be saved in the end, and the other was when I shared parts of a little book that came out in 1972 with the title, Limits To Growth, authored by The Club of Rome.
1 What The Club of Rome did in this little book was to analyze the interweaving of five different trends and to conclude from their analysis that there will be some sort of world economic collapse within the next hundred years. The trigger for the collapse, they said, would be the inevitable exhaustion of essential nonrenewable natural resources. The Club of Rome was founded in April, 1968 by Alexander King, a Scottish scientist, and Aurelio Peccei, an Italian industrialist. A small group of people from various endeavors met at a villa in Rome, hence the name. The Club of Rome still exists, still meets, and still sounds an alert about the possible collapse of the world economy. But they have moved from simply sounding an alarm to making specific recommendations for preventing what seems inevitable.2
In June of 2008 Graham Turner of the Australian science agency CSIRO compared recent trends with the earlier predictions of the Club of Rome and says the trends are in line with their earlier predictions.3 In the wake of a series of summit-type meetings held in the past two years, the Club of Rome has issued a statement that echoes their 1972 report: It is clear that the present path of world development is not sustainable in the longer term, even if we recognize the enormous potentials of the market and of technological innovation.
Two other groups, neither associated with the Club of Rome, have helped me to understand how deep and complex is the dilemma the world faces.
Resources For the Future got its start about 16 years before the Club of Rome, in part because of a mandate from President Harry Truman to see if the United States was becoming too dependent on other countries for essential natural resources.. Whereas Limits to Growth was a 132 page paperback, the first RFF volume of studies, Resources In America’s Future, came to over 1000 pages! The purpose of RFF was to learn what materials the United States had in abundance and what we needed to obtain from other lands. But in the process, the researchers were also gathering data on what materials those other lands might have. And that is the nub of the whole issue. What is our interest in what other lands have if not that they have enough to take care of their own people? Here is a difference between the Club of Rome and RFF. The one is concerned about the future of all humanity, while the other is concerned primarily with one small piece of humanity - our own.
Around 1984 I became aware of another resource which to my mind has become the point player in the whole natural resource debate: The Worldwatch Institute. After that one big splash the Club of Rome receded from the limelight and has been working mostly behind the scenes. RFF as well is not even as well-known, preferring to provide its contributions in academic and submerged political circles. But the Worldwatch Institute, guided by its founder, Dr. Lester Brown, came at this with one clear focus in mind: to sound the alarm and to keep sounding it loud and clear in a way that will leave absolutely no doubt about the peril facing all humanity. The Worldwatch Institute produced its first State of the World in 1984, and immediately it was clear that Brown and his team were going to