2/20/14 2 short essays

I was reading  a UN report   “A New Global Partnership”  The report of the High level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post –2015 Development Agenda.  On page 5 I saw the following quote ”  Without ending poverty, we cannot build prosperity; too many people get left behind. Without building prosperity, we cannot tackle environmental challenges; we need to mobilize massive investments in new technologies to reduce the footprint of unsustainable production and consumption patterns. Without environmental sustainability, we cannot end poverty; the poor are too deeply affected by natural disasters and too dependent on deteriorating oceans, forests and soils.”
I like this quote, it intimately links the health of human communities to the health of planetary ecosystems. It also points out the relationship between inequality and ecological destruction.  What it also did was remind me of a tag line I have been using in my work for many years, that I think says the same thing only in language the UN can not use because it is straight forward.  “You can not heal ecosystems without ending poverty, you can not end poverty without healing ecosystems.”   Depending upon the circumstances I often add a third line (which the UN is not quite ready to state, even though it was founded for that purpose) “And if we do not shut down the military industrial complex we shall not be able to do any of it.
 I and thousands of others have been saying these things for a generation and yet the situation continues to slide towards the cliff.  Even the UN conferences 20 years ago had people speaking these truths. One would hope that statements like this from the UN would do some good, lead to real action.  But as long as Washington DC is mostly inhabited by the most empire addicted government money can buy, the road to a sustainable peaceful planet might just lead over a cliff rather than into the peaceful valley.




On Thursday February 20, 2014 The front page headline of the Providence Journal was “Downside of low inflation: A weaker global economy.”  The accompanying article was “Report: RI income inequality in first years of recovery worse than national average.”
The global economy is in the tubes primarily because the expectations of growth and the activities taken to stimulate growth are the problems, not the solutions.  The growing inequality in Rhode Island is a symptom of an economy gone off the rails and floundering.
An economy based on debt does require growth just to pay everyone off each year.  But an economy based on debt requiring that growth is guaranteed to destroy the ecosystems that feed it and create massive poverty.  As ecosystem depletion starts to undermine the economy the rich create laws and customs like obesiance to the business climate that funnel an ever greater share of the wealth into their pockets, which weakens the economy further, and speeds up the damage to the poor and the environment.  It is only by actually repaying our debt to the planet by healing ecosystems and taking strong steps to reduce inequality such as raising taxes on the wealthy to pay for upgrades to infrastructure that reduce our carbon footprint and improve our food security, that we shall be able to create prosperous Rhode Island communities.


2 thoughts on “2/20/14 2 short essays

  1. I always appreciate a macroscale look at things now and then, so thanks.
    Though in basic agreement, a few points: we may tend to underestimate the resilience of capitalism to deal with problems, even crises, I remember some folks thinking in the 1960s that further growth would not be possible, and my father told me how many thought capitlaism was a goner in the 1930s. The poverty-environment-military connection is important, but perhaps its more nuanced, there are societies that tackled poverty while maintaining a military (e.g. South Korea, western Europe generally) or debasing their environment (China?) And a factor missing in the UN and in the essay is population growth, still skyrocketing at over 80 million people every year (another billion in about 12 years) which impacts efforts on both poverty and environment.

  2. Comment from Barry Schiller

    I don’t have much disagreement though I do think population as a
    “trailing” idnicator is feel-good optimism, providing and promoting
    access to family planning has to be done as part of an anti-poverty
    program (sometimes, as in China, even done first) for it to succeed.
    For example, no way to end poverty in Egypt without tackling its high
    growth rate (and no tackling its high growth rate without tackling its

    But left right and center are reluctant to take on the religious
    zealots, ethnic spokesmen, and booster economists who want ever
    expanding markets (and a labor force big enough to drive down wages).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.