. . . and go out on a limb with an aspirational vision of what the country could be?
Already i'm being sickened by the political noise from both parties for the 2008 presidential election. When did campaigning become the sole raison d'etre for politicos? When did the desire to win at any cost overtake the altruistic desire to do something useful for the common good?
If you're a democrat or republican, don't answer that. I don't want a dogfight on my blog about who's right and who's wrong or about who has degraded and debased the political process more. Everyone has. Perhaps there are exceptions, but I'm not sure where to find them.
I see the USA at a crossroads. This country dominated the 20th century, albeit for a time in competition with communism and the USSR. But we've squandered political, moral, economic, educational and research leadership in the past 20 years. We don't have a purpose, and China is rapidly catching our tail, with a capitalistic fervor not seen anywhere in the world since the the mid 1800s in the USA. So what happens when they catch us in material wealth, and are able to use that to pass us in military power? What happens when we no longer have the strongest influence because we have neither the economic or military might, nor the manufacturing base or technology leadership?
We are also approaching crises in social security, balance of payments, a demographic vacuum (what happens when the boomers all want to downsize their houses, sell their stocks, and consume their savings at the same time?). And, most of all quality of life. We all live in this world, but the majority of us act like the mess we create doesn't matter -- it's someone else's responsibility to clean the air, unpollute the water, solve the traffic nightmare, deal with the waste products of consumption (how many realize that we are rapidly running out of places to dump garbage?), etc. Or maybe we just have our heads in the sand and figure there's nothing we can do about it.
Now is the Time to Change the Debate
Now, I'm no moaner, nor a finger pointer. But I will say that we lack leadership, vision and the will to address these issues, all of which are solvable if we put our minds to it. Not only that, they're solvable without necessarily reducing our standard of living or pillaging our savings or working 3 jobs to make ends meet.
What needs changing is the nature of political discourse. We need not be about left and right, but about having a mission and solving problems.
What do I mean by this?
A few years ago, I wrote a policy paper discussing how a focused effort to create an economy around Industrial Ecology could propel us back into a position of moral world leadership, high growth, higher standard of living and higher quality of life. This is by no means the only way that America could accomplish these goals, but it is an example of the kind of discussion we need to be having, and our politicians, academic and business leaders should be prioritizing these things on the front burner, rather than assuming that the populace is too stupid to understand. We are starved for ideas, and I believe that anyone who came forward and took the high ground could easily win -- the average man on the street so wants to hear positive ideas, rather than negative bickering.
So, given that suddenly I have a lot of traffic coming to my blog, I thought perhaps it would be apropos to post this paper and hope it gets into the right hands. Now, as I said, I will not allow this to become an us versus them debate, and I will moderate comments as a result. I'm happy to have a debate about the merit of these ideas, or other alternatives, but no name calling or rudeness please -- I'll delete it. Also, while most of these thoughts still apply, please forgive dated references.
Click on the image to go to the paper. Enjoy.
Oh, and by the way, if you're in the running for the presidency, for either party, and your chances of winning look pretty bleak, you've got absolutely nothing to lose. This is how to disrupt the process, and give yourself an opportunity to win from behind. Moreover, if you win, you'll get a clear mandate for change. If you lose, you'll still change the debate, and that's kind of like winning anyway.
Other relevant links
and a must-watch video:
Ray Anderson on Sustainability