By Donella Meadows
–October 5, 1995–
I should be writing about how the grinches in Congress are trying to eviscerate the Endangered Species Act, or about their latest tricks for stomping on the poor while handing the nation’s resources to the rich, or about their lack of interest in hearing public comment on these depredations.
But I get tired of being outraged. No matter how disgusting the spectacle I am witnessing, I can sustain outrage just so long. Then I have to avert my eyes and look around for something healthy to revive my soul.
So, after writing some scathing opening lines about atrocities in Washington, I gave up, looked around, and found in the pile of new books on my desk one called “Choosing our Future: Visions of a Sustainable World.”
It’s a collection of short statements by people from many countries, describing how they would like things to be in the year 2050. After the panderings of power-crazed politicians, I found amazing relief in the hopes of ordinary humanity. Guess what! The people quoted in this book do not dream of the information highway or the growth of corporations or the magical mystery machine of the free market. They don’t mention the capital gains tax or Star Wars or the freedom to buy the assault rifle of their choice. Their visions are more grounded, more important.
Here are just a few short excerpts of what they see, when they look into a future they really want:
Abdiel J. Adames, former Rector, University of Panama: “Central America constitutes a community of nations where peace rules, with all countries in the region having eliminated national armies. The region’s only militarized entity is under the control of the Organization of American States for the protection of the Panama Canal.”
Dr. B. Bowonder, engineer, Administrative Staff College of India: “The Indian subcontinent will be able to limit its population to 1.4 billion. This can be achieved through a comprehensive social program, including increases in female literacy, female participation in the labor force, access to public health services and family planning services. Our grandchildren will enjoy our natural heritage: tropical rainforests, wetlands, mangrove forests, and coral reefs.”
Marta Echavarria Uribe, Colombian Association of Sugar Cane Producers, “I hope for a Colombia where once again we may be able to go fishing at night. Going fishing at night presupposes access to free time, proximity to a healthy watershed, and the insurance of personal safety. It highlights the need for environmental awareness, to recognize the worth of our natural and social ecosystems.”
Liberty Mhlanga, general manager, Agriculture and Rural Development Authority, Zimbabwe: “Zimbabwe [would have] a multicultural society, comprising black, white, brown, and yellow people. This is an ideal setting for a rich socio-economic and cultural creation that pulls together the strengths from different societies.”
Florence Robinson, biology professor, Southern University in Baton Rouge: “The unemployment rate is less than 1 percent, and all jobs give those who hold them a sense of dignity. No one has to feel like less than anyone else because of the work he or she does. All jobs will fall within a fairly limited income range, so we won’t have neighborhoods of affluent people separate from that of so-called poor people. No youngster in America who is talented and wants a college education is denied it. People don’t live in huge ostentatious houses, but ones that are adequate for their needs, sound, and comfortable.”
Alex Steffen, freelance writer, Seattle: “Our streets will have been largely reclaimed from the automobile. Ours will be a city of weekend drivers of cars run on renewable energy. Almost everyone will live within walking distance of a pedestrian zone where they can shop for groceries, stop in for a beer at the tavern, visit the library or community center, stroll through the park, or catch a commuter train. Traffic-free areas will be the hubs around which cities turn, for we will have realized that walking builds community.”
Pauline Tangiora, Maori tribal elder, New Zealand: “Nuclear testing will stop. Dumping of the world’s waste into the Pacific will stop. Native timber will not be cleared to make room for exotic trees just because they can be harvested over a shorter period of time. Overfishing and the contamination of the sea and rivers must be stopped. Fish do not just happen.”
Eduardo J. Viola, political science professor, University of Brasilia: “In the Brazil of 2050 people are well fed. Food is produced through sustainable agriculture with biological insect control, soil and water conservation, and minimal use of chemical inputs. The population has been stabilized. Women and men share the same status. Preventive care forms the basis of the health-care system. Basic education is free and public. Teachers are well paid and highly regarded.”
People everywhere dream of peace, harmonious communities, environmental wholeness, and simple sufficiency. Leaders everywhere work hard to convince us that war is necessary, hatred is inevitable, the environment is a luxury, and there’s no such thing as enough.
Somewhere there’s a terrible disconnect.
“Choosing our Future: Visions of a Sustainable World” is edited by Tanvi Nagpal and Camilla Foltz and published by the World Resources Institute in Washington D.C..
Copyright Sustainability Institute 1995