- The Social Venture Network
- The UN Commission on Sustainable Development
- Conference on American Spirit, Values and Power
Many of you know that I was recently in New York attending three
great back-to-back conferences on sustainability (or related topic),
including a UN session. Many also requested I give a synopsis of
what I learned, so I will give the main points and try to be succinct.
The three conferences were:
1. the Social Ventures Network annual conference on Creating a
Sustainable Future. They are a powerful group of people with their
own successful public interest organizations
2. The UN Commission on Sustainable Development, meeting for the
first time since the World Summit in Johannesburg. They met for
a week and a half at the UN Building in NY; I attended the first
week of this.
3. A conference on American Spirit, Values and Power, presented
by the Open Center of NY.
First of all, I want to let you know how many times I heard speakers
say, in one form or another--
"The bottom line is that it is much worse than it looks,and we
don't even have a strategy yet to create the alternative, let alone
have begun implementing it. This is in spite of the fact that we
do have blueprints for viable alternatives to our current system
and institutions. The top priority is all of us getting together
to come up with our strategy, and collaborate in creating the change."
Another way of saying this is that if we all continue to do what
we are doing, we are guaranteed of ending up with the corporate/military
state that we are rapidly heading towards.
Some of the featured presenters and their key points:
Robert Kennedy Jr. passionately told of the pathetic state of
the rivers in the US and of his amazing Water Keepers initiative
that is winning back the purity of the waters one river at a time.
Jerry Mander, president of the International Forum for Globalization,
said that it is flat out a war between corporate profits and the
common good, that the US is an empire in decline and is now desperate
to take whatever resources it can before giving way it's dominance
as the sole super power (like the Roman Empire in the final years).
Ralph Nader said people were giving up on themselves in resignation,
not organizing or motivated to demand justice. "We must come together
to align on cohesive agenda and policy."
He enumerated a six-point agenda for action:
1. Enable workers to own and control their own pension funds (the
largest single source of funds in the world). It is invested now
in many companies that have very low social responsibility records..
2. Reclaim the national public lands. It is now available to foreign
companies for drilling, mining, etc.
3. Reclaim the public air waves. The media belong to the people,
according to their charter's, but they are controlled by corporate
4. Stop corporate subsidies. Corporations and the military continue
their dominance of the national agenda helped by the tax money.
5. Stop corporate control of education. Corporate slanted news
and ads are increasingly gaining access to students in exchange
for funding of schools, where it should be coming from public funds,
and free expression is being suppressed.
6. Public control of public works. Again, corporations tend to
control them through the buyout of politicians with campaign contributions.
Bobby Muller said it most emphatically of all. Bobby is a disabled
Vietnam vet who took a bullet in the spine, and knows personally
the insanity of war. He has created his own veterans organization
for peace, and has interacted at high levels ever since. He was
screaming at us... "the Right has been planning their takeover for
decades, and we're not even on the game board yet."
At the UN conference, everyone was clear that we already had an
excellent agenda for what needs to happen globally and a good plan
of implementation. The problem facing us is how to make governments
accountable to what they have committed to at the Earth Summit in
Rio ('92), at the Millenium Summit (2000), and again at the World
Summit in Johannesburg last year. The US, of course, remains by
far the single largest "rogue nation," refusing to agree to most
of the major treaties concerned with sustainability: The Biodiversity
Convention, the Kyoto Protocol (global warming), the Intl. Criminal
Court, the Landmine Treaty, the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, the
Agreement on Children's Rights. It seems hard to imagine how we
could have any worse of a record!
Overall, I learned many things, confirmed many things, and made
excellent contacts. It's clear that we have a long way to go, that
we need to be concerned with the long-term, working patiently and
persistently to create the world we know is possible, where every
human and living thing is respected and given what they need to
flourish. Hope to see you at the gathering this weekend.