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The American political scene is in dire need of Visionary Pragmatists. Related Gully Coverage

Why Republicans Need to Lose
Finding a center.

Nader's Vanishing Act
Is this the third party we need?

U.S. Election 2000
Posturers, panderers, pretenders, and special interests.

Nader and greens

Rallying Greens, Madison, Wisconsin. Gash

Election 2000

Greening the Democrats

by Kelly Cogswell

NOVEMBER 6, 2000. There were cries of dirty dealing when the Democrats embraced welfare reform and a balanced budget, pulling the rug out from under the Republican Dumbos. They should do it again, win or lose, this time co-opting the Green Party's magic carpet: environmental issues, and globalization concerns.

Why? Both because—whatever else you think of Nader—the issues he's raised are too important to leave marooned on the Greens' moral high ground. And because the American political scene is still in dire need of Visionary Pragmatists.

Global Warming: Trendy Scenario, or Real Threat?
As the trucking industry demands the Supreme Court set aside EPA air standards, and Presidential candidates mouth environmental platitudes, Britain has been suffering through its worst storm in a decade. Last week, rivers broke their banks flooding hundreds of homes, and washing away roads and train tracks. There were multiple tornadoes. In Yorkshire, the first blizzards of the winter coincided with flash floods. Electricity failed. And at least six people are dead.

This severe weather followed record rainfall in South East England in October and an exceptionally wet September—exactly the recipe for disastrous flooding predicted by scientists two years ago when looking at the potential effects of global warming on Britain.

Michael Meacher, the environment minister, wrote in The Guardian, "It would be foolish to pretend that every time extreme weather conditions occur, it is due to global warming. But the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme climate phenomena suggest that although global warming is certainly not the sole cause, it is very likely to be a major contributory factor."

Meacher then warned, "Climate change is not some trendy intellectual scenario for the distant future. It is with us now. It is therefore all the more remarkable that, during the recent fuel crisis, hardly anyone mentioned the environment."

The Environment's Economic Impact
Indeed, the developed world's rate of fossil fuel consumption leaves it not only economically vulnerable to the price and availability of crude oil, but also increases the likelihood of global warming disasters—in this century.

pollutionThe new report from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) substantially raises previous estimates to announce that if greenhouse emissions—the almost definite cause of global warming— are not curtailed, the earth's average surface temperatures could be expected to increase between 2.7 and nearly 11 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century.

Even now, there has already been an indisputable increase in global temperatures. Glaciers are retreating rapidly, while sea-ice and snow-covered areas have also significantly declined. The rise in sea levels has been 10 times greater in the last 100 years than the average rate over the last 3,000 years. The culprits: sulfate releases from industry, power plants, and, you guessed it, the automobile.

While a few scientists dispute which greenhouse gases are responsible for global warming, the conservative and prudent source of action is to take immediate steps now, based on what almost all scientists believe. The United States alone is creating 23 per cent of carbon emissions, with Britain matching the entire continent of Africa at 3 per cent. Which means the U.S. must assume a big share of the responsibility.

And not just for love of Mother Earth, or Fellow Man. Crudely put, these environmental disasters are expensive. They destabilize governments, undermine booming economies, thwart developing ones, and doom the non-existent. Big Business will be kissing their expanding markets good-bye.

The same can be said for unfettered globalization.

Pragmatic Visionaries
The dialogues about human rights and 'globalization' could use a few carrotty democratic pragmatists, in addition to the usual activist sticks.

The Grameen Bank's small loan program in Bangladesh proved that women's rights aren't just something you offer to appease feminists, they're the very basis for developing an economy. Democracy and human rights have been shown to create market stability. Sustainable development based on small businesses in which profits return to local economies instead of being drained out by huge multinationals, is as important in upstate New York as in El Salvador.

The World Bank's overzealous belt-tightening imposed on developing countries comes not only at the cost of basic human needs like food, shelter, jobs, medicine, but undermines democracy which undermines market stability.

The new objective of the Democrats, and the Republicans, too, for that matter, should be to move beyond the worn-out business versus people dichotomy, and imagine a "compassionate capitalism." Free from the traditional pieties of left, right, center, creative solutions may actually be found to intractable problems.

Related links:

For the Democratic National Committee.

For the Green Party's official site—beyond Nader.

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