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Ear to the Ground

Activist Spells Out Our Great Shame

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Posted on Aug 22, 2011
Flickr / Ryan Vaarsi

Gus Speth, environmental lawyer, former Clinton adviser and founder of the Washington, D.C.-based World Resources Institute, who was arrested Sunday at the White House while protesting a proposed oil pipeline, has some bad news for American optimists: “… Most of America’s problems will get worse or, at best, will continue to fester more or less as they currently are for the foreseeable future.”

Not convinced? Read through this list of 25 leading measures of social, environmental and economic well-being, on which the United States ranks at or near the bottom compared to 19 of its peers. —ARK

Gus Speth at Solutions:

To our great shame, among the 20 major advanced countries America now has

• the highest poverty rate, both generally and for children;
• the greatest inequality of incomes;
• the lowest government spending as a percentage of GDP on social programs for the disadvantaged;

yet accompanied by the highest

• prevalence of mental health problems;
• portion of people going without health care due to cost;
• consumption of antidepressants per capita;

along with ...

• the lowest score on the World Economic Forum’s environmental performance index (except for Belgium), and the largest ecological footprint per capita (except for Belgium and Denmark);
• the highest military spending as a portion of GDP;
• and the largest prison population per capita.

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johnnyfarout's avatar

By johnnyfarout, August 23, 2011 at 9:03 am Link to this comment

When we know more, we see more dangers, and now we know that we are all in danger at once. We have seen this great sweeping away coming since we were kids and were told to hide under our desks so as to survive the atomic blasts. Soon after that, we all understood that the desk was no shelter and that the enemies who would do this were all around us, and talked darkness with subtle forked tongues, while we supposedly talked lightness and true reality with a single moist and smooth natural muscle that would lick the future. We see as alpha dog New Americans who have tech-science-eyes in the sky media, which distribute disturbing information about all the others we have to watch constantly, who are liars and destroyers on our christian planet of capital accumulation. It only took our one survivalist baby boomer generation to have this gauzy veil fall from our eyes. So much deviousness and contrivance has been set in motion, that the “new ways” have shattered the mountains and poisoned the waters and changed the colors of the skies by pumping out life inhibiting abstractions and binding them up in thick cords of regimented ignorance, fear, and faux wisdom. We don’t work hard for everyone nowadays; we work hard to be lonely losers. In America, we are instructed to have pity even for the winners, as their burden is said to be greater, as if it was a religion we labor in: the care of mammon. The hands reaching down from the Temple steps, these days, are there to take; radiohead voices speak of the need at the top to have more of it all so as to do the good hard job of mammon. Since we are spirits first and humans second, we can see and know that we are near to moving on en masse. Like the revelators of the olde times, we should bear our burden of the flesh with grace as it all rearranges and we see what is truly ours to have, is already within us, as all else is floating to the bottom of the seas along with our tangled wrecked ship. Sharing and joining is the last teachers’ assignment as we swim this final lap of miraculous life. All else is the whole of the one law. Do as thou wilt. Hail Eris! All hail Discordia!

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tropicgirl's avatar

By tropicgirl, August 23, 2011 at 5:20 am Link to this comment

You can’t take these environmentalists seriously anymore since they fell for the Gore-Global-Warming-Tax-On-The-World.

Its over. Environmentalism is now rotten at the core, itself, like everything else, sponsored.

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prisnersdilema's avatar

By prisnersdilema, August 22, 2011 at 8:49 pm Link to this comment

And more than likely there aren’t enough people not on Zoloft to make a difference
about anything anymore…

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THX 1133 is not in the movie...'s avatar

By THX 1133 is not in the movie..., August 22, 2011 at 8:10 pm Link to this comment

Well, that’s unexpected. wink

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, August 22, 2011 at 6:43 pm Link to this comment

RHONDA, August 22 at 3:13 pm:

‘Like raja1031, my concerns are met with anger, annoyance and glaring contempt.  “Why can’t I just lighten up and do something fun?”’

Actually, organizing for revolution, at least the nonviolent kind, is lots of fun.  It’s the mainstreamers who suffer because they are not only the victims and targets of an abusive system, they think they’re supposed to believe in it.

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zonth_zonth's avatar

By zonth_zonth, August 22, 2011 at 4:16 pm Link to this comment

The american and somewhat global rhetoric of continued “Growth” as “Progress” are the root of unsustainability. These concepts have become Providence.

Only De-Growth will achieve some sort of equilibrium.

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By berniem, August 22, 2011 at 3:58 pm Link to this comment

As the great Yogi once put it, “The future sure ain’t what it used to be”! This country is terminally ill and all of the flag waving, bible thumping, Patriot-acting, apple pie eating, and/or Chevy driving is not going to cure it! For those currently in power and swilling at the expense of the rest of us, an accounting is coming! Oh, and you wonderful conservative, bigoted, and moronic folks out there who think ‘cause your “right” and white that you’ll somehow make it to the top when the trickle down express finally pulls in, well, I hope you like surprises. Of course, I’m sure you’ll run to “Faux” News to see which scapegoat to blame for your troubles. It’s a lot easier than blaming yourself for your greed and stupidity!

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By RHONDA, August 22, 2011 at 3:13 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Like raja1031, my concerns are met with anger,
annoyance and glaring contempt.  “Why can’t I just
lighten up and do something fun?”  It’s all about
distraction.  “Get a new fun phone!”  When I mention
social justice, nothing registers.  Except I do have
one intelligent and thoughtful daughter in college who
gets the picture.  And she was raised in near poverty
because I’ve been disabled by an illness (which I did
not cause) for 25 years.  And, yes, social programs
made all the difference in our lives.

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By raja1031, August 22, 2011 at 1:56 pm Link to this comment

I’ve been watching the decay of this country for 30 years and commenting on it from time to time.  All the patriots here in AZ reacted to my criticisms as just so much tripe from an “oh so negative, pessimistic person.”  I also got a lot of ” if you can’t say somtething nice, shutup’  bullshit.  And of course the old standby, “if you don’t like it so much move to _______”.  The U.S.is on it’s way to becoming a “banana republic” 21st century style.  Instead of being controlled by one banana corporation, we’ll be controlled by a syndicate of them.  But hey—-not to worry—-Willard M Romney, the great populist, assures us that all will turn out hunky dory because corporations are just good ole folks, just people like the rest of us.  Surely that wiil be great comfort as you contemplate the time to come when you line up at the office for your weekly allotment of bananas and water voucher.

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Billy Pilgrim's avatar

By Billy Pilgrim, August 22, 2011 at 1:10 pm Link to this comment

U.S.A!!!!

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By mominomaha, August 22, 2011 at 11:01 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Sadly our fiat currency has enriched those at the top like the federal reserve connected bankers, the financial firms on Wall St, and the connected Politicians in power while devaluing our dollar to buy pennies on the original dollar’s value.
If we are a capitalist economy, you could fool Congress who seems to think a capitalist economy can grow if fed DEBT.. nope.. it needs capital.

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By John Sullivan, August 22, 2011 at 10:59 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“Duh…winning.”—Charlie Sheen

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By Robert, August 22, 2011 at 10:40 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’ve believed for some time that the current order of things was probably beyond the point where it could turn.

I suppose one of the major worries is about the kind of movement fills the void, once the phoney debate between “left vs. right” is proven to be the scam that it is. How long will the powerful be able to divide the public with their campaigns built on misinformation, social stereotypes and racism (e.g. “hey poor White folks, your problem is poor Black and Latino folks….um….not the rich Goldman Sacs crooks on wall street”).

While there is opportunity for great change, the opportunity for extremism is also great. In this respect, I think I remain even less optimistic than Mr. Speth.

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