Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Book Cover
James Gustave Speth's new "America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy" is a seemingly perfect fit for a new blog on 'possibilities'. Speth, former UN Development Programme director, founder of World Resources Institute, former dean of the Yale School of Forestry, and many other influential positions over the past 40 years has written a tract that calls for 'progressives' to become more active and to reach out to other citizens to steer us away from the cliffs facing humanity. These are not the rhetorical 'fiscal cliff' but the ones that climate change and inequality are pushing us towards. As he has documented more thoroughly in his most recent books "Red Sky at Morning" and "Bridge at the Edge of the World", Speth chronicles our environmental challenges and couples it with a concurrent look at both the growing inequality and lack of real democracy that is shaping our growing plutocratic society.

But following the gloomy journal of woe, Speth turns to what might be possible if we would but come together to push for 'America the Possible'. He references many others who have offered ideas in each of the arenas he visits and gives directions to organizations and efforts working to reform the underlying economic, political, and environmental systems. His concerns have grown more desperate from his earlier works so that he fully supports Frederick Douglas' claim.

 "If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one or a physical one, or it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will."

Thus his manifesto for a new economy that weds the progressive interests in the environment, social and economic justice, and political involvement. This book won't make that happen, but those who read it may just get out of their armchairs more often to build America the Possible. His final chapter is entitled "The Movement" - it's a possibility, but only if we build it.