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Donella Meadows' Posts

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Waiting for WTO

The high priests of free trade are getting nervous. Corporate and government officials from the 134 nations that belong to the World Trade Organization (WTO) have long planned to meet in Seattle at the end of this month to negotiate the next round of global trade rules. Now they discover that thousands of angry citizens will be there too, to suggest, not politely, that workers and farmers and communities and the environment ought be represented. Seattle: Space for activists to needle the powers-that-be. Jeffrey Garten, a former undersecretary of commerce in the Clinton administration, writes in Business Week: "In late …

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Don't Smell the Flowers

The more the agribusiness folks mess about with transplanted genes and toxic chemicals and irradiation, the better the market for local, fresh, organic, un-messed-about-with foods. When it comes to things we're going to put into our mouths, things that are literally going to become us, we consumers are cautious, and rightly so. But what about crops we don't eat? What, for example, about flowers? Whether we grow our own or buy them in a shop, need we care whether they carry pesticide residues or genes from a fish? Does it make sense to buy or grow organic flowers? Potentially dangerous …

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An American reflects on the problem of poverty

Almost 30 years ago I returned from a long stay in India with my mind, body, and senses full of dust and color, peace and violence, holiness and crassness, all the contradictions of a land so different from my own. I thought I would remember always the faces of the villagers. I was pained by the enormous gulf between the quality and quantity of their food and homes and possessions and the food and homes and possessions to which I returned. A house in the suburbs. But experiences, no matter how powerful, fade. The messy, mind-boggling, raw reality of India …

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What Happened to You, Al Gore?

If you live in New Hampshire in the months before a presidential primary, you can't help but get engulfed. Big politicians roll into small towns. TV trucks with satellite dishes squat in the few parking places. Self-absorbed people in suits pace village greens, shouting into cell phones. All this week, as Dartmouth College geared up for candidates' "town meetings" and Hanover descended into chaos, my friends and neighbors were thinking about, talking about, rehearsing the questions they would ask the presidential aspirants. Made me think what I would ask. My burning question, I discovered as I mulled it over, is …

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Children of the Corn

News about genetically engineered crops breaks so fast that it's hard to keep up. For those who look upon biotech foods with suspicion, much of the latest news is surprisingly good. The companies who splice strange genes into our corn and potatoes and soybeans are pushing their products so recklessly that they are alarming not only environmentalists and consumers, but also farmers, supermarket chains, baby-food makers, and investors. They are going to have to slow down. Field of bad dreams? Photo by Warren Gretz, NREL/PIX. But one bit of news is disturbing. Since the Europeans and Japanese are refusing to …

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Facing the Music

Of all the tragic characters in Greek myths, the one who gives me the most shivers is Cassandra. The god Apollo gave her a wonderful gift -- the ability to foretell the future -- then followed it up with a terrible curse -- no one would ever believe her. I can just imagine Cassandra, standing there inside the walls of Troy, yelling, "No, no, whatever you do, don't haul that big wooden horse in here!" Wanna buy it? Now a friend of mine has written a book called Believing Cassandra. (I have to acknowledge a strong positive bias for this …

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The Deep Six

Months ago, the United Nations decided to make an event out of the fact that the human population meter would soon click over another billion. They picked an arbitrary date -- October 12 -- and declared it the Day of 6 Billion. What kind of event should this be? A day of repentance? A celebration? In a world of soundbites, what's the right tone here? Six billion, oh woe? Six billion, yippee? Six billion. But who's counting? My guess is that "oh woe" will rule the day. That's how we're used to talking about ourselves. Overpopulation, population bomb, population explosion, …

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Shining a Light on Dark Corners of the Budget Process

I don't know any other way to stop the ugly, destructive, sneaky, greedy, immoral, undemocratic goings-on in the dark corners of the congressional budget process, except to keep shining bright lights on them. This is time of year when it is decided how your and my tax dollars get spent, supposedly for our public welfare, but far too often for the private welfare of a few powerful people and corporations who are not only raiding the public treasury, but, worse, eating into the nation's environmental and natural wealth. To help shine a light, I'd like to pass on the kind …

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All We Are Saying Is Give Peace a Chance

Recently I invited friends around the world to ask their friends and neighbors a simple question: "What would the world be like if it were what you really want, not what you've learned to settle for or what you think is possible? What do you really want the world to be like for your children and grandchildren?" As the responses came in, I kept track of the nationality, age, gender, and economic status of each respondent. Finally I stopped doing that, because there were no differences. Nearly all of us highly varied people want the same kind of world, though …

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If the Government Says It's Safe, It's Safe, Right?

The folks who bring us gene-spliced soybeans, corn, potatoes, and other foods like to make a point of the U.S. government's approval of their products. The feds OK'd it. That must mean biotech foods are safe, right? Right. Sure. This is the government that declared DDT safe and thalidomide and DES and dozens of other drugs, additives, and pesticides that were banned only after they had done grievous harm. Given that history, why should we trust the government? Take, for example, the current controversy about endocrine disrupters, the class of chemicals that mimic or block the action of the body's …

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