Donella Meadows

Donella H. Meadows (1941-2001) was an adjunct professor of environmental studies at Dartmouth College and director of the Sustainability Institute in Hartland, Vt.

Run of the Mill-ennium

When I was a kid I looked ahead to the date 2000, so unimaginably far away, with excitement. “Wow, I hope I live to see it! I wonder what it will be like! Imagine being around for the turn of a MILLENNIUM!” So now it’s here. By the grace of God I’ve lived to see it. What a disappointment. First of all, though the word is being shoved before our faces many times a day, hardly anyone seems to have learned to spell it. (Two L’s, two N’s — hey, it took me awhile to master that, too.) Then, of …

It's Everywhere You Want To Be

What do the Internet, Alcoholics Anonymous, and Visa International, the organization that brings us the Visa card, all have in common? You can find them just about anywhere on earth, that’s one common thing. They have not spread through unrelenting market push, like Coca-Cola. Rather they are pulled by demand, because they meet real needs very effectively. They serve their purposes successfully year after year without any obvious headquarters, no glittering center of power, no centralized command. No one owns any of them. Visa does $1.25 trillion worth of business a year, but you can’t buy a share of it. …

In Other Words …

A while ago I wrote a column full of solemn statements from august scientists and other wise persons, warning that we are trashing our planet at a sickening pace. The august persons didn’t say “trashing” or “sickening.” They spoke of “adverse consequences” and “significant geopolitical risk.” An Alert Reader (to steal a phrase from Dave Barry), a retired professor of French named Chuck Ferguson, who sees this column in the Central Maine Morning Sentinel, found it strange that folks should be yelling the equivalent of “PLANETARY FIRE!!!” in such unemotional, academic language. He was “inspired … to do some wildcat …

Such Stuff as Dreams Aren't Made On

My heartfelt advice to you: Never move. If you must move, never move to a place with lots of storage space, such as a farm full of old barns and sheds. If you must move to such a place, never move away from it. Guess what I’ve been doing for the last month? Right, moving from the farm where I’ve lived for 27 years. Processing literally tons of stuff, brought and deposited there not only by me, but by dozens of people who have shared the place with me over the years. Old tires. Rusty rolls of wire fencing. Piles …

Raking up the Rubble

All week I’ve been cringing at the news. Tear gas. Broken windows. Bloody faces. The National Guard called in to defend Seattle against anti-WTO demonstrators. From far away, totally in sympathy with the demonstrators, I’ve been yelling at them, “No, please, get hold of yourselves! Don’t tar our cause with violence!” Cops taking over the streets. Photo by Sherry Bosse. Of course only a tiny fraction of the protesters in Seattle were violent. The folks I know who went there are middle-aged, serious, professional. They conducted workshops and prepared well-reasoned press briefings. Their grievances are real and important to every …

The Battle in Seattle

Last month The Economist ran a frustrated editorial wondering why environmental groups would picket the upcoming World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting in Seattle. The headline read “Why Greens Should Love Trade.” Actually greens see no particular reason either to love or hate trade. They don’t share the religious beliefs of economists, who love trade as indiscriminately as they love growth. Greens are inclined to ask questions. What is being traded? For whose benefit? At whose expense? What are the full costs to workers, local communities, nature? When those questions are answered, some trade looks lovable, and some we would be …

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 …

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 …

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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