Today the U.S. Supreme Court largely upheld Obama’s healthcare law — perhaps you’ve heard? We asked some smart people what they think it means for sustainability, democracy, and America. Here follows our first batch of responses (and a second batch is here).

Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved and other books

Although Wall Street seems to be punishing the decision with a sell-off, the health-care sector has been buoyed by the Supreme Court. All stocks are up (except drug companies). Now that the insurance industry knows it’ll have a multi-billion-dollar market of mandatory customers, the industry won’t have to spend all that money to buy a different political decision, and it never has to worry about single-payer health care again. And that’s the tragedy of the debate around the health-care plan. In all the noise around this ruling, we can’t hear the voices demanding a cheaper, better system that dispenses with insurance corporations. The U.S. already spends more per capita than any other country for worse care. The ruling entrenches a bad system. The media circus drowns out discussion of a better one.

Terry Tempest Williams, author of When Women Were Birds and other books

As an American citizen who has been engaged fully in medical issues throughout my family’s history of cancer and illness, many of whom are not insured, this is a bow to those of us who look for a government that exercises compassionate leadership.  People are suffering.  They cannot pay their bills, let alone medical bills, hence they go untreated or compromise their health in the name of economic necessity.  Finances come first, health comes second. Short-term gain that yields long-term consequences.

The Supreme Court today acknowledged that Obamacare is a step forward in fixing a broken system that too often favors insurance companies and pharmaceuticals, rather than “We, the people.” Good news. And a surprise, regarding Justice Roberts: a small hairline crack of hope in the activist conservative court.