I was recently introduced to the following paper, written by Louie Davis for his “Elder Hostel” students on June 26th,1988. Elderhostel – now called “Road Scholars” http://www.roadscholar.org/ – provides continued ‘travel education’, offering a wide range of subjects and geographical areas. (It could be that these travel educational voyages are a bit similar to the new trend of expeditionary, as opposed to classroom learning https://carolkeiter.wordpress.com/2012/05/17/hitchabout-san-francisco_expeditionary_learning). My parents participated numerous times through the years with courses on various subjects, which they’ve valued greatly. It was pointed out to me how strikingly relevant the content of Davis’s paper is, considering it was written in 1988, because many of the issues are facing all of us currently. Davis writes about the decline of the U.S., and the ways in which America rose to power through a series of “Great Steals”. He wrote about issues which he’d researched thoroughly, providing accurate and frighteningly prescient details. He describes problematic situations which were recognized then, which ironically affect our contemporary population now in 2012, and the various mechanisms people (still use) to avoid dealing with an issue. I believe it would be worth everyone’s time to read this, particularly as a presidential election hovers before us. I have typed his paper word-for-word, with the addition of a comma here and there.
Due to the fact that our American two-party system is buttressed by corporate interests and lobbying groups, with each continually rivaling each other, this system continually obstructs progress and any chance of moving in ‘healthy’ directions. I propose developing a (non-partisan) international panel, to oversee with ‘checks and balances’, programs and operations taking place globally. This would be instituted to hold all nations, and their citizens, accountable for shifting production towards building renewable energy and facilitating jobs which move the world in the direction delineated by Davis at the conclusion of his paper. Ironically, this idea was already created, it’s called the United Nations. However, it has become clear that the UN is by no means an egalitarian organization, equally representing each of the different member countries. Rather, it tilts towards the weight of those countries with more wealth and power. Is a non-partisan, incorruptible panel – not tainted by the pressure of corporate greed – possible? Please let me know.
Louie Davis’s letter June, 26 1988:
I received so many expressions of regret that I did not get to finish what I had to say in that last class about current events and the “Relative” Decline of the U.S., that I thought that I would take a few moments to outline my thoughts on that subject.
I do indeed believe that the nation is going into (already in) a decline, relative or not. The following remarks will indicate why I think that we are going into a decline and why I am pessimistic about our ability to reverse it.
I have sometimes characterized the wealth of our nation as being derived from a number of “Great Steals”.
The first Great Steal was the taking, with near genocidal action, of the land from the Indians. I have however been happy that I was not born south of the Rio Grande where the killing of the native population was so much greater, at least in the early years of Spanish rule.
The second Great Steal was the way in which farming methods developed that rapidly destroyed the productivity of the land. Almost simultaneously with the destruction of the land in the eastern colonies was the stealing of black labor from their homelands in Africa. Of course as one studies the history of farming in the USA, one finds that it was not until the dawning of this century that any thought at all was given to conservation of land, and certainly not forest lands. The people of South America, and elsewhere, who are now engaged in the rapid destruction of the rain forests, have a good example through the actions of their earlier North American neighbors.
When I was a CCC boy in Kansas (’36 to ’39), we were facing the destruction of the “bread basket of the world” by dust storms. We, the CCC boys, planted millions of trees along roads and field boundaries to slow down that destruction by providing wind breaks. Those wind breaks have now been largely cut down and plowed up to provide ever larger fields for ever heavier machinery, as ever larger corporations acquired the land for giant nonoculture farming [According to wikipedia; nonoculture is an ecological environment lacking in biodiversity or foundation species, defined as a bastardization of the word monoculture.] (P.S. The dust is blowing again).
Right now the great Ogallalah aquifer, in Kansas and Nebraska, is on the way to being pumped dry to provide water to support corn farming, which supports giant beef growing operations. Which incidentally cause massive pollution of the rivers. The game, and point of discussion, in places like the Kansas legislature is how to so control the drilling of additional wells to make sure that those who have already invested large sums in such operations, recover their investment by the time the water runs out and forces the farms back to dryland wheat farming.
This raping of the land was not confined to farmland. The forests were first burned to provide open land to farm between the Great Plains and the Atlantic. With the expanding population, whole states were clear cut and then fires raged uncontrolled, sweeping over vast areas.
As I mentioned, during the Civil war, skills were developed that provided the know how necessary to organize great operations. Those operations were geared to make money by the fastest possible way. The heads of those operations are commonly called “Robber Barons”.
The U.S. became a nation based on the consumption of raw material. During that time, a practice which haunts us even today in the setting of railroad tariffs, came into being. In order to aid the extractive industries, the cost of shipping raw materials, was (and still is) set lower than the cost of shipping finished materials. Today that practice mitigates against the use of recycled materials. The last time I checked, raw sand for bottle factories could be shipped more cheaply than crushed bottles.
The Third Great Steal is being practiced today on a scale too great for most of us to comprehend even if we wanted to do so. The third great steal is very simple: we are stealing the future of our children and grandchildren. In order to pay for the material things for which we have so much desire, and the military buildup that we are told that we must have, we are finding ourselves in the ultimately destructive position of selling the real estate and securities of the U.S.A. to foreign investors. That which we do not sell immediately, is in a great sense mortgaged.
I have read that one securities house in Japan now holds one third of the debt of the US federal government. (At this point let me urge you to read a fiction story called “The Panic of ’89” by Erdman. It will grab you.) One of the reasons that the U.S.A. is hated by the Central Americans is that they were held in commercial fiefdomship by American companies such as United Fruit. In much the same way, we are already beginning to hate Japan, but we owe our souls to the company (Japanese) store.
One has only to look at the sad state of American manufacturing to note the real effects of our decline. Not only are many countries producing goods cheaper than we are, but they are also producing them better. Even if Japanese cars are produced in the U.S.A., they are perceived to be better built than identical ones bearing American names, built in the same factory, which will sell in the U.S. for higher prices than the identical American named models. In a high tech business, American computer chip manufacturing companies complained that Japanese companies were dumping chips in the U.S. at unreasonably low prices. So an anti-dumping order was promulgated. The prices were trebled and the result was that the American companies could not match the import quality, and right now there is a shortage of those chips on the American market awaiting better American quality.
Much of the blame for such troubles can be laid at the door of American CEO’s. For example, GE got out of many engineering and manufacturing businesses because Jack Welch said “that is not the kind of business I want to be in”. In the process, he laid off 132,000 employees and became a giant financial, insurance and leasing operation. (Perhaps I should note: he laid off 131,999 and me.) During that time GE was paying no federal taxes. Reagan believed lowering taxes on giant corporations would give them resources to generate new products and hire more employees.
It is easy for us to look back and note the destruction of the environment by our forebears. The present destruction that is going on is viewed in a number of ways.
Way 1) It is not happening, at least we must do a few years and a few million (or more) dollars of scientific research to prove that it is going on. The damage to our environment due to acid rain is a case in point. The Reagan administration has steadfastly refused to acknowledge that acid rain is harming our environment. Years ago even when I was in high school, I was taught that the man-made acid in the rain was a recognized destroyer of marble art works and of limestone buildings and structures such as bridges.
Way 2) It is just a theory. For years, scientists have been concerned about the so called “greenhouse effect” that quite likely will destroy the climate as we know it. The problem here, is that we all are the problem and we can not bear to blame ourselves. We cannot blame the problem on a set of robber barons, they merely supply us with the things we want, which either burn fossil fuels or were manufactured by the use of fossil fuels. Scientists are getting more positive with every passing month that we are moving into the opening years of the “greenhouse effect”. I have recently read that, yes indeed, the ocean is starting to rise, the glaciers are receding and the world wide data on temperature indicates that 1987 was a record setter for being a warm earth. Indications are that the decade of the 1980’s may well be the hottest decade on record.
The problem is that the green house effect is the result of the dumping of billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The varying concentration of carbon dioxide is a much easier thing to measure than the change in temperature of the earth. Of course, there are those who will argue that the case is not yet certain. Perhaps the oceans will suddenly develop a greater capability of absorbing the excess carbon dioxide than it seems to have.
How great a risk do we want to take that our great Midwest will turn into a desert and prime farm land will be pushed north into Canada and the USSR?
Should we be starting NOW to develop sustainable, renewable energy supplies?
Way 3) We think it is happening. A corollary to the green house effect is the loss of the ozone layer. The ozone layer is necessary to absorb the ultra violet light radiated by the sun, before it strikes the surface of the earth. There has been a lot of talk about the danger to humans from skin cancer due to the extra UV in the sun if the ozone layer is badly depleted. There has been little talk of the greater threat to non human forms of life, both plant and animal. How will we screen the UV from the fields of plants that are the primary source of our food? The problem is that we want the things that the CFC’s are used in, such as air conditioners, or to help to make such items as foam food trays at the butcher shop. Since the chlorine in the CFC’s act as catalyst to break down the ozone, the amount of chlorine already in the stratosphere will stay there for many years destroying the ozone. Only time will tell how close to the brink, or how far over the brink we already are.
I hope that the U.S.A. will see the giant problems facing us in the present and near future and once again call upon sufficient organizational skills, finances and engineering genius to stave off the really grim elements of the future and again demonstrate that we are and can be #1.
WE MUST START THE EDUCATIONAL STEPS IN THE SCHOOLS, IN THE UNIVERSITIES AND IN THE MEDIA TO RE-EDUCATE THE AVERAGE AMERICAN THAT WE CAN AND MUST BECOME TECHNOLOGICALLY COMPETITIVE IN MANUFACTURING.
WE MUST ELIMINATE TO A VERY GREAT EXTENT THE USE OF FOSSIL FUELS.
WE MUST START NOW MANUFACTURING AND PUTTING IN PLACE SOLAR, WIND, LOW HEAD HYDRO, PASSIVE HEATING AND COOLING, HIGHER EFFICIENCY IN ALL OF OUR MACHINERY, APPLIANCES, CARS, HOMES, OFFICES, ETC.
How can a nation burdened with a backbreaking debt, both public and private, hope to turn the situation around? Being by nature a pessimist, unless I see some reason for hope, I doubt that we can avoid a continual decline into disaster. I am not at all convinced that a nation which prides itself on never responding until a full blown crisis has developed, can make the adjustments to move back into the position of leadership which we have enjoyed. I doubt that we will be able to so change our habits and our lives [in order to] avoid the natural disasters which the U.S.A., with it’s unlimited appetite for an easy good life, always taking the quick way to self gratification has/will help to bring on. I see no indication in the attitude of our voters that we will ever vote in a government that can call a spade a spade and get the unified support of the people.
In closing, I would appreciate rebuttals, additions, comments, praises or condemnations from all who have had the patience to read this through.
-.-.-.–.-.- End to Louie Davis’s letter June, 26 1988 -.-.-.-.-.-.-
Those Who Don’t Learn from History are Destined to Repeat It
350.org attempt to educate people presently, about the need to reduce the number of particles per million of CO2 to 350 million.
Here’s an article that I was just alerted to, regarding tapping into offshore wind turbines to power the East coast. http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/09/15/13864179-power-east-coast-via-wind-doable-with-144000-offshore-turbines-study-says “There’s zero fuel costs once they’re in the water,” he said. “Coal and gas are depletable resources, so their cost will inevitably go up over time. The cost of wind energy will remain stable, and the wind resource is infinite.”
United States of Amnesia