Pat Conover: Sharing the Journey
The Earth's Resources

Sunset Near West-aan-zee by Terschelling

George Bush Senior commented regarding the 1992 Environmental Summit on the use of Earth's Resources, "The American Way is non-negotiable." Let's treat this quote as a puzzle and ask, "How many things are wrong with this one quote?" The loser gets a trip to the strip mined Moon scape in Eastern Tennessee.

The easiest error is the sheer arrogance toward the rest of the world and the disregard for serious discussion by world leaders. But that let's us off too easy. Presidential arrogance is as much a symptom as a cause of underlying issues.

Bush Senior did not really mean the American way he meant the United States way. Lots of other leaders in the Americas have radically different points of view. Such insensitivity goes back at least to the Monroe doctrine, enforced by lots of nasty little wars and nasty intrigues by the CIA, as well as by the dictators we supported because they were more trustworthy than democracies. We are still living with the real troubles caused by such "real politics" in Colombia and elsewhere. But the issues are much bigger than our lusts for such things as Colombian oil, bigger than our herbicides to destroy drug crops with little regard for the children that are politely called collateral damage.

It is an error to suggest that the United States is not negotiating about environmental issues. The U.S. is negotiating all the time. All our trade agreements have environmental clauses and there have been running battles over whether such clauses should be strong or weak. Environmentalists have been losing those battles but there are signs that this may be changing.

Disregard for the environment is not the "way"of the United States if by "way" we mean the opinions and behavior of the people of the United States. One could quote opinion polls at this point but actions speak louder than words. From buying hybrid cars, to the growing success of recycling programs, to the reduction of littering going back to Lady Bird Johnson, there is lots of evidence that people are willing to change their behaviors to improve the environment.

Instead of looking for errors where should we look for the truth? Suppose we looked in prayer to the Creator. What should we be doing with this marvelous creation, with our gifts of life? It is when we think we have the freedom to do anything we want that we forget we are the created, that we have a place in creation because of the designs that have made our world and our lives possible. Starting from thankfulness, starting from caring, starting from the lures to meaning and grace and deep joy, we head towards an openness to responsibility, justice, and sharing that lead us toward shalom, towards the harmony that would let a lion lie down with a lamb. A Texas senator kept a poster in his office that said in effect, when a lion lies down with a lamb he wanted the United States to be the lion. When the leaders lack vision the people will perish. When the people have vision they can choose better leaders.

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