Your Strategic Demands editor is looking back this week. The first human vision of the whole Earth, from Apollo 8, in many ways, changed how we see ourselves and our perception of our roles and responsibilities. Now, as the US shifts toward old ways of business and politics, we look forward again toward new vistas
An Evolving Paradigm of Sustainable Economic Development
I was recently asked when and how I first became involved in political endeavors that dealt with the “big picture”. I explained in reply that a young candidate for Congressional office in East Los Angeles accepted my offer, as a high school student who was debating nuclear issues of the Cuban Missile Crisis era, that if he would assist me in compiling my preparation that I would “bike around the neighbor” and put his campaign signs out in public spaces.
The deal was made and, to my great luck, our first agreement led to an over thirty year close political relationship.
George E. Brown would go on to be a leader in Congress, a visionary and a man who saw the big picture and big science and led efforts to achieve some of the greatest accomplishments of our time as the modern environmental movement was set in motion.
The foundation was put in place and my mentor and later on, my friend and cohort, worked tirelessly to create and defend programs, from the first federal Climate study initiative that he was responsible for authoring, to EPA, and Landsat, from the national labs oversight to re-thinking how we should prioritize the nation’s spending on productive ventures, including the earth science missions of NASA and NOAA.
I salute George and his generation of forward-looking political activists committed to leaving the world a better place. Here’s to George Brown, and my friend Jerry Brown, and to ‘Moonbeam’ types who are grounded, realistic and looking to the horizon of opportunities.
Recently, I wrote a short remembrance to the early days of our work together.
Here it is, from GreenPolicy360:
SJS / Siterunner: In the mid-1970s, continuing what became a thirty plus year professional relationship with Congressman George E. Brown, I began to advocate developing a paradigm (ala Thomas Kuhn’s definition of the scientific term) that extended environmental security concepts coming out of the student and environmental movement of the 1960s.
In the 1970s, I was a young editor at a NY publishing and printing company (Faculty Press) and at nights I was immersed in a History of Ideas / Political Economy program at the Graduate Faculty of the New School, the New School for Social Research. Hannah Arendt was there when I arrived in the city and her reputation and the university’s reputation as a “University in Exile” originally having attracted some of the top European liberal scholars in the world spoke to me of deep thinking.
Professors like Robert Heilbroner and David Gordon opened new vistas of thought.
In 1976 I worked with Jerry Brown’s presidential campaign and during this period the Governor became nationally known for his forward thinking (some, like Mike Royko in Chicago thought the Governor was a little too forward and ribbed him until years later Mike and most others saw the success of Governor’s Brown’s ‘out in front’ ideas.)
I took years reading the classics in economics, political science, philosophy.
Over the 70s and 80s Congressman Brown and I spoke often. We met in Washington DC regularly and, as a trained scientist/engineer, he continued as a strong voice in the science community to be focused intently on an array of environmental issues. The question of ‘real security’ not illusory security was at the core of our thinking and ‘deep’ environmental challenges were at the center of a new foundation of environmental legislation. The Congressman and our allies were successfully shaping the first generation of environment laws and we were envisioning and achieving multiple goals in these endeavors.
Academically, a “deep ecology” was forming as a “school of thought” but this was more of a thread (in my opinion) than a deep current capturing the a more diverse, multi-dimension body of knowledge, belief and vision.
In the early 1990s I worked as a senior adviser with Jerry Brown in his presidential campaign, drafting an insurgent platform and bringing it forward and advocating a change in direction for the Democratic party, a “peace dividend”, a focus on worker/environmental standards, a move away from dominance of ‘money-in-politics’ to a new type of populist politics. It wasn’t to be although our campaign surprised and succeeded in its own way — and so I moved on…
My drafting of the founding national Green Platform began after the 1992 Brown campaign platform and your siterunner chose to ‘go independent’ and build a serious, credible Green Party, first in New Mexico and then a formal, legal Green national party.
The concept of ‘eco-nomics’ advanced in my work.
My writing and political ventures explored eco-strategic ideas, a new concept of political economy and sustainability as I discussed it with George, and Jerry, and associates in many arenas. At the time, as a member of the Writers Guild and immersed in movie-making, bringing serious themes to the big screen, I wanted to go beyond Hollywood and a writer with whom I was working, Stirling Silliphant, urged me to leave the city if I wanted to do “serious writing.” So, after much thought, in the late 1980s I moved from the beach in Santa Monica and Pacific Palisades to the high desert, to Santa Fe, a town named after St. Francis of Assisi. I lived on Camino del Monte Sol, under Sun Mountain, across from a Monastery and the campus of St. John’s College. I became an adviser to the President of St. John’s College as we attempted to fund and build a new library and sought, at first successfully the archives of Robert Hutchins and the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions as a core collection, then had to go back on our agreement when we were outvoted by the college’s Annapolis directors.
My writing began every morning as monks chanted in the near distance and, in some ways, my original work reflected Bear & Company thoughts of that time as with Charlene Spretnak’s “Spiritual Dimensions of Green Politics” and Matthew Fox were brought together with science that was revealing gathering threats to “the Commons”.
The result was a more developed body of thought and work, “New Definitions of Security”, and over the years these new definitions have expanded into security studies (as with Strategic Demands) and security briefs (as with Strategic Demands of the 21st Century: A New Vision for a New World, from conferences (Surviving Victory) to political platforms as foundations for presidential campaigning, Jerry Brown’s in 1992, and on to the founding a new political party, the Greens in 2000.
The time for “Eco-nomics” is here and now. Let us explore new visions of security running deep with diversity.
“Eco-nomics” for the 21st Century
- A Necessary Challenge to Neoliberal Economics
- Turning from Short-Term to Long-Term Thinking