A Point/Counterpoint on the Earth Charter

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The Usual Suspects
By Ellis Rexwood Curry IV

Libertarians oppose the Earth Charter Community Summit to be held Sept. 29 in Tampa and worldwide.

It will be the usual suspects: eco-statists calling for worldwide socialist policies to control everyone (and his/her reproduction) in order to "Save Mother Earth." They will never call for less government and more capitalism, despite the irrational childbirths and economic underproduction fostered by welfare, entitlements, subsidies, and other freebies of socialism.

Cuba, Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, China and other socialist countries have demonstrated that the Malthusian theory is manifested only in socialist economies. The problem is not overuse of resources; rather it is the underproduction for which socialism is notorious. "Dwindling resources" and "overpopulation" are the buzz-words statists use to excuse socialism's failure, to justify yet more socialism, and to blame the entire population with the ominous whine, "there's too many of you — that's the problem."

Eco-freaks adore statists like Paul Erlich. That socialist has-been and author has inadvertently demonstrated the environmental superiority of capitalism over socialism through decades of humiliatingly inaccurate predictions of the Earth's impending demise. The United States would be like Eastern Europe, the former U.S.S.R., Cuba and China if Erlich, the eco-freaks and their supporters had been followed.

The only overpopulation that exists is an overpopulation of eco-freaks and other socialists. There are too many people in the world who think there are too many people in the world.

Statist policies confiscate, redistribute and exhaust more wealth than they produce. A collectivist approach to natural resources leads to the "tragedy of the commons": overuse of resources held in common. As libertarians and objectivists say, the world needs zero socialism growth, not zero population growth.

It's no surprise that the color of a healthy environment and the color of money are the same. The best environments are capitalist environments. Capitalism, to increase profits, always seeks to increase efficiency in the use of resources to maximize productive results. Capitalism always seeks to increase profits by lowering costs through reduced wastes or byproducts (meaningful conservation). Capitalism also seeks increased profits by producing more resources and new, substitute materials. The highest standards of living and the cleanest air, water and resources are in the more capitalist countries that recognize and protect private property rights.

Ellis Rexwood Curry IV is a member of the Libertarian Party and a lawyer. He can be reached at [email protected] A Shift in Worldview By Jan Roberts

I am saddened that the Earth Charter's (EC) vision for building a more compassionate, peaceful, just and sustainable world is so opposed by Mr. Curry. But I'm not surprised. The Earth Charter is about a fundamental shift in the way we — especially those of us in Western cultures — see ourselves, one another and the rest of life. It is the first international document that says human beings are an integral part of the web of life — not dominant over it. This shift brings out fears about the loss of individualism, freedom and independence. So EC opponents strike back saying that the EC is written by "socialists and eco-freaks."

In truth, the EC was written by thousands of people ranging from business people to poor villagers in 75 countries over the course of 12 years. The EC asks us to balance our individualism with our interconnection and interdependence with other people, nature, and the planet itself. Until now, we in Western cultures have emphasized the worldview of individualism, which results in stunning creativity and achievements in science and industry but leaves us with anxiety and disconnection from one another. Eric Eisenberg, University of South Florida Chair of Communications, says that we believe we are born "into the world" with boundaries that separate us from others and protect us, while indigenous peoples and people of Eastern cultures believe they are born "out of the world" into a web of socially meaningful relationships.

The EC asks us to put these two worldviews into balance to reflect the basis of life — the integrity of the individual within the greater whole. We are interdependent with nature and the rest of the world, and for some like Mr. Curry, this is a frightening thought because it means we have to widen our circles of caring and acknowledge that what we do does affect others.

Is the EC a socialist document? No, it is not. Its core value of the interdependence of life means that we must commit ourselves to care about the quality of life being experienced by all because what affects one of us does affect all of us. Two billion people live on less than a dollar a day, and we must care about them. The EC does not tell us how to do that — what safety nets or creative strategies we must use. It simply says that the poor are part of humanity and we must address their needs. Does that mean we must wipe out capitalism? No, but the EC does say that businesses must put people and the environment before profit. With 20 percent of the people in capitalist nations using 80 percent of the world's resources, we must do things differently. These notions may strike fear in the heart of Mr. Curry but to many more of us, the Earth Charter gives hope that we are not alone in wanting a more caring, just and sustainable world.

Jan Roberts is president and founder of the Institute for Ethics and Meaning and one of the principle organizers of the Earth Charter Summit in Tampa.

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