Looking Back at the Future of America, From 2005

Former Colorado Gov. Richard D. Lamm predicts the environmental, economic future of America.

| January/February 1984

Ever since its inception, MOTHER EARTH NEWS has preached the importance of our preserving the unique planet on which we live and has stressed the inevitably dire results of failing to do so. This month, rather than going into the short-term economic consequences of our "over-consumption folly"; we're going to look at the topic from another perspective . . . namely, one that looks back on our current situation with the 20/20 hindsight of a person living in the future of America! 

The following excerpted address, given by Colorado's Governor Richard D. Lamm at the National Audubon convention last summer, pretends to actually have been delivered by "Secretary of the Interior" Lamm to the 100th anniversary celebration of that same conservation group in the year 2005. "Secretary" Lamm uses this future-view device in a tongue-in-cheek manner, but we think you'll find some real food for thought in the possibilities he presents. They serve as a further reminder of how important it is that all of us—individuals and nations alike—constantly cherish our connection with the earth and use resources that we can provide for ourselves on a sustainable basis. For this type of economic strength is truly the only secure one . . . for us and for our planet. 

I appreciate your invitation to address your convention and, as Secretary of the Interior, I am honored to be here in this momentous year to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the incorporation of the Audubon Society.

The President has sent me here to defend the record of this administration. We do not appreciate the strident and coercive criticism we are receiving from conservation groups in general or from this group specifically. The President is doing the best she can, and has asked me to come and respond to your criticisms. I sincerely believe this President is a dedicated environmentalist, unlike some predecessors in the Oval Office. Unfortunately, she does not have the choices that were available in the late 20th century. We do not believe you understand all the pressure on this administration as we enter the 21st century. We do not have the options they had back in the 1970s, the 1980s, or even the 1990s. We live in a world that is crowded, hungry, and in conflict. These matters demand your total attention.

Let me start by saying that I really do sympathize with your viewpoints, but you must try to understand some of the problems we have running a country of 430 million people, and dealing with a world that has over 6 billion people.

You and others have objected to the President's statement that "birds don't vote," comparing it to former President Reagan's statement that "if you've seen one redwood, you've seen them all." That is a tragically mistaken analogy. The President was acknowledging a political reality, not expressing a philosophical preference. Truly, birds don't vote—and in an overcrowded, chaotic world, if you don't vote or have a sponsor who votes, your political agendas are meaningless . . . . politics today is the science of accommodating people, not peregrines; of humans, not hummingbirds . . . .

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