Author Hazel Henderson introduces James Gustave Speth:
Author James Gustave Speth is one of the most prominent, knowledgeable, global environmentalists of our time. A quintessential insider, Speth began as an anti-nuclear activist in the 1970s and later chaired President Jimmy Carter’s Council on Environmental Quality. In the 1980s, he founded and led the influential World Resources Institute in Washington, DC, and in the 1990s became the administrator of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). He promoted the understanding that global environmental sustainability rested on alleviating poverty, promoting human rights, economic and social justice, better education and health, stabilizing populations, expanding the rule of law, protecting our global commons and addressing conflicts with more diplomacy and fewer weapons.
Speth’s enlightened leadership at the UNDP promoted better metrics beyond GDP for measuring human development in their ubiquitous Human Development Reports and its index, which spawned similar approaches in regions and countries worldwide. Speth also focused the UN, the World Bank, IMF and international agencies on the need for good governance, transparency, reducing conflicts of interest, corruption, tax havens, all of which are now standards monitored and watched by NGOs including Transparency International, Amnesty International, Global Financial Integrity, Tax Justice Network, Development Alternatives, Human Rights Watch, Greenpeace, WWF and World Social Forum. By the 2000s, Speth became dean of Yale’s School of Forestry and is now a professor at Vermont University Law School, and on the board of the UN Foundation set up by media mogul Ted Turner.
Speth, finding his agenda blocked in the U.S.A., has now morphed into a protester, demonstrating against the XL Pipeline to export oil through the U.S.A. from Canada’s tar sands, for which cause Speth spent two nights in a Washington jail. He has become a prolific author: of America the Possible and earlier volumes. This book, based on voluminous global statistics, measures the decline of the U.S.A. by almost every international indicator of social and economic performance: from the rise of inequality, poverty, drug abuse, epidemics of chronic illness, obesity, incarceration, to crumbling infrastructure, rotting rust-belt cities, pollution of air and water, as well as failing education. All this malaise is contrasted with rising military and “security” budgets and bloated financial markets. Speth sees, as does Sheila Bair, Bull by the Horns – and Neil Barofksy, Bailout – the domination of politics and regulatory capture by the rising share of income and wealth of the top quartile and its richest 1%.