Thursday, November 20, 2008

James Gustave Speth

James Gustave (“Gus”) Speth is dean of Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and was a cofounder of both the Natural Resources Defense Council and the World Resources Institute. His latest book is The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability (Yale University Press).

Earlier this year he contributed an entry to Writers Read.

From his interview with Melinda Tuhus for E / The Environmental Magazine:

E: Could you explain your main position in writing this book?

Speth: The essence of socialism is public ownership of the means of production, and I don’t think that’s the answer to the problems I’m raising, but neither is capitalism. We need to move beyond today’s capitalism and find a non-socialist alternative. That’s the door I’m trying to open with this book. It grew out of a sense that we’re approaching a calamitous situation on the environmental front. How could we have this paradox in which the environmental community—which I’ve been part of my whole life—gets stronger and more sophisticated, better funded, more members—and the environment continues to go downhill?”

E: What is your message to today’s environmental community?

Speth: Mainstream environmentalism is very incremental, it’s very wonkish in the sense that it’s very technical. But the problem is, it’s like swimming upstream—we get stronger and we think we’re going to master the current and make headway against the current, but the truth is the current is getting stronger faster than we are. The economy is growing very rapidly. The issues have outgrown us and we’re not making headway, and my guess is we never will with the current approach. That is, you won’t succeed working within the system when you need to change the system. So my urging to the environmental community is to step outside the system, to develop a more stinging, more in-depth critique and to begin to do some things which the environmental community hasn’t been willing to take on so far.
Read the complete inteview.

Read more about Speth's teaching, research, and publications at his Yale faculty webpage and visit The Bridge at the End of the World website.

Writers Read: James Gustave Speth.

--Marshal Zeringue