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Speth Unveils Blueprint For "New America"

November 4, 2011

The road to the apocalypse isn't necessarily a dead end.

So says Vermont Law School Professor Gus Speth, a founder of the modern environmental movement who in a recent lecture series at VLS brutally indicted what he called an American plutocracy dominated by greed, money and power.

Image of Gus SpethBut at his third and final lecture on Nov. 3, Speth concluded it isn't too late for a populist uprising to install a democracy fueled by a sustainable economy, peace, income equality, justice and respect for the environment. The lectures were drawn from Speth's upcoming book to be published next year.

"A successful America is still possible," he said.

Speth said the United States was drowning in poverty, pollution and most other indexes of well being. He blamed politicians and corporations obsessed with profit, power and relentless economic growth.

He called for a new political system and a progressive form of capitalism devoted to sustainable jobs, public health, clean air and water, education and other areas of well being. "Devotion to the public good and human solidarity, not private interests," he said.

Such a system will only come about through a grassroots movement and civil disobedience, which may already have begun with efforts by Occupy Wall Street, MoveOn.org, American Dream Movement, 350.org, World Social Forum and other progressive groups, he said.

He said transformative change will require struggle. "'Power concedes nothing without a demand,'" he said, quoting Frederick Douglass.

Speth laid out 10 goals for a new America:

• A reformed voting system in which citizens are automatically registered to vote when they turn 18, Election Day is a national holiday and a National Elections Commission ensures voting integrity.
• A Constitutional amendment to directly elect the President or require that states give all their electoral votes to the top popular vote getter.
• Primary elections open to all parties and candidates.
• No more gerrymandering.
• A break up of the two-party monopoly.
• An end to filibusters in Congress.
• Campaign finance reform.
• A Constitutional amendment to deprive corporations of "personhood" and require shareholder approval of corporate political donations.
• All candidates have equal access to the media.
• Restrictions on lobbyists, including no campaign fundraising or bundled contributions.

Speth, who joined VLS in 2010, is a former dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, administrator of the U.N. Development Programme, chair of the U.N. Development Group, founder of the World Resources Institute and co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

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