This is the text of my intended speech at today’s live Campaign Launch webcast. Technical difficulties caused us to lose my connection mid-speech. So not all of this was heard today. I’ll record the entire speech and post it very soon. For now, you can view a replay of our launch webcast here, seeing most of the speech, and the rest of the good content, including a good Q&A session. That was possible once I connected back into the webcast via phone.
I’m here for your children, your grandchildren, all the children of the world, and all life on Earth. Let me explain. I’m pretty sure no one has ever been elected President on a promise of shrinking the economy. EVERY candidate has to promise robust economic growth to even be in the game. I’m just crazy enough to promise that – if elected – I will lead this nation down a path of economic – and population – contraction...to a very bright future!
“How can THAT be a bright future?” you might ask. Robust economic growth is the Holy Grail. It’s the ONE goal politicians and policymakers can agree on, the world over! Everyone assumes it’s a good thing. And everyone assumes it can just keep on going, in perpetuity. It’s what we call “an unexamined assumption.”
A growing number of us around the world – including some very smart scientists, and even a few economists – have been doing the needed examination, and reached an important conclusion: Continued growth of the global economy and population will leave our children a dead planet. There is no doubt. The mounting evidence is hard to miss. It’s time someone stood up and declared that the emperor has no clothes. A week doesn’t go by that we don’t see news headlines or another peer-reviewed scientific report telling us this. But they get brushed aside.
Now, good people are working on all those problems individually. But progress eludes us. Small gains end up being overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the human enterprise. Today’s global economy is over $100 trillion, powered by 8 billion people. We’re adding close to 80 million to that population every year. That’s like adding another Germany to the planet each year. And we’re insisting on growing that overshoot economy in perpetuity.
Scientists estimate that in 1972 – when world population was 3 billion, driving a $3 trillion economy – we crossed a threshold, from living WITHIN the planet’s means to exceeding it. So you can just imagine the kind of damage we’re doing with a population almost three times that size, powering an economy over 30 times the size.
This is called ecological overshoot. Overshoot means there are too many people consuming and polluting too much; we are using the living Earth faster than ecosystems can regenerate. Thousands of scientists have gotten together and issued several warnings about the consequences of this. It’s no wonder biologists can’t arrest mass extinction. No wonder agricultural scientists can’t feed the world without disrupting the climate, creating ocean dead zones, and pumping rivers, lakes and aquifers dry. And no wonder IPCC efforts couldn’t keep carbon dioxide levels under 350 or even 400 parts per million.
We’re not solving these existential crises, because we don’t see them as an emergency. We treat them with half-measures. We won’t attempt any solution that threatens economic growth. And if the direct, immediate financial cost of a solution is perceived as high, we reject it – while we ignore the externalized and long-term costs of inaction.
Our kids have one hope. And that is for us to stop rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, and turn the ship. We’ve got to scale back.
We’ll have a choice at the ballot in November 2024, but interestingly, one choice we don’t have is whether our economy and population contract. They are going to contract. It’s just a question of whether that will happen by design, or by disaster. If we don’t start on that path voluntarily, mother nature will put us on that path forcibly, and brutally. Being forced down that path, kicking and screaming, and not planning, will leave our kids – at best – a Mad Max world. And Mother Nature’s already begun the correction. That’s why the system is falling apart, and failing us in so many ways.
A year ago, it was beginning to look like the 2024 election was going to be a Biden-Trump rematch. And talk was that many voters were not happy with that choice. That started me thinking.
I’ve never had my sights set on the White House. But I have for years been wishing the policymakers in D.C. had a better grasp on reality. That we humans have outgrown our planet. That we simply cannot keep growing the global or national economy and population.
Now, many are not yet taking my candidacy seriously. I’ll admit, the odds of my being elected are very long. But because those odds are so long, I’m not even tempted to temper my position or soften my message to appeal to a certain voting block or donor class. I’m free to tell you the FULL truth. It’s very empowering!
In our early campaign planning, I felt our goal should just be to change the conversation – to alert and educate policymakers, journalists, and the public – about the overshoot emergency. We’d pull some policymakers further into 21st century thinking, and we might apply a little pressure for them to give this more attention. And maybe some elected leaders now or in the future would adopt some policies from our platform. I felt this was the best we could hope for.
But as we developed the platform, I came to realize one fundamental truth, a vote for any other presidential candidate is a vote for a dead planet. We don’t have decades for policymakers to come around. We don’t have decades for our culture to evolve and slowly mature out of its more, more, more phase. We’ve fiddled too long. Our kids deserve a bright future, and that’s going to require a rapid course correction.
So our goal today is not just to educate and inform. Our kids need the country to elect me. Just imagine: if that happens, it will be the headline of the century”! It will turn our nation upside down. And it will put all those business-as-usual policymakers on notice that the public is ready for real action. Jump into this parade, or get out of the way!
“But Dave,” you may be thinking, “if you DON’T win a majority of the vote, you could siphon needed votes from a major-party candidate and swing the election in the wrong direction. As we approach November, if polls show that I’m taking more votes away from the gangster candidate, or another candidate who will throw our children’s future under the bus, I’m good with that.
If polls show that I can’t win, and I’m taking more votes away from the Democratic candidate, I’ll drop out of the race and ask my supporters to vote for the Democrat. Now, let me be clear, a vote for either major-party candidate will still be a vote for a dead planet. It’s just that the Democrat will lead us into that Mad Max world just a tad more slowly, and with more integrity. But let’s stun them all, and elect the bright future candidate!
You might have noticed, there is a high degree of dissatisfaction in the world today. People have a lot to gripe about, and that dissatisfaction has made many voters seek an outsider, someone who will disrupt the system.
Just such an outsider was elected President in 2016. He didn’t turn out to be the outsider we needed. How about we try an outsider with some integrity, with a moral compass. Someone who genuinely has our kids’ best interest at heart? I’m not going to burn everything down. But I am going to turn our government, and our nation, upside down. If I’m elected, that will tell the world that the people of this nation want to do the right thing for our kids. On day one of my presidency, I’ll declare a national emergency. The country and the world are in ecological overshoot, and I’ll launch a national project to get the U.S. out of overshoot – and in so doing, lead the world in that direction.
When our nation entered World War Two, everyone got behind the war effort and did whatever it took. We rationed food and fuel. We retooled our factories overnight. Women went to work riveting airplanes. We planted “Victory Gardens” to grow our own food. We did things we would never do if it wasn’t an emergency. Our national overshoot project will be similar. It will be bipartisan, because ALL the politicians will be able to see which way the wind is blowing. (That’s a strong wind, if it gets an unknown political newcomer into the White House.)
In 1992, President George Bush, Sr. announced “the American way of life is not up for negotiation.” It is now. The “American Dream” got highjacked some time ago. It’s become all about more. We came to expect to make more money this year than last, to own more toys, to move up to a bigger house. And to expect our children will be materially better off than we are. At one time in our history, that was possible. But today, on a full planet, we can no longer expect that. We need to reclaim and redefine the American Dream. We must get back in touch with what really matters in life, and it’s not material wealth and possessions.
Less will be the new more. Less shopping, less waste, less pollution and emissions. Annie Leonard, famous for producing the short documentary, The Story of Stuff, recommends, “We must stop thinking of ourselves primarily as consumers, and start thinking and acting like citizens.” In fact, I want you to stop what you’re doing right now. Go to the window, put your head out, and shout, “I am not a consumer! I am a human being!”
But there will be MORE of a FEW things. Mike Nickerson, in his book Wealth, Money & Illusion, writes about things we value highly that don’t have a heavy footprint on the planet. He calls them the three L’s: Loving, Learning and Laughter. Let’s have more of them.
We’ll have time for those, because we’ll spend less time working. The national overshoot project will ask everyone to share their job, and work just half-time. I know that probably sounds scary, but we’ll all put our heads together and figure out how to make that work. The only other option? Dead Planet. I’ll be asking experts to help us chart that course.
We’ll also go on an energy diet. For years I’ve been championing renewable energy. I thought shifting from coal-and-oil to solar-and-wind were going to solve the climate crisis. But it turns out renewable energy is not the panacea we hoped for. Mining the resources needed is environmentally and socially devastating. The carbon footprint of scaling up our renewable energy infrastructure to power this overshoot economy would be game over for the climate.
Experts calculate we’d have to mine more metals and minerals over the next 30 years than have been dug up over the last 70,000, to build a “renewable” transition. Andrew Nikiforuk, a journalist covering the oil and gas industry, has written, “the global economy doesn’t have the metals, rare earth minerals, energy, time or money to make this transition, and we must consider other actions such as radical reductions in energy demand and material consumption.” So while we will endeavor to decarbonize our energy system, we must find ways to use much less energy of all types.
Contracting the economy and population will help with that, but my national overshoot project will put a lot of emphasis on finding ways to eliminate waste and adjust our lifestyles to require a lot less energy – a lot less coal, yes. A lot less oil and gas. But also less electricity from renewable sources. When you’re in an emergency, you ACT like it’s an emergency. So I won’t be hopping on Air Force One and flying across the world for face-to-face meetings. In-person meetings are great, but you give them up in an emergency. Did you know three additional 747s fly along with Air Force One on presidential junkets? Not going to happen on my watch.
Today, millions of American families have the television on for 8 hours and 14 minutes a day. That uses energy and has a carbon footprint. If we’ve declared an emergency and are all focused on a common goal of eliminating wasteful energy consumption, and cutting back everywhere we can, couldn’t those families get by with 2 hours? 2 hours multiplied by over 100 million families is something. In the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump each traveled over 200,000 miles on the campaign trail, most of that flying. In an emergency, wouldn’t they rethink that? I know I am.
This project is such a dramatic departure from business-as-usual, one might think I’m a closet socialist, or a holdover flower child. No. I’m just like you. I was chasing the American Dream. When I was in my thirties, if I saw a client or one of my peers driving a Mercedes, I thought, “Wow, that person must be very successful. I want to be that successful.” My dream was to move my family into a trophy house, a mcmansion that would telegraph that I had made it, I was successful.
Florence mentioned in her introduction that I had been a “corporate propagandist.” I was. As a filmmaker I produced spin for a multilevel marketing company to convince recruits that it wasn’t a pyramid scheme. I produced spin for a chemical company responsible for groundwater contamination. I produced a film for Enron. I shot a documentary about the first deep ocean mining experiment (a very ugly way to get metals for our electronics). I filmed early oilfield fracking demos. I didn’t question the ethics of any of these projects. I deposited the checks so I could feed my family. And eventually we moved into that trophy house. I was a typical American, a lot like many of you I would guess. Saving the Planet wasn’t on my mind. It wasn’t daily news.
Fast-forward a decade and I somehow got reacquainted with my conservation ethic. I started a nonprofit to raise money and produce a documentary about our culture’s unsustainable worship of growth everlasting. I stopped producing the corporate propaganda to focus on the GrowthBusters documentary. Throughout that project I never raised enough money to cover the cost of the film. Many months I paid myself nothing. In good times a little. I hadn’t realized I was signing up to become a starving documentary filmmaker. But that’s what I’d become. Each year I had to evaluate my lifestyle and look for more expenses I could cut. Goodbye country club. Goodbye family vacations in the Caribbean. Soon I was wearing clothes until they were completely frayed and REALLY worn out. And buying second-hand.
Does that sound like a miserable change to you? Well, it wasn’t! My life got better and better. I enjoyed doing work that really mattered, and I was finding true joy in life from spending TIME with my kids, not spending money. Today when I forego the car and get on my bike to ride to a meeting downtown, I enjoy the heck out it. The fresh air. The slow pace. No one tailgating me. Good exercise, too! But I’m far from perfect. I still have work to do to lighten my load on the planet even more than I have. And I invite you to join me on this journey. It will actually be easier for us to do that when there are many, many of us working together, all with the common goal of avoiding a Mad Max future for our kids.
It's been a good run. The human experiment went on a wild binge for two or three hundred years. We now know that there is no pot of gold at the end of the growth rainbow. THAT party’s over. Let’s start a new party now, that will bring more joy and happiness into our lives and give the children of the world a bright future.
Posted on 19 Sep 2023, 15:12 - Category: News