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VT Law School Professor Calls For "Revolution," New Political and Economic Order

October 7, 2011

Gus Speth loves his country. He also thinks it's dying and that a revolution is the only way to save it.

"There's still hope, but it's time for civil disobedience," the Vermont Law School professor said.

Image of Gus SpethSpeth, a founder of the modern environmental movement, declared his passion for the United States on Thursday at the start of his three-part lecture series titled "America, Rising to Its Dream: Charting Passage from Today's Decline to Tomorrow's Rebirth." But he also declared the United States an empire rotting from within, plagued by worsening rates of poverty, disease, infant mortality, crime, poor student performance, pollution and nearly every other index of well being.

"I love this country, but I'm profoundly angry" at how it's been neglected, he said.

Speth blamed America's decline on politicians, corporations and military leaders whom he said are obsessed with profit, power, consumerism and the mistaken belief that economic growth and military might are marks of well being. The current economic crisis and high unemployment are exacerbating a growing income gap between the rich and poor, fueling health, social and environmental problems, he said. U.S. military spending now exceeds the rest of the world combined, draining trillions of dollars a year that could be invested in jobs, public health, clean air and water, education and other areas, he said.

America's economy and political system are collapsing because they failed to build on the principles of the New Deal and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from the Roosevelt and post-World War II era, he said.

"Instead, we unleashed ruthless corporate, consumerist capitalism," he said. "The United States has changed from a democracy to a plutocracy and corporatocracy."

Image of US flagSpeth said the solution to America's woes is a social movement that creates a new economic and political system-"a new American dream" based not on growth but on a progressive platform of fairness, justice, sustainability, peace, well being and living in harmony with the planet. He said the current system can't be fixed and that "transformative change" is needed to create a new democratic order-"not yesterday's socialism or today's capitalism."

Speth said recent protests against a proposed major oil sands pipeline and Wall Street could be the start of a citizens movement that prompts widespread social reform. "It all comes down to the American people coming together to fight for real democracy and devotion to the public good, not private interests," he said.

Speth's lecture series, which is based on his upcoming book, will continue Oct. 20 and Nov. 3 at the Chase Community Center on VLS's campus. Click here for more information.

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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