Cartoon - climate

During the Sustainable Waco Conference this week, various models of “going green” were debated. Two environmental models deserve a closer look.

The first is Gaia. The Earth’s biosphere itself a living system in which humans require the complete system to continue. Its relevance became evident during my recent trip to Ecuador, which has embedded the rights of nature into its Constitution of 2008. Rather than treating nature as property to be exploited for corporate profit, the natural environment is now legally guaranteed these rights as a living system:

1. Nature in all its life forms has the inherent right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles so necessary to biological life, including our own;

2. Ecuadorian citizens have the legal authority to enforce these rights on behalf of ecosystems. When abused, the ecosystem itself can be named as the legal defendant. And in recent decades, Ecuador has experienced unprecedented improvement of many sectors of its environment.

In direct contrast to the Gaia approach is one that treats the environment as an exploitable commodity. Corporations such as Koch Industries exemplify this. In fact, Koch Industries earned the “number one position in producing toxic wastes in the United States” in 2012, per “Dark Money” by Jane Mayer. The firm not only systematically abused the environment, but falsified pollution figures resulting in a record-setting fine of $30 million. In recent years, Charles and David Koch have spent more than ExxonMobil in funding studies to question man-made climate change, according to the DeSmogBlog website. Nevertheless, their own studies offer evidence of anthropogenic climate change, as Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon noted at Monday’s local conference in an article by Tribune-Herald staff writer Brooke Crum.

More broadly, the Koch brothers have not only engaged in practices that undermine sustainability but have also “stealthily leveraged their vast fortune to exert outsized influence over American politics” so that their ill-adapted ways may continue, Mayer writes. Their aim is to maintain established order, in which a few profit at the expense of the environment.

“Dark Koch money” has found its way into many colleges and universities, including Baylor University (see a list of supported colleges on the Charles Koch Foundation website). The Koch strategy is to take over curriculum, fields of study and faculty hiring, and to use the classroom “primarily as recruitment grounds” for advancing their antiquated agenda, according to the UnKoch My Campus website, citing the Kochs’ Association of Private Enterprise Education.

As brought out in the Waco conference, and integral to Gaia, solar and wind are unlimited renewable energy sources that are clearly less expensive than the oil extraction of Koch Industries. Ecuador is an exemplary model and a positive force in recognizing and dealing with climate change.

Waco is currently afforded a chance to boldly charter a sustainable future with new technologies and ideas. I believe the city of Waco and its residents are up to the challenge.

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John Fox served as a Professor of Anthropology, Chair of International Studies and member of the central administration of an American university in the Persian Gulf. He was senior author of “Globalization and the Gulf,” among other books and articles.