James Gustave "Gus" Speth, is the Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. Dean of the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, and Sara Shallenberger Brown Professor in the Practice of Environmental Policy
From 1993 to 1999, Dean Speth served as administrator of the United Nations Development Programme and chair of the UN Development Group. Prior to his service at the UN, he was founder and president of the World Resources Insti-tute; professor of law at Georgetown University; chairman of the U.S. Council on Environmental Quality; and senior attorney and cofounder, Natural Resources Defense Council.
Throughout his career, Dean Speth has provided leadership and entrepreneurial initiatives to many task forces and committees whose roles have been to combat environmental degradation, including the President’s Task Force on Global Resources and Environment; the Western Hemisphere Dialogue on Environment and Development; and the National Commission on the Environment. Among his awards are the National Wildlife Federation’s Resources Defense Award, the Natural Resources Council of America’s Barbara Swain Award of Honor, a 1997 Special Recognition Award from the Society for International Development, the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Environmental Law Institute, and the Blue Planet Prize. Publications include The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability, Red Sky at Morning: America and the Crisis of the Global Environment; Worlds Apart: Globalization and the Environment; and articles in Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, Environmental Science and Technology, the Columbia Journal World of Business, and other journals and books.
Question: What inspired you to write "The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability"?
Gus Speth: Real concern. Two things came together. One is that I spent a lot of time looking at the environmental trends and conditions. This is something that you can do in an academic environment, you have time to go reflect. And I've been in this field since 1970 and I thought I'd look back and see how we were doing. And what I found was that we're really-- despite this growing strength in the environmental community, the growing sophistication, the growing number of groups, here we find ourselves 40 years later on the verge of losing the planet, of really ruining this place for our children and grandchildren. The data point in the wrong directions. So that was one thing, the other conclusion that I came to, part of that, really, is that the way we are going about environmentalism, in our country today, is not going to suffice. We could double the efforts of the types of things that we do now in mainstream environmentalism and it would improve things marginally, but it would not carry the day, would not win where we need to win.