John Podesta: Whistleblower For Biodiversity
“Human activity is destroying life on Earth on an unprecedented scale", yet Podesta doesn't mention the role that human population growth plays in the destruction
I was thrilled to read this recent February 2022 column by John Podesta titled, Biodiversity: The canary in the mine. In the post, Podesta takes his environmental rhetoric and recommendations to the wall, saying:
“Human activity is destroying life on Earth”
“The oncoming global collapse of the systems that supply our food, water, and clean air, of which biodiversity is the foundation, threatens to undermine human health, security, and general well-being.”
“Both the climate and biodiversity crises are driven by global systems that value profit over people, and the destruction of nature over its protection.”
“Addressing the biodiversity crisis in isolation and pretending it can be solved simply with more money and more protections, without transformative global behavioral and economic change forcing a close look at what we value and how we value it, will lead to failure.”
Having such honest and intense language coming from John Podesta is no small thing. His resume reads like, and he’s often considered to be, a principle architect of U.S. Democratic Party policy and leadership over the last 35 years. From when he was chief of staff for President Clinton in 1998, to a senior counsel for President Obama, and then campaign chair for Hilary Clinton for President, Podesta has been at or near the center of power in Washington D.C. for decades.
Finally, his founding and current chairmanship of the Center for American Progress (CAP) in D.C. — which is one of the main Democratic Party thinktanks — makes his call for protecting biodiversity likely to be read and considered by political powerbrokers across the spectrum. When Podesta calls for us to “radically re-evaluate nature in our economic thinking and actions”, it’s a big deal.
In many ways, Podesta isn’t actually whistleblowing at all, but harkening back to past Democrat presidents, administrations, and Party platforms from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1990s. Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, and Clinton all had fairly strong environmental records. As far back as 1961, President John F. Kennedy issued a “Special Message to Congress on Natural Resources” which partially harkened in the modern American environmental movement with sweeping calls for protecting natural areas and natural resources.
Further and importantly — as Podesta knows well because he served as chief of staff for President Clinton — the “President’s Council on Sustainable Development” created by President Clinton covered this ground thoroughly during Clinton’s presidency.
In 1993, President Clinton signed Executive Order 12852 creating the President’s Council on Sustainable Development which appointed scores of experts from industry, government and nonprofits, and worked for several years to arrive at 10 goals “essential to seek economic prosperity, environmental protection and social equity together.” The goals that specifically relate to Podesta’s February 2022 column are:
“Goal 1: Health And The Environment: Ensure that every person enjoys the benefits of clean air, clean water, and a healthy environment at home, at work, and at play.”
“Goal 4: Conservation Of Nature: Use, conserve, protect, and restore natural resources -- land, air, water, and biodiversity -- in ways that help ensure long-term social, economic, and environmental benefits for ourselves and future generations.”
“Goal 6: Sustainable Communities: Encourage people to work together to create healthy communities where natural and historic resources are preserved, jobs are available, sprawl is contained, neighborhoods are secure, education is lifelong, transportation and health care are accessible, and all citizens have opportunities to improve the quality of their lives.”
Finally, and to my critique of both Podesta’s column as well as his otherwise exceptional vision and leadership at the Center of American Progress, is the Clinton Commission’s:
“Goal 8: Population: Move toward stabilization of U.S. population.”
In fact, the Clinton Council warned that the “U.S. population is likely to reach 350 million by the year 2030; a level that would place even greater strain on our ability to increase prosperity, clean up pollution, alleviate congestion, manage sprawl, and reduce the overall consumption of resources.”
The Clinton Council’s prediction about the environmental impacts of rapid U.S. population growth — including on biodiversity — are eerie and dead right. That’s exactly where the U.S. is today at 330 million people while careening towards 350 million by 2030. If the U.S. would’ve followed the Clinton Council’s recommendations, Podesta’s “biodiversity crisis” may have been averted.
Podesta would be well served by re-reading the Clinton Council’s proceedings and then including a whistleblower call to address U.S. and global population growth to help stop the biodiversity crisis that threatens our species’ survival as well.