Local Leagues in New Mexico

LWVNM Sustainability Study, 2005-2007

At its May 2005 convention, League of Women Voters of New Mexico accepted a proposal for a two-year state study leading to a state position on sustainability. During the first year local Leagues considered whether such a position might have value. It was concluded that it was at least worth while to proceed with the second year of the study.

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2006-2007

For the second year of the study, we have drafted some consensus questions (PDF file of material that follows) with brief pros and cons for consideration by the local Leagues in New Mexico that might be considered as part of a sustainability position. The basic study guide remains the series of articles (PDF file) published in La Palabra during 2005. Links to the on-line references contained in these articles are found near the bottom of this page.

UNIT MEETINGS

CONSENSUS QUESTIONS

Introduction

Sustainability is defined as "meeting the needs of the current generation while not impairing the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." Should League support for any position or action be conditioned on its impact on sustainability?

PRO

Requiring that League support for positions and actions be conditioned on its impact on sustainability will ensure that the League does not inadvertently work against the long-term interests of society. It may also prompt a review of some existing positions. This should not be an onerous requirement.

CON

Implementation of this requirement will require a detailed consensus on what a sustainable society would look like. As many have pointed out, the usual definition, reproduced above, leaves so much to the discretion of the framer of any position or the proposer of any action that it is unlikely that any position or action of the League would fail this test.

Here are a couple of questions whose answers might help you decide whether such a statement would be appropriate.

Governance

Do LWVNM members believe that active, educated citizen participation in a democratically organized system of governance is essential for sustainability?

PRO

Of course. The League believes that citizen participation is essential for just about any progress, including moving towards sustainability. But its relevance to sustainability is particularly important. What we see happening currently is a drastic fall-off in citizen participation. Virtually all important decisions are left to elites and “experts” who often serve unsustainable economic and political ends, resulting in the diversion of resources to military uses, perpetual growth in economic production and consumption, privatization of social services such as education and health care, and the fragmentation of civil society.

CON

Of course. The League believes that citizen participation is essential for just about any progress, including moving towards sustainability. The League supports our existing, constitutionally mandated form of representative government. In this system, citizens delegate political authority to elected representatives. It is the job of these representatives to seek out and be guided by expert as well as popular opinion in developing solutions to complicated issues such as sustainability. As proposed, this statement adds nothing to the League's positions.

Here are some questions to help you decide how such a statement might be formulated.

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Natural Resources and Economic Development

Do LWVNM members believe that state economic policies and public finance should be more closely tied to the natural resource base of the economy?

PRO

This is perhaps the part of a sustainability position that would have the most immediate impact on League actions and positions. State government tends to accept advice from well-meaning but conventional financial and economic advisors, not all of whom recognize the limitations imposed by the semi-arid environment of New Mexico, for example. It is under continual pressure from developers, and its subsidies are not always reviewed critically from a long-term perspective. League positions are not unambiguous in many of these areas. A statement such as this would help clarify them.

CON

The League takes a national and international perspective. While local economic ventures that take advantage of the opportunities provided by our natural resources and stunning landscapes are of course desirable, it is much too restrictive to insist that our entire economy be based on these things. Currently, for example, military investment accounts for a very significant proportion of our economy; is the League proposing to discourage that? Isn’t it better to regulate the new dairy industry than simply tell them to go away? And while a carbon tax might eventually be desirable, right now there is no alternative to lengthy drives for people in this large state; reforms of this type would penalize our poorest citizens.

Here are some more questions that might help you decide:

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Social Policies

Do LWVNM members believe that social policies should equip all members of society to participate in and contribute to a sustainable society?

PRO

This is another "of course". The problems that we face are so enormous that they cannot be left to the "experts" to solve; their solution will require the participation of every citizen. We will need a new social contract that encourages, rather than discourages, citizens to contribute to all aspects of social and economic life. Education needs to explicitly foster the ecological systems thinking that will be needed to solve the problems that confront us.

CON

This is another "of course". Omit the words "a sustainable" and you have the League's current positions. Implementation of these existing positions would increase awareness of the changes needed to arrive at sustainability and enable people to work towards that goal.

Here are some things to think about:

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2005-2006

For the first year of this study, the proposed study question is:

Should LWVNM adopt a state sustainability position and/or principle?

Subsidiary questions that will be discussed during the first year include:

What should such a position/principle do for the League, in terms of supporting its educational and advocacy activities? In particular, are there statewide advocacy issues that could be supported using a new position or principle?

What would be the implications of such a position/principle for League positions and programs? For example, are there positions, such as our position on state finance, that could be updated based on such a position or principle?


The second year of the study will take place only if the consensus on this first question is affirmative, to be determined by the state board in the spring of 2006. In that case the second year of the study will be devoted to arriving at consensus on the wording of a sustainability position and/or principle.

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Handouts for unit meetings

A series of articles on the possibility of adopting sustainability as a position or as a guiding principle is appearing in the 2005 issues of the LWVNM newsletter La Palabra. You can download the package of all four articles here (PDF 176 KB) or individually below. The questions from these articles have been extracted on a one page handout (PDF 72 KB). A second handout consists of a list of pros and cons (PDF 72 KB) for the first-year question above.

Hard copies of the four articles and the questions are being made available to each League in advance of its unit meetings for those without access to the internet. However, this page provides easy access to the cited links as well as to other internet resources.

We have also prepared a questionnaire for the first year of the study. Copies should appear in your local newsletter, or you may download it here and return it to

League of Women Voters of Los Alamos
att: Sustainability Study
P.O. Box 158
Los Alamos, NM 87544

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Questions from the La Palabra articles

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Links

Articles from La Palabra:

Spring 2005: "Does LWVNM Need a New State Position on Sustainability?"

Summer 2005: "Living Within Our (Renewable) Means"

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Fall 2005: "Sustainability Requires an Economic Paradigm Shift"

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Winter 2005: "Sustainable democracies"

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Other sources:

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