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Crisis and Opportunity

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16 October 2008, 6:08 AM

The late Dan Luten was sneakily brilliant, somewhat iconoclastic, and possibly a maverick had that word not been so debased lately. In his fifties, he left a job as a chemist with Shell Oil to teach geography at Cal and became deeply involved in conservation. He served on the board of Friends of the Earth, which is how I got to know him pretty well.

One bon mot he tossed off that stuck with me was, "The country does not exist to serve its economy."

He was twitting powers that be and hitting back at "what's good for General Motors is good for the country," and "the business of America is business," I think, but in fact, given events of the past weeks and months, it appears that our current leadership believes quite the opposite from Dr. Luten.

I pretend no expertise in economic matters; I'm not at all sure I understand what's going on now. But it makes me deeply uneasy to think that service to the economy above all other concerns is what government should be all about.

And one other thing: today's (Oct. 13) paper carries a story that the economic crisis may make it more difficult to combat global warming. I tend to think it's all of a piece and that smart minds should be able to turn this crisis into an opportunity to change all sorts of things for the better. Just a thought.

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