America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy

America the Possible: Manifesto for a

New Economy

by James Gustave Speth




In this lecture based on his book, America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy, Speth addresses the problems that we are facing today as a nation and as a globe. Beginning on the local and regional levels, Speth says that we must forge together to build a coherent, positive, and plausible America from the ground up. As he envisions what the future will look like, he is adamant that America the Possible can be achieved by first changing our culture, our values, and our consciousness in this country in order to move towards a new economy that prioritizes sustaining the well-being of people and the planet. 




James Gustave Speth graduated from Yale University in 1964, attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, and graduated from Yale Law School in 1969. He served in 1969 and 1970 as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black.

 A co-founder in 1970 of the Natural Resources Defense Council and a senior attorney there from 1970 to 1977, he was from 1977 to 1981 a member and then for two years Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality under President Carter. In 1981 and 1982 he taught environmental and constitutional law at Georgetown University Law Center.

 In 1982 he founded the World Resources Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based environmental think tank and was its president until January 1993. He served as a senior adviser to President-elect Bill Clinton's transition team, heading the group that examined the U.S. role in natural resources, energy, and the environment.

In 1991 Speth chaired a U.S. task force on international development and environmental security, which produced the report Partnership for Sustainable Development: A New U.S. Agenda. From 1993 to 1999 he was Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme; under Secretaries-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and Kofi Annan he served as Special Coordinator for Economic and Social Affairs and was also Chair of the United Nations Development Group.

In 1999 he became Dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, where he taught environmental policy. Since 2009, he has been teaching at Vermont Law School.

Speth’s most recent book is The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability.




Schumacher Center for a New Economics and James Gustave Speth