FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Nature Can’t Wait

by Mikhail Gorbachev

The second Earth Summit has opened. The fact that over 100 heads of state and government decided to come to Johannesburg indicates that they are worried. But that is not enough. There is an immense distance between worry and practical deeds. Worry was already expressed a decade ago in Rio de Janeiro. But where do we stand today?

Looking back at the events of the past decade, I feel great anxiety and disappointment. It seemed to many of us that the end of the Cold War, symbolized by the fall of the Berlin Wall, would at last allow mankind to look into the future with hope. It seemed that the world community, relieved of the fear of a nuclear war, of ideological confrontation, would start moving along the path of stable development, take urgent actions to combat poverty and disastrous environmental pollution and change the character of globalization by including in it notions like solidarity, human rights and freedom of the individual. Regretfully, this chance was used insufficiently, to say the least.

Mankind lags behind the demands of the time. Celebrations of the demise of communism have lasted a bit too long and people lost sight of the complexity of the world, of its problems and contradictions. Poverty and backwardness were forgotten and outstanding environmental problems were pushed to the backwoods of public consciousness.

The events of September 11, 2001, showed that the idea of a mono-polar world is untenable. Even the most powerful nation in the world appeared to be powerless before the threat of international terrorism. It only remains to hope that this monstrous event will mark the end of illusions, of that false philosophy of a mono-polar world produced after the end of the Cold War and the break-up of the USSR.

The Johannesburg summit should become a turning point; it cannot be limited to admission that a danger exists, but practical actions should be taken without delay to bring about sustainable development. If the present leaders fail to do that, if they fail to define the goals and provide required resources, then, I am afraid, the very idea of convocating such forums will be finally discredited.

When the world communist system fell to pieces, the famous French oceanologist Jacques Ives Cousteau said the greatest harm to nature had been caused not by communism but by the market economy, for which every thing has its price but nothing is of value.

I am not calling for a return to communism, but I am inclined to agree with Cousteau. The impending environmental crisis has shown that the use of purely economic criteria (profitability, return of invested capital) does not allow us to meet the environmental challenge. The market cannot assess what the greatest value will be for people in one hundred years. How can one calculate the market value of the beauty of a lake or of a snow-capped mountain? Who will calculate the expediency of saving “useless” wild animals or hundreds of species of insects?

I remember a talk I had with former U.S. State Secretary George Schultz in 1992. We spoke all night. I told him, “You Americans want to export your way of life everywhere. But you consume 44 percent of the world’s electric power. If other countries start living by your standards, all reserves on the globe will be exhausted within a few years.”

Today, ten years later, the situation has not improved. Nearly one billion people suffer from starvation, while every fourth person in the U.S. suffers from obesity. Can’t people understand that it is a paradox?

Do we realize how abnormal it is that, of the 36 million people having AIDS, 23 million live in Africa? Or that the number of telephone lines in Tokyo is the same as in the whole of Africa? Or that 130 million children do not go even to elementary school? In Botswana today life expectancy is 41 years. Meanwhile aid to the poor is decreasing.

In essence responsibility for this rests with the present leaders. The first challenge that they will be unable to evade is the need to preserve peace, to put an end to so-called local conflicts, to prevent bleeding spots from spreading on the globe. Among those involved in such conflicts are also countries possessing nuclear or chemical arms.

The world community should be at one in the struggle against terrorism which can never be justified. The second challenge is combating poverty in the world. How can the “golden billion” of the lucky ones be happy while half of the world population suffers? The third challenge is the environmental problem. It is obvious that climatic changes are underway in the world today, that the number of natural disasters, typhoons, floods and droughts is increasing. Hundreds of species of plants and animals are disappearing, glaciers are melting and the ocean is being exhausted.

The three challenges are closely inter-related. Unless we are united in the struggle against war, we will not be able to stick together for saving our planet. Life on Earth can become merely an ephemeral episode in the history of the Universe. That is why we should learn to think in a new way. We need a new order based on justice and equality and not on benefits alone. Nature is giving us distress signals. Time has come to heed them. The Johannesburg summit cannot become a “Rio + 0”. Nature cannot wait any longer.

 

More articles by:
May 31, 2016
Miguel A. Cruz-Díaz
Imperial Blues: On Whitewashing Dictatorship in the 21st Century
Vijay Prashad
Stoking the Fires: Trump and His Legions
Patrick Howlett-Martin
Libya: How to Bring Down a Nation
Uri Avnery
What Happened to Netanyahu?
Corey Payne
Reentry Through Resistance: Détente with Cuba was Accomplished Through Resistance and Solidarity, Not Imperial Benevolence
Bill Quigley
From Tehran to Atlanta: Social Justice Lawyer Azadeh Shahshahani’s Fight for Human Rights
Manuel E. Yepe
Trump, Sanders and the Exhaustion of a Political Model
Bruce Lerro
“Network” 40 Years Later: Capitalism in Retrospect and Prospect and Elite Politics Today
Robert Hunziker
Chile’s Robocops
Aidan O'Brien
What’ll It be Folks: Xenophobia or Genocide?
Binoy Kampmark
Emailgate: the Clinton Spin Doctors In Action
Colin Todhunter
The Unique Risks of GM Crops: Science Trumps PR, Fraud and Smear Campaigns
Dave Welsh
Jessica Williams, 29: Another Black Woman Gunned Down By Police
Gary Leupp
Rules for TV News Anchors, on Memorial Day and Every Day
May 30, 2016
Ron Jacobs
The State of the Left: Many Movements, Too Many Goals?
James Abourezk
The Intricacies of Language
Porfirio Quintano
Hillary, Honduras, and the Murder of My Friend Berta
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes on ISIS are Reducing Their Cities to Ruins
Uri Avnery
The Center Doesn’t Hold
Raouf Halaby
The Sailors of the USS Liberty: They, Too, Deserve to Be Honored
Rodrigue Tremblay
Barack Obama’s Legacy: What Happened?
Matt Peppe
Just the Facts: The Speech Obama Should Have Given at Hiroshima
Deborah James
Trade Pacts and Deregulation: Latest Leaks Reveal Core Problem with TISA
Michael Donnelly
Still Wavy After All These Years: Flower Geezer Turns 80
Ralph Nader
The Funny Business of Farm Credit
Paul Craig Roberts
Memorial Day and the Glorification of Past Wars
Colin Todhunter
From Albrecht to Monsanto: A System Not Run for the Public Good Can Never Serve the Public Good
Rivera Sun
White Rose Begins Leaflet Campaigns June 1942
Tom H. Hastings
Field Report from the Dick Cheney Hunting Instruction Manual
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail