FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Nature Can’t Wait

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:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
July 19, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
The Blob Fought the Squad, and the Squad Won
Miguel A. Cruz-Díaz
It Was Never Just About the Chat: Ruminations on a Puerto Rican Revolution.
Anthony DiMaggio
System Capture 2020: The Role of the Upper-Class in Shaping Democratic Primary Politics
Andrew Levine
South Carolina Speaks for Whom?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Big Man, Pig Man
Bruce E. Levine
The Groundbreaking Public Health Study That Should Change U.S. Society—But Won’t
Evaggelos Vallianatos
How the Trump Administration is Eviscerating the Federal Government
Pete Dolack
All Seemed Possible When the Sandinistas Took Power 40 years Ago
Ramzy Baroud
Who Killed Oscar and Valeria: The Inconvenient History of the Refugee Crisis
Ron Jacobs
Dancing with Dr. Benway
Joseph Natoli
Gaming the Climate
Marshall Auerback
The Numbers are In, and Trump’s Tax Cuts are a Bust
Louisa Willcox
Wild Thoughts About the Wild Gallatin
Kenn Orphan
Stranger Things, Stranger Times
Mike Garrity
Environmentalists and Wilderness are Not the Timber Industry’s Big Problem
Helen Yaffe
Cuban Workers Celebrate Salary Rise From New Economic Measures
Brian Cloughley
What You Don’t Want to be in Trump’s America
David Underhill
The Inequality of Equal Pay
David Macaray
Adventures in Script-Writing
David Rosen
Say Goodbye to MAD, But Remember the Fight for Free Expression
Nick Pemberton
This Is Heaven!: A Journey to the Pearly Gates with Chuck Mertz
Dan Bacher
Chevron’s Oil Spill Endangers Kern County
J.P. Linstroth
A Racist President and Racial Trauma
Binoy Kampmark
Spying on Julian Assange
Rose Ramirez – Dedrick Asante-Mohammad
A Trump Plan to Throw 50,000 Kids Out of Their Schools
David Bravo
Precinct or Neighborhood? How Barcelona Keeps Rolling Out the Red Carpet for Global Capital
Ralph Nader
Will Any Disgusted Republicans Challenge Trump in the Primaries?
Dave Lindorff
The BS about Medicare-for-All Has to Stop!
Arnold August
Why the Canadian Government is Bullying Venezuela
Tom Clifford
China and the Swine Flu Outbreak
Missy Comley Beattie
Highest Anxiety
Jill Richardson
Weapons of the Weak
Peter Certo
Washington vs. The Squad
Peter Bolton
Trump’s Own Background Reveals the True Motivation Behind Racist Tweets: Pure White Supremacy
Colin Todhunter
From Mad Cow Disease to Agrochemicals: Time to Put Public Need Ahead of Private Greed
Nozomi Hayase
In Crisis of Democracy, We All Must Become Julian Assange
Wim Laven
The Immoral Silence to the Destructive Xenophobia of “Just Leave”
Cecily Myart-Cruz
McDonald’s: Stop Exploiting Our Schools
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Our Veggie Gardens Won’t Feed us in a Real Crisis
CounterPunch News Service
A Homeless Rebellion – Mission Statement/Press Release
Louis Proyect
Parallel Lives: Cheney and Ailes
David Yearsley
Big in the Bungalow of Believers
Ellen Taylor
The Northern Spotted Owls’ Tree-Sit
July 18, 2019
Timothy M. Gill
Bernie Sanders, Anti-Imperialism and Venezuela
W. T. Whitney
Cuba and a New Generation of Leaders Respond to U.S. Anti-People War
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail