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August 18, 2002


Johannesburg Summit on Sustainable Development; What is t


Today in AgBioView Special: August 19, 2002:

* World Summit on Sustainable Development - What is it?
* Sustainable Development - View Point from SDNetwork
* The Challenges We Face - Time Magazine Special
* Beyond the Horizon - Kofi Annan
* Too Green for their Own Good?
* The Challenge of Sustainable Development
* The Miracle of Poverty
* What's at Stake in Jo'burg
* The Rich Get Rich and Poor Get Poorer. Or Do They?
* Oh, for DDT when this swarm of Meacher parasites descends on Joburg
* Shattering the Myths of the Earth Summit

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World Summit on Sustainable Development


WHAT IS JOHANNESBURG SUMMIT 2002? Johannesburg Summit 2002 ˝ the World
Summit on Sustainable Development ˝ will bring together tens of thousands
of participants, including heads of State and Government, national
delegates and leaders from non-governmental organizations (NGOs),
businesses and other major groups to focus the world's attention and
direct action toward meeting difficult challenges, including improving
people's lives and conserving our natural resources in a world that is
growing in population, with ever-increasing demands for food, water,
shelter, sanitation, energy, health services and economic security.

WHY NOW? At the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, the international community
adopted Agenda 21, an unprecedented global plan of action for sustainable
development. But the best strategies are only as good as their
implementation. Ten years later, the Johannesburg Summit presents an
exciting opportunity for today's leaders to adopt concrete steps and
identify quantifiable targets for better implementing Agenda 21.

WHEN & WHERE IS IT? The Summit will take place in Johannesburg, South
Africa from 26 August to 4 September 2002. The Summit will be held in the
Sandton Convention Centre, just outside Johannesburg. A non-governmental
forum will take place at the nearby Gallagher Estate.

Broad participation and inclusiveness are key to the success of
sustainable development. All sectors of society have a role to play in
building a future in which global resources are protected, and prosperity
and health are within reach for all of the world's citizens. In addition
to governments, there will be active participation by representatives from
business and industry, children and youth, farmers, indigenous people,
local authorities, non-governmental organizations, scientific and
technological communities, women and workers and trade unions. These
represent the Major Groups identified in Agenda 21.


Sustainable Development


The term 'sustainable development' has been around for about 30 years but
has only recently been popularised. It derives originally from the
biological concept of 'sustainable yield' - that is to say, the rate at
which species such as cod and elephants may be harvested without depleting
the population. Starting in the late 1980s, environmentalists and
government officials began applying the terms 'sustainability' and
'sustainable development' when discussing environmental policy. Thus,
numerous measures aimed at conservation and pollution prevention have been
justified on the grounds that they are necessary to promote sustainable
development. More recently, and in light of the AIDS crisis in Africa, the
interpretation of sustainable development has been broadened to include
issues such as healthcare and education, the lack of which are seen as
constraints on economic development.

Increasingly, environmentalists and government officials have applied the
terms 'sustainability' and 'sustainable development' when discussing
environmental policy. The argument is made (mostly by European governments
and the EU institutions themselves) that centralised control over the use
of resources is necessary in order to prevent humans from depleting the
stock of resources below a level that would enable people in the future
from living in as pleasant manner as the current generation.

One popular interpretation of the term 'sustainable development' presumes
that poverty, environmental degradation, disease, and other problems
afflicting the world are predominantly caused by, and therefore are the
responsibility of, wealthy countries. This view - which is widely held by
organisations claiming to represent the interests of the environment,
consumers, the poor, and the sick - claims that people in the rich world
consume too great a proportion of the world's resources and emit too great
a proportion of the world's pollution; they exploit people in the poor
world by paying too little for coffee and bananas and by making them pay
too much for pharmaceuticals.

The solution typically offered by those who follow this interpretation of
'sustainable development' is to impose outcome-oriented policies on people
in wealthy countries: swingeing restrictions on the use of resources,
wide-ranging interventions in the governance and behaviour of
multinational companies, and restrictions on international trade.

But an alternative view holds that most of the problems of the poor world
result not from the actions of those in the rich world but from the
adoption of unsustainable policies by third-world and first-world
governments. In particular, attempts to plan economies have proved
disastrous in the Soviet Union and elsewhere. Lack of adequately defined
and readily enforceable property rights - often the result of well-meaning
but utterly misguided government intervention - holds back economic
development in many countries, while red tape stifles entrepreneurial
activity and perpetuates poverty. Foreign aid and development assistance
have ensured that people in poor countries remain poor, and their leaders
remain unaccountable.

Sustainable policies and institutions are those which do not prescribe an
outcome for society, but allow individuals in society to improve their own
lot without harming that of their neighbor. These institutions - property
rights, the rule of law, free markets, limited government, and free speech
- have largely been adopted by the wealthy world. Truly sustainable
policies and institutions will ensure that people can improve their own
wellbeing, and that people can improve our world, by creating, innovating,
and developing.

Institutions for Sustainable Development Institutions are the framework
within which people act and interact - they are the rules, customs, norms,
and laws that bind us to one another and act as boundaries to our
behaviour. Institutions reduce the number of decisions that we need to
take; they remove the responsibility to calculate the effect of each of
our actions on the rest of humanity and replace it with a responsibility
to abide by simple rules. In a system in which rules emerge spontaneously
and rule selection occurs evolutionarily, good rules will tend to crowd
out bad rules. That is to say, over time, rules that result in better
outcomes will be preferred to rules that result in worse outcomes.

Institutions encourage adaptation and innovation by giving people an
incentive to create, because the innovators can reap the rewards of that
creation - they are compatible with human nature. Institutions are more
likely to result in appropriate levels of environmental protection and
conservation of natural resources. When private property rights are
combined with the rule of law, which enables people to enforce and
transfer what they own, private property encourages individuals to care
for their property.

Whilst informal mechanisms - customs and norms, for example - work well
for groups that are relatively homogenous and where there is little trade
with outsiders, they impose significant constraints on the ability for
groups to improve their lot. Societies that have adopted formal
institutions - such as property rights, markets, contract law, tort law,
trademarks, patents, copyright, and so on - have tended to do much better
economically and socially than societies that relied primarily on informal

Property rights. The institution of private property has - more than any
other policy or action in the history of the world - enabled people to
escape from the mire of poverty. Property rights are capital; they give
people incentives to invest in their land and the give people an asset
against which to borrow, so that they might become entrepreneurs.

The 500-600 million rural poor in India are oppressed by tenure rules
which make it difficult for them to rent, buy or sell property formally.
Land transactions typically involve paying large bribes to local
officials, who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

In addition, the institution of private property gives people an incentive
to invent new technologies, because individuals know that they will be the
principal beneficiaries of any investments they make in research and
development. Technological innovation not only enables peasants to improve
their lot, it also benefits those with whom they trade by lowering the
cost of purchasing food and other goods and reducing the risk of famine.
But agrodiversity will be stifled if those who might innovate new
technologies are not allowed to benefit from the investments they make
through the ownership of property. The individual's incentive to invest in
his land and innovate new methods of production will be greater when he
can own and exchange property.

Intellectual property rights. Intellectual property rights stimulate
innovation - and in particular, they are important for products and
processes that require large investments in research, development and
marketing but for which the costs of copying are relatively low, for
instance, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and biotechnology, which each rely
heavily on patents. The music, film, book, art and software industries
each rely heavily on copyright. Meanwhile, all manufacturers and sellers
of brand goods (which is most manufacturers and most sellers) rely on
trademarks and servicemarks to guarantee the identity (and hence
brand-associated characteristics) of products.

There are of course drawbacks to IP, including temporarily higher prices
of the protected goods, a reduction in the number of goods directly
derived from those that are patented, the legal and administrative costs
involved in enforcement, and so on. These drawbacks have led several
commentators to conclude that patents and other forms of intellectual
property are not desirable. However, the problem with focussing on these
drawbacks is that in doing so one often forgets that the inventions and
creative works might never have come about but for the existence of IP.

In sum, were we to abandon or significantly diminish our system of
intellectual property rights, we might gain in the very short term through
lower cost products, but the cost in the medium to long term would be felt
in terms of fewer products, as well as higher expenditures on trade
secrecy and other means of protecting knowledge, which might well increase
the cost of products.

Freedom of contract. Another fundamental institution for sustainable
development is freedom of contract. This includes both the freedom to
contract - the freedom to make whatever agreements one desires, subject to
fair and simple procedural rules - and the freedom from contract - the
freedom not to be bound by the decisions of others. Freedom of contract is
a fundamental part of the freedom to associate with others. It includes
the freedom to transact - to buy and sell property - and as such it is an
essential adjunct to the right to clearly defined and readily enforceable
property rights.

Contracts create greater legal certainty and thereby encourage people to
engage in trade and investment. Armed with enforceable property rights and
contracts, the peasant can become a merchant, a businessman, an

The rule of law. Private property rights, the freedom to contract, free
speech, and the judicial system which upholds these are fundamental to
real sustainable development. People must be certain of the rules that
govern their behavior, and they should not be subject to arbitrary law
enforcement (characteristic of corrupt governments). They should also have
a remedy at law for violations of contracts and property rights.

Good governance .Along with the rule of law, governments at all levels and
international agencies should be democratic, transparent, and accountable.

Free trade. Free trade increases wealth, and wealth leads to improvements
in human welfare. Free trade increases the efficiency of resource use: in
the absence of market distortions, production will occur in the most
appropriate place, taking into consideration the cost of all factors. And
free trade can have direct environmental benefits. For example, trade in
ivory increases the value of ivory to people living in poor parts of
Africa, who then have stronger incentives to protect elephants and the
habitat in which they live - if they hive sufficiently strong rights in
the wildlife. Reducing trade barriers is essential for sustainable
development. The agreement reached at Doha in November 2001 to launch a
new round of trade liberalisation through the World Trade Organization
(WTO) offers the opportunity of huge benefits to people everywhere.
However, these benefits will be reduced to the extent that trade sanctions
are permitted on the basis of environmental concerns.

Whereas environmental protection may be used as a pretext for trade
sanctions, but the European Union may impose sanctions in order to protect
its industries from lower-cost competition. For example, it might employ
the 'precautionary principle' and invoke the Biosafety Protocol to justify
restrictions on imports of agricultural goods from developing countries
where biotechnology has been employed to improve yields. It might thereby
more than wipe out the gains made possible by reduced tariffs on such
products - harming in particular poor countries, which would have to face
the choice of higher levels of exports to the EU or higher yields. Either
way, farmers in poor countries would lose and farmers in the EU get the
protected markets they seek.

Decentralised decision making. Decisions to limit human activities should
be taken at the most local level possible but must be bound by the other
principles that prevent abuses of local power. The merits of existing
global environmental agreements should be investigated, with a view to
withdrawing from any agreement not shown to have clear net benefits for


The Challenges We Face

- JEFFREY KLUGER AND ANDREA DORFMAN, Time - Special on Green Century, Aug
18, 2002


'In Johannesburg, leaders will debate what to do about threats to our
health, food, water, climate and biodiversity'.

For starters, let's be clear about what we mean by "saving the earth." The
globe doesn't need to be saved by us, and we couldn't kill it if we tried.
What we do need to saveˇand what we have done a fair job of bollixing up
so farˇis the earth as we like it, with its climate, air, water and
biomass all in that destructible balance that best supports life as we
have come to know it. Muck that up, and the planet will simply shake us
off, as it's shaken off countless species before us. In the end, then,
it's us we're trying to saveˇand while the job is doable, it won't be

The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro was the last time world leaders
assembled to look at how to heal the ailing environment. Now, 10 years
later, Presidents and Prime Ministers are convening at the World Summit on
Sustainable Development in Johannesburg next week to reassess the planet's
condition and talk about where to go from here. In many ways, things
haven't changed: the air is just as grimy in many places, the oceans just
as stressed, and most treaties designed to do something about it lie in
incomplete states of ratification or implementation. Yet we're oddly
smarter than we were in Rio. If years of environmental false starts have
taught us anything, it's that it's time to quit seeing the job of cleaning
up the world as a zero-sum game between industrial progress on the one
hand and a healthy planet on the other. The fact is, it's
developmentˇwell-planned, well-executed sustainable developmentˇthat may
be what saves our bacon before it's too late.

As the summiteers gather in Johannesburg, TIME is looking ahead to what
the unfolding centuryˇa green centuryˇcould be like. In this special
report, we will examine several avenues to a healthier future, including
green industry, green architecture, green energy, green transportation and
even a greener approach to wilderness preservation. All of them have been
explored before, but never so urgently as now. What gives such endeavors
their new credibility is the hope and notion of sustainable development, a
concept that can be hard to implement but wonderfully simple to

Though it's not easy to see it from the well-fed West, a third of the
world goes hungry

With 6.1 billion people relying on the resources of the same small planet,
we're coming to realize that we're drawing from a finite account. The
amount of crops, animals and other biomatter we extract from the earth
each year exceeds what the planet can replace by an estimated 20%, meaning
it takes 14.4 months to replenish what we use in 12ˇdeficit spending of
the worst kind. Sustainable development works to reverse that, to expand
the resource base and adjust how we use it so we're living off biological
interest without ever touching principal. "The old environmental movement
had a reputation of ╚litism," says Mark Malloch Brown, administrator of
the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). "The key now is to put
people first and the environment second, but also to remember that when
you exhaust resources, you destroy people." With that in mind, the
summiteers will wrestle with a host of difficult issues that affect both
people and the environment. Among them...

The tide of people may not ebb until the head count hits the 11 billion
mark . While the number of people on earth is still rising rapidly,
especially in the developing countries of Asia, the good news is that the
growth rate is slowing. World population increased 48% from 1975 to 2000,
compared with 64% from 1950 to 1975. As this gradual deceleration
continues, the population is expected to level off eventually, perhaps at
11 billion sometime in the last half of this century.

Economic-development and family-planning programs have helped slow the
tide of people, but in some places, population growth is moderating for
all the wrong reasons. In the poorest parts of the world, most notably
Africa, infectious diseases such as AIDS, malaria, cholera and
tuberculosis are having a Malthusian effect. Rural-land degradation is
pushing people into cities, where crowded, polluted living conditions
create the perfect breeding grounds for sickness. Worldwide, at least 68
million are expected to die of AIDS by 2020, including 55 million in
sub-Saharan Africa. While any factor that eases population pressures may
help the environment, the situation would be far less tragic if rich
nations did more to help the developing world reduce birth rates and slow
the spread of disease.

Efforts to provide greater access to family planning and health care have
proved effective. Though women in the poorest countries still have the
most children, their collective fertility rate is 50% lower than it was in
1969 and is expected to decline more by 2050. Other programs targeted at
women include basic education and job training. Educated mothers not only
have a stepladder out of poverty, but they also choose to have fewer

Rapid development will require good health care for the young since there
are more than 1 billion people ages 15 to 24. Getting programs in place to
keep this youth bubble healthy could make it the most productive
generation ever conceived. Says Thoraya Obaid, executive director of the
U.N. Population Fund: "It's a window of opportunity to build the economy
and prepare for the future."

As we try to nourish 6 billion people, both bioengineering and organic
farming will help. ough it's not always easy to see it from the well-fed
West, up to a third of the world is in danger of starving. Two billion
people lack reliable access to safe, nutritious food, and 800 million of
themˇincluding 300 million childrenˇare chronically malnourished.

Agricultural policies now in place define the very idea of unsustainable
development. Just 15 cash crops such as corn, wheat and rice provide 90%
of the world's food, but planting and replanting the same crops strips
fields of nutrients and makes them more vulnerable to pests.
Slash-and-burn planting techniques and overreliance on pesticides further
degrade the soil.

Solving the problem is difficult, mostly because of the ferocious debate
over how to do it. Biotech partisans say the answer lies in genetically
modified cropsˇfoods engineered for vitamins, yield and robust growth.
Environmentalists worry that fooling about with genes is a recipe for
Frankensteinian disaster. There is no reason, however, that both camps
can't make a contribution.

Better crop rotation and irrigation can help protect fields from
exhaustion and erosion. Old-fashioned cross-breeding can yield plant
strains that are heartier and more pest-resistant. But in a world that
needs action fast, genetic engineering must still have a roleˇprovided it
produces suitable crops.

Increasingly, those crops are being created not just by giant biotech
firms but also by home-grown groups that know best what local consumers

The National Agricultural Research Organization of Uganda has developed
corn varieties that are more resistant to disease and thrive in soil that
is poor in nitrogen. Agronomists in Kenya are developing a sweet potato
that wards off viruses. Also in the works are drought-tolerant,
disease-defeating and vitamin-fortified forms of such crops as sorghum and
cassavaˇhardly staples in the West, but essentials elsewhere in the world.
The key, explains economist Jeffrey Sachs, head of Columbia University's
Earth Institute, is not to dictate food policy from the West but to help
the developing world build its own biotech infrastructure so it can
produce the things it needs the most. "We can't presume that our
technologies will bail out poor people in Malawi," he says. "They need
their own improved varieties of sorghum and millet, not our genetically
improved varieties of wheat and soybeans."

In 25 years two-thirds of humanity may live in nations running short of
life's elixir. For a world that is 70% water, things are drying up fast.
Only 2.5% of water is fresh, and only a fraction of that is accessible.
Meanwhile, each of us requires about 50 quarts per day for drinking,
bathing, cooking and other basic needs. At present, 1.1 billion people
lack access to clean drinking water and more than 2.4 billion lack
adequate sanitation. "Unless we take swift and decisive action," says U.N.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan, "by 2025, two-thirds of the world's
population may be living in countries that face serious water shortages."

The answer is to get smart about how we use water. Agriculture accounts
for about two-thirds of the fresh water consumed. A report prepared for
the summit thus endorses the "more crop per drop" approach, which calls
for more efficient irrigation techniques, planting of drought- and
salt-tolerant crop varieties that require less water and better monitoring
of growing conditions, such as soil humidity levels. Improving
water-delivery systems would also help, reducing the amount that is lost
en route to the people who use it.

One program winning quick support is dubbed WASHˇfor Water, Sanitation and
Hygiene for Allˇa global effort that aims to provide water services and
hygiene training to everyone who lacks them by 2015. Already, the U.N., 28
governments and many nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have signed on.

Car exhaust is a major source of the heat-trapping gases that produce
global warming. In the U.S., people think of rural electrification as a
long-ago legacy of the New Deal. In many parts of the world, it hasn't
even happened yet. About 2.5 billion people have no access to modern
energy services, and the power demands of developing economies are
expected to grow 2.5% per year. But if those demands are met by burning
fossil fuels such as oil, coal and gas, more and more carbon dioxide and
other greenhouse gases will hit the atmosphere. That, scientists tell us,
will promote global warming, which could lead to rising seas, fiercer
storms, severe droughts and other climatic disruptions.

Of more immediate concern is the heavy air pollution caused in many places
by combustion of wood and fossil fuels. A new U.N. Environment Program
report warns of the effects of a haze across all southern Asia. Dubbed the
"Asian brown cloud" and estimated to be 2 miles thick, it may be
responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths a year from respiratory

The better way to meet the world's energy needs is to develop cheaper,
cleaner sources. Pre-Johannesburg proposals call for eliminating taxation
and pricing systems that encourage oil use and replacing them with
policies that provide incentives for alternative energy. In India there
has been a boom in wind power because the government has made it easier
for entrepreneurs to get their hands on the necessary technology and has
then required the national power grid to purchase the juice that wind
systems produce.

Other technologies can work their own little miracles. Micro-hydroelectric
plants are already operating in numerous nations, including Kenya, Sri
Lanka and Nepal. The systems divert water from streams and rivers and use
it to run turbines without complex dams or catchment areas. Each plant can
produce as much as 200 kilowattsˇenough to electrify 200 to 500 homes and
businessesˇand lasts 20 years. One plant in Kenya was built by 200
villagers, all of whom own shares in the cooperative that sells the power.

The Global Village Energy Partnership, which involves the World Bank, the
UNDP and various donors, wants to provide energy to 300 million people, as
well as schools, hospitals and clinics in 50,000 communities worldwide
over 10 years. The key will be to match the right energy source to the
right users. For example, solar panels that convert sunlight into
electricity might be cost-effective in remote areas, while extending the
power grid might be better in Third World cities.

Unless we guard wilderness, as many as half of all species could vanish in
this century. More than 11,000 species of animals and plants are known to
be threatened with extinction, about a third of all coral reefs are
expected to vanish in the next 30 years and about 36 million acres of
forest are being razed annually. In his new book, The Future of Life,
Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson writes of his worry that unless we
change our ways half of all species could disappear by the end of this

The damage being done is more than aesthetic. Many vanishing species
provide humans with both food and medicine. What's more, once you start
tearing out swaths of ecosystem, you upset the existing balance in ways
that harm even areas you didn't intend to touch. Environmentalists have
said this for decades, and now that many of them have tempered ecological
absolutism with developmental realism, more people are listening.

The Equator Initiative, a public-private group, is publicizing examples of
sustainable development in the equatorial belt. Among the projects already
cited are one to help restore marine fisheries in Fiji and another that
promotes beekeeping as a source of supplementary income in rural Kenya.
The Global Conservation Trust hopes to raise $260 million to help conserve
genetic material from plants for use by local agricultural programs. "When
you approach sustainable development from an environmental view, the
problems are global," says the U.N.'s Malloch Brown. "But from a
development view, the front line is local, local, local."

If that's the message environmental groups and industry want to get out,
they appear to be doing a good job of it. Increasingly, local folks act
whether world political bodies do or not. California Governor Gray Davis
signed a law last month requiring automakers to cut their cars' carbon
emissions by 2009. Many countries are similarly proactive. Chile is
encouraging sustainable use of water and electricity; Japan is dangling
financial incentives before consumers who buy environmentally sound cars;
and tiny Mauritius is promoting solar cells and discouraging use of
plastics and other disposables.

Business is getting right with the environment too. The Center for
Environmental Leadership in Business, based in Washington, is working with
auto and oil giants including Ford, Chevron, Texaco and Shell to draft
guidelines for incorporating biodiversity conservation into oil and gas
exploration. And the center has helped Starbucks develop purchasing
guidelines that reward coffee growers whose methods have the least impact
on the environment. Says Nitin Desai, secretary-general of the
Johannesburg summit: "We're hoping that partnershipsˇinvolving
governments, corporations, philanthropies and NGOsˇwill increase the
credibility of the commitment to sustainable development."

Will that happen? In 1992 the big, global measures of the Rio summit
seemed like the answer to what ails the world. In 2002 that illness isˇin
many respectsˇworse. But if Rio's goal was to stamp out the disease of
environmental degradation, Johannesburg's appears to be subtlerˇand
perhaps better: treating the patient a bit at a time, until the planet as
a whole at last gets well.


Beyond the Horizon

- KOFI ANNAN, Time - Special 'Green Century', August 18, 2002

' Will the future be barren or bountiful? The U.N. Secretary-General
offers two visions of where humanity is headed'

Imagine a future of relentless storms and floods; islands and heavily
inhabited coastal regions inundated by rising sea levels; fertile soils
rendered barren by drought and the desert's advance; mass migrations of
environmental refugees; and armed conflicts over water and other precious
natural resources.

Then, think againˇfor one might just as easily conjure a more hopeful
picture: of green technologies; livable cities; energy-efficient homes,
transport and industry; and rising standards of living for all the world's
people, not just a fortunate minority.

The choice between these competing visions is ours to make. Current trends
may not be very encouraging, and certainly we know enough about ecological
problems to fear the worst. But there is time to draw back from the brink.
Most important, another path existsˇone that is better for people, less
harmful to the environment and possible with the policies, knowledge and
technologies at our disposal today. The human family has taken tentative
steps in this enlightened direction. The purpose of the World Summit on
Sustainable Development in Johannesburg is to ensure that we gain firmer
footing on that road and stick to it once and for all.

The challenge of living in harmony with the earth is as old as human
society itself. That relationship changed fundamentally, a little more
than two centuries ago, with the Industrial Revolution. Using the new
technology of the steam engine in the early 19th century, and the internal
combustion engine in the century just ended, society found itself able to
exploit on a massive scale the energy locked in such fossil fuels as coal,
oil and gas. At the same time, dramatic gains in agricultural productivity
made possible by mechanized farming, fertilizers and more efficient water
use pushed people from farms into factories and cities. The net result was
a revolution in living standards that the world had never seen or even
imagined possible.

Today we need another revolutionˇa revolution in our sense of global
stewardship. For too long, too many people have believed that natural
limits to human well-being have been conquered. And too many have put
their faith solely in technological breakthroughs as the inevitable answer
to any resource constraints or other vulnerabilities that might emerge.

Slowly, however, as humankind found itself in uncharted territory with
respect to energy use and population growthˇand in particular the natural
desire of all people to share the prosperity so far enjoyed by only a
fewˇwe have begun to recognize the perils inherent in the prevailing model
of development. As forests have been felled and aquifers drawn down; as
the atmosphere has filled with toxins and the oceans have been fished to
exhaustion; and as the climate itself has begun to talk back, holding up a
mirror to our profligate ways, the world has seen the dangers of business
as usual.

We have begun to recognize the perils in the prevailing model of

Societies throughout the world have been grappling with ways to ensure
that economic growth and environmental protection work together, not at
odds. Citizens' groups have raised awareness. Many business leaders are
seizing the opportunities offered by environmentally friendly technologies
and practices. And as a world community, we have held landmark conferences
in Stockholm (1972) and Rio de Janeiro (1992), negotiated dozens of
multilateral agreements, built up institutions like the U.N. Environment
Program and set out a common vision of progress in the Millennium
Development Goals, which include eradicating poverty and hunger, reducing
child mortality and achieving gender equality and universal primary
education. But as is so often the case, our understandingˇpopular and
scientificˇhas run ahead of our political response. Johannesburg offers a
chance to catch up.

Johannesburg aims to put equal stress on the twin aspirations of
sustainable development. Those who profess to care about the environment
yet scorn the goal of development only undermine both causes. For the
poorest members of the human family in particular, development means the
chance to feed, school and care for themselves and their children. But
development that takes little account of sustainability is ultimately
self-defeating. Prosperity built on the despoliation of the natural
environment is no prosperity at all, only a temporary reprieve from future
disaster. The issue is not environment vs. development or ecology vs.
economy; the two can be integrated. Nor is this a question of rich vs.
poor; both have an interest in sustainable development.

What can one conference do, especially given that the record in the decade
since the Earth Summit is largely one of painfully slow progress and a
deepening global environmental crisis? Johannesburg will surely sound
another alarm. Above all, it must revive high-level political commitment
to sustainable development. We have seen the results that can be achieved
when leaders speak publicly about an issueˇbe it AIDS, aid or tradeˇand
put the full weight and resources of their administrations behind it.

Dire predictions, apocalyptic talk and doom-and-gloom scenarios are not
enough to inspire people to change either their politics or their
day-to-day behavior. But neither can we afford to downplay the problems we
face nor think that sustainable development will happen of its own accord.
At the dawn of this new century, we must make a choice. We have the human
and material resources needed to achieve sustainable development, not as
an abstract concept but as a concrete reality. At Johannesburg the world's
peoples must come together: to demonstrate our strong sense of common
destiny, to show that we take this challenge seriously and ultimately to
exercise greater responsibility, for one another as well as for the earth
on which our progress and well-being depend.


Too Green for their Own Good?

- Andrew Goldstein, Time - Special 'Green Century' August 18, 2002

'Environmental groups are bigger than ever but seem to be fighting a
losing battle. That raises questions about some of their tactics'

Here's a riddle to keep you up at night: How come, at a time when the
environmental movement is stronger and richer than ever, our most pressing
ecological problems just get worse? It's as though the planet has hit a
Humpty-Dumpty moment in which unprecedented amounts of manpower and money
are unable to put the world back together again. "Why are we losing so
many battles?" wonders Gus Speth, dean of Yale's School of Forestry &
Environmental Studies.

Of course, the issues are complicated and could require decades and
trillions of dollars to resolve. But part of the problem is that it's
easier to protest, to hurl venom at practices you don't like, than to find
new ways to do business and create change. The dogma of traditional green
activismˇthat business (and economic growth) is the enemy, that financial
markets can't be trusted, that compromise means failureˇhas done little to
save the planet. Which means it's fair to ask the question: Have some of
the greens' tactics actually made things worse?

This is not to say there hasn't been progress since the environmental
movement began. The air and water in the developed nations of the West
are, by most measures, the cleanest they have been for decades, and the
amount of land protected as national parks and preserves has quadrupled
worldwide since 1970. But despite a record flow of financial resources
(donations to U.S. environmental groups alone have risen 50% in the past
five years, to more than $6.4 billion in 2001, according to the American
Association of Fundraising Counsel Trust for Philanthropy), the planet's
most serious challengesˇglobal warming, loss of biodiversity, marine
depletionˇremain as intractable as ever, making environmentalists
vulnerable to charges that green groups have prospered while the earth has
not. So it's time to look at the past tactics of many green groups and
identify lessons to be learned.

Thanks to scandals on Wall Street, environmentalists who have been bashing
"evil" corporations for years have suddenly found themselves with plenty
of allies. But the planet needs profitable, innovative businesses even
more than it needs environmentalists. "It is companies, not advocacy
groups, that will create the technologies needed to save the environment,"
says Jonathan Wootliff, a former Greenpeace executive turned business

So how to turn corporations into partners in preservation? For starters,
when companies make efforts to turn green, environmentalists shouldn't
jump down their throats the minute they see any backsliding. Wootliff says
he was exasperated to watch so many environmental groups take special aim
at Ford Motor, arguably Detroit's most environmentally friendly carmaker,
during the latest fight in Congress over fuel-efficiency standards (in
which Ford, GM and Chrysler all fought to preserve the status quo). "For
goodness' sake, stop alienating your supporters," he warns. "Going after
Ford will mean fewer, not more, CEOs will turn around and say protecting
the environment is the right thing to do."

When conservation purity is the only acceptable option, the biggest
polluters will have no incentive to clean up their acts. Says Dwight
Evans, executive vice president of Southern Co., a major U.S. energy
producer: "If tomorrow we announced we were shutting down 25% of our
plants to put in new, high-tech scrubbing devices, the headline would be,
why not the other 75%? We don't get credit for what we've done, or for
what we're going to do."

This is not to suggest that environmentalists should be spineless. The
threat of boycott prompted Home Depot to promise to phase out its selling
of wood from old-growth forests. The good news is that once an industry
leader turns green, the rest often follow, fearful that consumers will
punish them if they don't. Today every major home-improvement retailer
makes an effort to sell only products certified to have come from
sustainably managed forests.

There is a simple economic explanation for why many of China's cities have
become shrouded in gray clouds of dust: it's cheap to pollute. Millions of
Chinese drive mopeds and old automobiles that don't have catalytic
converters, and much of the nation's electricity comes from coal-fired
power plants. Technology from the 1950s, after all, is at bargain-basement
prices. But that's because the prices don't reflect the hidden costs of
air pollution: deaths from lung illnesses and millions of dollars wasted
on health-care bills and lost worker productivity. The situation is the
same the world over. The price of goods and services rarely reflects
environmental costs.

A concerted effort to correct this basic flaw in the market could have a
bigger payoff for the environment than would a thousand new national
parks. But many environmental groups continue to oppose market-based
environmental reforms and instead remain wedded to the "mandate, regulate
and litigate" model of the past.

It's easier to protest and hurl venom than it is to find new ways to
create change

Take, for example, power-plant emissions in the U.S., which
environmentalists blame for much of global warming. In the mid-1990s, the
Clinton Administration was fairly close to striking a deal with the power
industry that would have established a comprehensive emissions-trading
program. To gain some certainty for their long-range planning, the
utilities would agree to mandatory caps on emissions that included not
just nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and mercury but also carbon.
Companies would have the flexibility of meeting targets in the most
efficient manner by buying and selling emissions rights.

This didn't suit many of the environmental groups involved in the
negotiations that believed the market was just a clever way for
corporations to skirt environmental regulations. Says Katie McGinty, then
chairwoman of Clinton's Council on Environmental Quality: "Practically
every utility in the country began to accept the notion that they would
face legally binding carbon restrictions. But environmentalists who were
opposed to doing anything consensual with industry said what we really
should be doing is suing their butts under the current provisions of the
Clean Air Act." Result: today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has
no ability to regulate carbon, and the old, pollution-spewing plants are
still in operation.

Toward the end of a war, a simple truism applies: it is better to
negotiate a surrender than to fight to the death for a losing cause.
Though environmentalists may be loath to admit it, this is their choice in
the battle over genetically modified foods. Despite the best attempts by
European activists to seal off the Continent from what they call
Frankenfoods, the new science of farming is here to stay. So if
environmentalists want to help shape the future of agriculture, it's time
to raise the white flag and ask the world's bioengineers for a seat at the
bargaining table.

What could be better for the environment than a cheap, simple way for
farmers to double or triple their output while using fewer pesticides on
less land? According to Rockefeller University environmental scientist
Jesse Ausubel, if the world's average farmer achieved the yield of the
average American maize grower, the planet could feed 10 billion people on
just half the crop land in use today. Of course it's possible that some
genetically modified foods may carry health risks to humans (although none
have so far been proved in foods that have been brought to market), and
it's unclear whether agricultural companies will be able to control where
their altered-gene products end up. But what's needed now are not crop
tramplers and lab burners but powerful lobbyists able to negotiate for
more effective safeguards and a greater humanitarian use of the

Bioengineering has tremendous potential in the developing world. The U.S.,
Canada, China and Argentina contain 99% of the global area of genetically
modified crops, whereas yields of sorghum and millet in sub-Saharan Africa
have not increased since the 1960s. Green groups hoping to earn the trust
of the developing world should lobby hard for the resources of Big
Agriculture to be plowed into discovering crop varieties that can handle
drought and thrive on small-scale farms.

A shattering piece of news came over the press wire of the Rainforest
Action Network in May: "One-quarter of mammals will soon be extinct." An
Associated Press story made a similar claim: "A quarter of the world's
mammal speciesˇfrom tigers to rhinosˇcould face extinction within 30
years." Problem is, the story isn't true.

The source of the number was a report issued by the United Nations
Environment Program. It cites the World Conservation Union's most recent
"Red List," which indicates that about 24% of mammals "are currently
regarded as globally threatened." This figure comprises not only the
approximately 4% of mammals that are "critically endangered" but also
those that are merely "vulnerable," a category including animals with only
a 10% chance of extinction within 100 years. The U.N. report makes this
distinction clearˇand even cautions against relying on species data from
the Red List. But those caveats didn't make the news.

Fuzzy math and scare tactics might help green groups raise money, but when
they, abetted by an environmentally friendly media, overplay their hand,
it invites scathing critiques like that of Danish statistician Bjorn
Lomborg, whose book The Skeptical Environmentalist debunks environmental

Even more dangerous, notes Don Melnick, head of the Center for
Environmental Research and Conservation at Columbia University, is how
doomsayers create a Chicken Little problem. "We need to bury the notion
that the biological world is going to collapse and we're all going to be
extinct," he says. "That's nonsense, and it can make people feel the
situation is hopeless. We can't have people asking 'So why should we


The Challenge of Sustainable Development

Jerry Taylor, in 'Regulation - CATO Review of Business and Government' ;
Jerry Taylor is director of natural resource studies at the Cato
Institute. http://www.cato.org/pubs/regulation/reg17n1-taylor.html

Sustainable development is the environmental catchphrase of the 1990s, a
vague but ambitious idea that dominates international environmental policy
and permeates our domestic policy debate. It is an idea, moreover, that
has now become institutionalized. The Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro
established the UN Commission on Sustainable Development to help ensure
the implementation of the ambitious "Agenda 21" adopted at that
conference. The Clinton administration established the President's Council
on Sustainable Development, a body charged with developing specific policy
recommendations and drafting the required U.S. plan to be submitted to the
United Nations. An initial report from the Council is expected in June.

Despite its institutionalization, sustainable development is still
difficult to define coherently. The UN Commission on Economic Development
(UNCED), in its landmark 1987 Our Common Future, defines sustainable
development as that which "meets the needs of the present without
compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
If sustainable development is to inform economic and environmental policy,
however, the UNCED definition is hopelessly inadequate.

How can we reasonably be expected to know, for example, what the needs of
future generations will be? Imagine the economic planner of 1890
attempting to plan for the needs of today. Whale oil for heating, copper
for telegram wires, rock salt for refrigeration, and draft horses for
transportation and agriculture would all be high on the list of scarce
resources he would worry about sustaining 100 years hence, whereas
petroleum, on the other hand, would not appear on that list at all, since
oil was not an economic resource at the time.

Moreover, human needs cannot be met simply by maintaining natural or
man-made resources. Peace and liberty are also essential human needs.
Likewise, "sustainable development" does not necessarily mean the same
thing as "sustainable growth," for societal development implies the
advance of individual satisfaction and well-being. Although per capita
income certainly contributes to meeting those goals, it is not sufficient
in and of itself. Man is more than a material being.

Some have argued that the best means to ensure that the needs of future
generations are met are to conserve and if possible expand the aggregate
stock of capital. If sustainable development is about conserving capital,
however, this suggests that the present generation can substitute natural
for man-made capital, a problematic concept for most environmentalists,
who maintain that natural capital is already dangerously overexploited.
Although environmentalists often concede that using natural resources to
produce human goods may secure a higher rate of return than leaving those
resources unexploited, all too often, they argue, the proceeds of
environmental degradation or depreciation are consumed rather than
reinvested for future generations. Moreover, when the natural capital in
question becomes essential, they contend, there may be little or no room
for substitution with other forms of capital.

Most environmentalists, therefore, define sustainable development as
economic growth that does not allow the overall natural resource base to
deteriorate. If economies are suitably managed, it is argued, economic
growth can occur within boundaries that maintain natural resources at a
minimum critical level.

Yet if "meeting the needs of future generations" is the overriding goal of
sustainable development, it can't be denied that man-made capital is far
more resilient than unexploited natural resources. A flood, for example,
can destroy all natural resources in its path but is unlikely to destroy
the capital previously generated by those resources. How can untouched
coal fields, moreover, meet the needs of society in the face of something
like the AIDS epidemic? Exploiting natural resources creates wealth that
can be used to answer myriad needs. As Professor Daniel Boggs put it
before the Center for International Affairs at Harvard, "I would certainly
rather have medicines and satellites and other technology than a few more
billion tons of some rock or another. We each can set our own economic
time horizons. If we really think our grandchildren will be better off
with shut-in oil wells than shares of IBM, we can buy them up and shut
them in. But others should be free to make their own decisions." By
maximizing knowledge, technology, and wealth today, we are ensuring in the
most comprehensive manner that the (material) needs of tomorrow (many of
which are unforeseen today) can be met.

Man-made capital not only enables society to respond to shocks and
stresses more flexibly than natural capital, it minimizes those shocks in
the first place. For example, it was capital investments made in
California that allowed that heavily populated state to withstand two
major earthquakes over the past five years with minimal loss of life,
while earthquakes of lesser magnitude routinely kill tens of thousands in
less developed countries. Although environmentalists respond that this
flexibility is an illusion given that advanced technological societies
rely on pollution sinks to sustain economic growth, they ignore the fact
that those sinks are far less burdened in the industrialized West than
they are in the natural resource-rich Third World.

Finally, many environmentalists contend that exploiting natural resources
today is often an irreversible process that makes our overall resource
stock less diverse and restricts the choices of future generations. It is
fashionable in certain intellectual circles to go even further and argue,
as does Richard Norgaard, an associate professor of energy and resources
at the University of California at Berkeley, that future generations have
as much right to today's environmental resources as we do, and that we
have no right to decide whether or not they should inherit their share of
those rights.

The concept of tangible rights to resources for those not yet even
conceived is dubious to say the least. Under its logic, no generation has
the right to use or draw-down the natural resource base given that another
generation will always follow with their own claim on the resources in
question. No resource rights will exist for any generation.

The notion of resource rights for future generations is also hopelessly
grounded in the philosophical muck of so-called positive rights-the
"right" to forcibly take from someone else that which is not yours in
order to satisfy a personal need. Although that is an argument best left
unexplored here, suffice it to say that this concept of "rights" has been
convincingly demolished by the very classical liberal scholars who
introduced human rights to the vocabulary of modern man.

Regardless, it should be acknowledged that the campaign for sustainable
development is a clear break with the older, more militant environmental
campaign against economic growth of any kind. The authors of Our Common
Future, for example, argue that economic growth is a prerequisite of
sustainable development, even a "top priority." Developed nations are
urged to maintain 3 percent annual growth in GNP while developing nations
are urged to grow by at least 3 to 4 percent annually. Thus,
environmentalists calling for sustainable development are implicitly
rejecting such zero or negative growth advocates as Robert Heilbroner,
Paul Ehrlich, Garrett Hardin, Barry Commoner, and Dennis and Donella

More at http://www.cato.org/pubs/regulation/reg17n1-taylor.html


The Miracle of Poverty

- Leon Louw, Free Market Foundation, South Africa. INER- InterREgion
Economic Network, March 2002,

Mud oozed between her toes. Not ordinary mud. Mud containing rotting
garbage, human and animal faeces, urine, and years of decaying vegetation.
She milked an emaciated cow. The stench was appalling. A gaunt man vomited
from the window of a dilapidated bus, into a street that was so filthy
that his vomit would not be noticed. Children sat in wet dung and urine
making dung pats to dry and burn for warmth and cooking - in tiny unlit
shanties filled with asphyxiating smoke on that long cold winter night. A
man rummaged in a garbage heap, like the pig and goat nearby, for whatever
might be edible. "It's amazing", I said, "that people are alive under such
conditions". "Many aren't", explained my guide, "you see only those who
survived infancy, and most of them die young".

I saw these scenes of numbing destitution in Mumbai, Delhi, Agra and
surrounding areas; symptomatic of how billions of humans eke out short
brutish lives in India and many other countries. They are condemned to
their fate by government policies that subvert free markets and property

Poverty is miraculous. Ghastly, but miraculous, and perhaps the most
extraordinary accomplishment of most modern governments. Poor countries
are the world's true "economic miracles", not post-war Germany, Hong Kong,
Taiwan, Korea, Singapore, Botswana or Mauritius. Prosperity in such
countries is no "miracle". It is the natural outcome of relative economic
freedom. If there are "economic miracles", they are backward countries,
where governments have succeeded in preventing prosperity. India, like
South Africa, is a nation of manifestly energetic, resourceful and
enterprising people. If left alone, they would prosper. This was confirmed
when India implemented modest pro-market reforms. The country was rewarded
with one of the world's highest growth rates.

Eco-imperialism and racism. But India's flirtation with prosperity may be
short-lived. It has formidable enemies, including most first-world
governments, leading academics and scientists, wealthy foundations,
thousands of NGOs, influential journalists, passionate activists, and
countless other powerful interests. These forces constitute a new kind of
colonialism, which we might call eco-imperialism. It is more insidious,
pervasive and potentially more devastating than traditional imperialism.

The newspapers on my lap as I was driven through the squalor of urban and
rural poverty surrounding Agra carried surreal reports of new esoteric and
costly environmental, health and safety laws, promoted by vocal opponents
of spontaneous development because it is supposedly "unsustainable". They
are seductive protagonists of the "precautionary principle" in response to
exaggerated or imaginary risks, and are enemies of "globalisation", which
would enable poor countries to attract foreign investment, import cheap
goods, and export competitively to rich countries. New imperialists are
latter-day neo-Luddites who place elitist environmental whims and nebulous
conceptions about resource "depletion" above the needs of the world's
destitute billions. They seek to impose first-world conceptions of
environmentalism and human development, including anti-employment labour
policies, on developing countries. They do not want poor countries to
follow the development paths that made the prosperity of their own
countries possible. Advanced countries mined minerals, harvested timber,
converted jungles (rain forests) and swamps (wetlands) into cities and
farms, domesticated and commercialised their wild life, and laboured under
harsh conditions in freely chosen preference to worse alternatives. And
now they deny poor countries the opportunity to prosper in their

People in developing countries should no longer be polite about, or be
influenced by, neo-imperial agendas. Decent people, aware of the suffering
inflicted by real poverty, should agree on at least one simple principle:
that the most urgent priority is to achieve maximal growth and
development. The unknowable needs of future generations and the attainment
of a low-risk environment must, by any caring calculus, be secondary.

Have you ever wondered why greens are against a greenhouse, why the regard
sparsely populated countries as "over-populated", or why they don't want
ozone depletion? Scratch the surface of largely white first world elite
causes - of people who arrive in air-conditioned planes from
air-conditioned offices and drive through third world countries in
air-conditioned 4x4s telling natives how to live - and you find not only
neo-imperialism, but neo-racism. We are not urged to anguish about densely
populated Europe, but sparsely populated Africa. In Exploding Population
Myths, Jim Peron shows that the standard population literature is
characterised by wanting less of anyone who isn't white.

It is not people of colour for whom ozone depletion matters. Nature
blessed dark "sun people" with melanin-enriched UV-resistant skin to
withstand higher UV levels nearer the equator -. far higher levels than
the worst predictions towards the poles where we are urged to worry about
depletion * from whence white "snow people" come. Must the entire planet
be subjected to the horrendous cost of CFC prohibition for a handful of
very rich, very white, whites that who want the indulgence of travelling
to very remote places where ozone depletion might occur, when all they
need is UV exposure to get a UV-resistant tan? Or sun tan lotion, or a
hat, or staying indoors at noon. Must dry parts of the world remain so
because the first world is green enough? What about the real risk of the
next ice age? Most developing countries need a greenhouse effect.

Anti-development and anti-trade are anti-human Notwithstanding strident
prophecies of doom by the anti-development anti-trade brigade, not much is
known with certainty about most global and environmental concerns. Almost
all pessimistic environment, resource, scarcity and over-population
predictions have been wrong for more than a generation. They can no longer
be taken seriously. Exaggerations and lies in the litany of widely
published scare stories about the state of the planet have been exposed
repeatedly by a growing number of realists such as Julian Simon (The
Ultimate Resource and It's Getting Better All The Time) and Bj»rn Lomborg
(The Sceptical Environmentalist). Most importantly, whether or not things
are as bad as we are told, there is a simple fact about which there can no
longer be informed debate: superior conditions, however measured, are in
countries with freer economies (Economic Freedom of the World and Index of
Economic Freedom Reports). These are countries where governments do more
for their people by doing less. Their poorest communities, like American
blacks, Irish Catholics, and German migrant workers, are wealthy by global
standards. Their citizens enjoy the world's highest living standards,
literacy, life expectancy and incomes, and more -- housing, safe water,
food, leisure, welfare, security, democracy and human rights. These
countries also have the least unemployment, pollution, corruption, disease
and resource scarcity; and the best services, technology, health care,
education, telecommunications and transport.

The myth of unsustainability "It's not that simple", developing country
leaders are warned. Rapid growth and development for suffering people is
in some mysterious sense "unsustainable", as if the word has coherent
meaning in this context. It has none. "Sustainable development" theory is
voodoo science at its worst; pure gobbledygook. Sustainable for how long:
10, 100, 1000, a million or a billion years? For whom? Advanced people
with unknowable future technology, needs and resources? What must be
sustainable? Exploitation of so-called "non-renewables"? Why not consume
them? They are resources only if used. For how long are we supposed to
conserve them? Must our decedents, by the same twisted logic, do likewise?

Equally, why conserve existing eco-systems or bio-diversity? What is so
special about the status quo? Why freeze it arbitrarily in a world that
has never been static into whatever it happens to be now? Or is it
something else we must conserve? To what end do conservatives want
"conservation for conservation sake" whilst people starve? No! Poor
countries should utilise their resources as rich countries did at similar
stages of development, or they should be fully compensated by rich
countries wanting to indulge elitist fantasies of a pristine world. Let
them buy unutilised jungles, swamps, and game at full market value, and
conserve them at their own expense. Or shut up.

The concern that development might be unsustainable is truly bizarre.
History and logic suggest that development is by its nature sustainable.
It and it alone provides the human, financial and technological resources
to render it sustainable. The best thing we can do for future generations
is generate maximal wealth forthwith, thus empowering them to live better
lives. Even discredited radical greens now admit that basic resources are
so plentiful as to be essentially limitless (Misleading Math Ab