What did the United Nations do while over a million Ethiopians were dying in agony? The UN's General Assembly, the self-proclaimed "conscience of the world," voted to squander $73.5 million for renovations to the UN's luxurious conference center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital. By a vote of 122 to 5, the General Assembly opted to indulge in this obscene orgy of consumption at the very doorstep of the squalid villages and camps where hundreds of thousands were literally starving to death.
Making matters even worse was that this horrendous famine was not a natural disaster; it was man-made. It was intentional, a conscious policy of genocide by Communist dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam. Having come to power with military assistance from Russia and Cuba, Mengistu maintained his bloody regime by constant financial assistance from the UN and its sister institutions, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Mengistu euphemistically referred to his forced famine program as population "resettlement." Yet, the tyrants and hypocrites at the UN treated the Ethiopian butcher with cordiality and respect. In his scorching indictment entitled The World Bank vs. the World's Poor, James Bovard showed that the World Bank "helped to lay the groundwork for the Ethiopian government's current murderous resettlement program."
Unfortunately, Ethiopia's tragedy was far from unique; throughout Africa and the rest of the Third World, regimes and programs favored by the UN, IMF, and World Bank have been responsible for untold suffering, impoverishment, death, destruction, and environmental devastation. "More than any other international institution," wrote Bovard, "the bank is responsible for the rush to socialism in the Third World - the rise of political power over the private sector - and the economic collapse of Africa."
What does the foregoing history have to do with the recent World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD)? Everything. With the summit venue in South Africa, and much of that event's focus on the terrible poverty and lack of drinking water in Africa and the developing countries, the world gathering offered an opportunity for African and world leaders to repudiate the socialist policies responsible for these deplorable conditions. They did not do that, however. In typical UN fashion, they gathered in an opulent setting, feigned concern for the planet and the world's poor - then opted instead to endorse more statist policies that will mire billions of the world's poorest people even deeper in misery.
The Ethiopian famine also testifies of a sinister irony: The very individuals and institutions that can supposedly solve our problems - by leading us into a "sustainable" future - are the same ones responsible for the crises in the first place.
The great 19th-century statesman-philosopher Frederic Bastiat referred to this diabolic political process as manufacturing the poison and the antidote in the same laboratory. The WSSD in Johannesburg, the largest UN summit ever, with a reported 60,000 delegates, journalists, and "representatives of civil society," proved itself a giant poison/antidote laboratory. The assembled multitude called for massive new levels of foreign aid and UN funding and the imposition of a vast, global regulatory regime - the very ingredients that have already produced such apocalyptic results worldwide.
South African President Thabo Mbeki set the summit's tone and direction with his strident and combative "welcoming" speech. Mbeki - a lifelong revolutionary, top officer of the South African Communist Party, and leader of the terrorist African National Congress - was the appropriate person to host and preside over the conference. He wasted no time in laying out the summit's Marxist agenda. Mbeki denounced "market fundamentalism," which he equated, in typical Communist fashion, with the "savage principle of the survival of the fittest." In his inverted worldview, it is individual freedom, not totalitarian government, that is responsible for the "increase in human misery and ecological degradation, including the growth of the gap between North and South." The world, Comrade Mbeki insisted, must "accept the imperative for people-centered development." He assured his world audience "that there exists a detailed global agenda for sustainable development" that meets this imperative.
Where shall we look to find this wondrous agenda? It is to be found, said Mbeki, in "the grand vision contained in Agenda 21 and other international agreements." Agenda 21 is the mammoth document adopted at the UN's 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro that proposes to micro-manage and regulate the lives of "every person on earth." We do not exaggerate in the least.
To save Mother Earth, Agenda 21 argues that the UN must oversee strict regulation of our planet's atmosphere, lakes, streams, rivers, coastal waters, wetlands, oceans, forests, jungles, grasslands, deserts, tundra, mountains, urban areas, rural areas, health care, education, nutrition, agriculture, labor, production, consumption - in short, everything. The most accessible version of the document to come out following the Rio summit was published under the title AGENDA 21: The Earth Summit Strategy to Save Our Planet (Earthpress, 1993).
Edited by environmental-activist attorney Daniel Sitarz and enthusiastically endorsed by Earth Summit chief Maurice Strong, the book provides a powerful, if unintended, indictment of the UN treaty. It unblushingly, approvingly admits:
AGENDA 21 proposes an array of actions which are intended to be implemented by every person on Earth.... It calls for specific changes in the activities of all people....
Effective execution of AGENDA 21 will require a profound reorientation of all human society, unlike anything the world has ever experienced - a major shift in the priorities of both governments and individuals and an unprecedented redeployment of human and financial resources. This shift will demand that a concern for the environmental consequences of every human action be integrated into individual and collective decision-making at every level.
The admission is staggering. Look again: "all human society," "every person on Earth," "every human action," "every level," "demand," "require." The totalitarian power grab is so stunningly transparent that it seems impossible that any nation would endorse it. Yet it was unanimously endorsed by all of the countries in attendance, including the United States.
The late Dr. Dixy Lee Ray, a former Washington state governor, provided one of the few voices of sanity at the Rio Summit. As a recognized world-class scientist, and genuine environmentalist, Dr. Ray was not fooled by the eco-saviors' phony pretexts; she saw unmistakably the mailed fist inside the green velvet glove. "The objective, clearly enunciated by the leaders of UNCED [the Rio Earth Summit]," she warned, in her1993 book, Environmental Overkill, "is to bring about change in the present system of nations. The future is to be world government, with central planning by the UN.... If force is needed, it will be provided by a UN green-helmeted police force."
The objective has not changed over the past decade. The Johannesburg WSSD, frequently referred to as Earth Summit II or Rio+10, met under the theme, "People, Planet and Prosperity." Like everything else at the summit, that was a complete sham; the real theme was "Power, Power, Power." This is nakedly evident from the plain text of the summit documents, from the rhetoric of the main summit participants, and from the actions of the rapidly developing UN leviathan. The Earth Summit II proposals would empower the UN and its subsidiary agencies with new judicial, legislative, and executive powers.
Agenda 21, as we have already seen, is a veritable green Communist Manifesto. However, while Agenda 21 provides the general program for global environmental regulation, it relies on many other UN treaties to provide the detailed implementation. The Kyoto Protocol on global warming was the big on/off agenda item; it was not officially on the summit agenda, but was never far from center stage. Commitments under the Kyoto agreement would require drastic reduction in the use of fossil fuels, costing hundreds of billions of dollars annually to the U.S. economy alone. The plan is so costly and so greatly restricts the use of badly needed energy sources that a coalition of the U.S., oil exporting countries, and developing countries had stalled movement on Kyoto since the contentious 1998 Bonn summit. Kyoto was given new life at Johannesburg, however, when Russia and China, two of the biggest holdouts, both announced that they were ratifying the agreement.
Like all UN summits, Earth Summit II produced a Plan of Implementation (more commonly called the "Action Plan") supposedly committing the signatory countries to carry through with concrete actions. Supposedly, we say, because experience shows that most of the signatory nations disregard their commitments after the summit. The United States, on the other hand, faces a very real danger of seeing any agreements ratified by our government actually implemented through legislation. This is because the large, militant non-governmental organizations have strong allies in both the Congress and the major media who help agitate on behalf of this radical agenda.
The Action Plan was the focus of furious negotiating sessions at the summit. What emerged from the process was a litany of commitments that will likely do very little to accomplish the stated objectives. Major issues addressed by the Action Plan include:
• Replenishing Global Fisheries. According to UN figures, more than 25 percent of the world's fisheries are over-exploited, 50 percent are being fished to their full capacity, and 75 percent need immediate action to freeze or reduce fishing to ensure future supplies. The U.S. had argued that rather than initiate a new global agreement, countries should abide by fishing treaties and agreements already in place. The countries most responsible for over-fishing likely will not adhere to the new treaty any better than the existing ones. The Bush administration, after initial opposition, signed onto the fishery deal early in the summit.
• Drinking Water and Sanitation. The summiteers agreed on a global target to halve the number of people without access to adequate sanitation by 2015, matching the same commitment made on safe drinking water at the UN's 2000 Millennium Conference. According to the UN 2002 Human Development Report, 1.1 billion people lacked access to safe drinking water in 2000, and 2.4 billion did not have adequate sanitation.
• Renewable Energy. The European Union, strongly influenced by radical Socialist and Green Parties, had pushed for a specific commitment to have 15 percent of the world's energy produced by wind, solar and geothermal power by 2010. With opposition from the U.S. and much of the rest of the world, this radical proposal was muted to a call to transfer to "renewable" energy sources as quickly as possible.
• The Precautionary Principle. Enshrined at the Rio Summit, this principle, like "sustainable development," has never been adequately defined. Its advocates describe it as "erring on the side of safety." In practice, it means government restriction or prevention of anything that the organized environmental lobby accuses of presenting a "risk" to humans or nature. This means that medicines, foods, commercial or housing developments, pesticides, industrial chemicals, energy plants, etc., can be stopped or outlawed on the basis of unproven speculative risks.
Many Africans and other Third World people attending the summit vigorously disagreed with the overall statist program advanced at the UN confab. But their voices were seldom heard; they were ignored by the enviro-activist members of the media, and their message overpowered by the big guns of the eco-lobby: Greenpeace; World Wildlife Fund; Natural Resources Defense Council, etc.
James S. Shikwati, director of the Inter Region Economic Network (IREN) in Kenya, was one of those swimming against the green tide. "To take people out of poverty, the focus needs to be on safeguarding their economic freedom," said Shikwati. "Less government intervention in private economic initiatives and securing property rights will act as incentives for economic growth. But the poor populations will remain poor if the rest of the world, through the vehicle of the United Nations, decides to plan and intervene in personal enterprises. And that is what some people here at the summit seem keen to achieve: limiting people's productivity."
Mr. Shikwati is right, of course. The key to achieving better environmental quality, as well as quality of life, is to unshackle the human spirit from oppressive government regulation. The worst environmental degradation is taking place in the developing world. The worst water and air pollution, the worst soil erosion and abuse of toxic chemicals, occur not in the industrialized West, as many people falsely believe, but in the developing world. Even many of the leading greenies now admit what many studies have shown: Environmental quality improves as societies apply technology and increase production, eliminating inefficient, polluting practices. Installing a solar panel to recharge your cell phone batteries is something you do after you obtain potable drinking water and food for your family.
Shikwati puts it plainly: "The wealthy countries want the Earth to be green. The underdeveloped want the Earth fed. Exploitation of the natural resources created the wealth that feeds the rich countries. To bar the underdeveloped from utilizing their own resources is to make them die hungry. To propose that the poor should not have the freedom to choose which technology is best for them is to limit economic growth."
The key to economic development for the poor is energy. Denying the poor access to energy is to deny them life. James K. Glassman, host of www.TechCentralStation.com, a website focusing on issues of technology and public policy, was one of the pro-free enterprise voices at the summit. "A little energy goes a long way toward improving living standards," he pointed out in his daily column. "The physical power of a human alone is about the same as that used to power a 100-watt light bulb. But in Europe and the U.S., per-capita energy use is the equivalent of 200 to 250 light bulbs; in India, just 15 light bulbs.... Europeans and Americans have more than 200 'servants' at their disposal thanks to energy, but Indians have just 15." Many Africans are fortunate if they have even one electrical "servant."
Glassman and other free market advocates expressed optimism that their message was catching on at the WSSD. They pointed, for instance, to Steven Sawyer, a top official of Greenpeace International, who admitted in an interview with Ron Bailey of Reason magazine that "the priority has to be getting energy access to poor people, no matter what the source." Yes, many enviro-activists, UN officials, and government leaders paid similar lip service when they were confronted with the ugly fact that their proposals would doom the Third World poor to misery and death. But they then turned right around to continue pushing their radical agendas.
Sawyer's statement notwithstanding, Greenpeace was active on its anti-energy campaign every day of the summit. In a news story issued by Greenpeace on August 30th entitled, "The writing is on the wall for fossil fuels," the organization said:
If we are going to stop the earth's climate spinning out of control, most of the world's reserves of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas cannot be used for energy and must stay underground. We must make the switch to positive energy at home and globally.
"Positive energy," in the Greenpeace lexicon, means small wind, solar, and geothermal projects - nothing that will produce the levels of energy production the developing world needs. The radical greens are opposed even to hydro power, which they admit is renewable. They will accept only small hydro units little more than hi-tech water wheels capable of providing only a minuscule amount of the energy needed by the developing countries.
During the summit, a dozen Greenpeace activists were arrested for staging an "assault" on South Africa's Koeberg nuclear power plant. The green team landed by sea, climbed onto the facility, and unfurled a "Nukes Out Of Africa!" banner. The highly publicized event was part of the environmentalists' irrational ongoing attack on nuclear power, which offers one of the best hopes of clean energy for Africans. The Greenpeace crusaders do not have to suffer the consequences of their destructive energy-denying proposals. The Greenpeacers came to Johannesburg aboard their huge luxury yacht, the MV Esperanza. Powered by enormous diesel engines, it is equipped with a helicopter pad, computers, the latest navigation equipment - the works. It's easy for this green elite to preach "positive energy" while lounging on their hi-tech yacht; it's a lot more difficult for the real world's impoverished millions, who must eke out survival without the help of modern technology.
Greenpeace and the other major environmental groups are directly responsible for the deaths of many people. Responding to a Greenpeace-led campaign in the early 1990s, Chile's government discontinued chlorinating drinking water. This implementation of the "precautionary principle" would save, theoretically, a few hundred people from death by cancer, supposedly caused by the water chlorination. The result? One of the worst cholera epidemics of recent times. More than 1.3 million people were infected; over 11,000 died from the disease.
An even greater death toll is mounting now from another "precautionary principle" enshrined into UN law, thanks to the global lobbying effort of the Greenpests and their allies. Last year, the UN's Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP) Convention went into force, effectively banning DDT and other chemical pesticides essential to protecting billions of people from the deadly and debilitating mosquito-born diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, West Nile virus, and Dengue fever. As a result, hundreds of millions of people will likely become infected, and tens of millions will likely die.
Unfortunately, instead of being singled out as a pariah for all of its anti-human, anti-environment activities, Greenpeace was hosted, praised, wined, and dined at the summit by some of its supposed adversaries: some of the world's major corporations. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) provided corporate backing for many of the eco-radical proposals at the global affair and joined with Greenpeace and like-minded organizations in calling for implementation of the Kyoto Protocol. The WBCSD membership includes the usual corporate one-world elite: AOL Time Warner; Ford Motor; BMW; Daimler-Chrysler; Hewlitt-Packard; Coca-Cola; Chevron-Texaco; Fiat; Dow Chemical; Sony; Unilever; Toyota, etc.
Many of the WBCSD corporate elite are members of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), which, over the past eight decades, has led the global drive toward world government. They reliably follow the directions provided by the CFR's leaders and position papers. The WBCSD position on Kyoto is a case in point. The CFR has been the most influential "think tank" stubbornly advocating ratification and implementation of a global warming treaty, despite the horrendous economic costs, constitutional hazards, and the overwhelming scientific evidence that there is no catastrophic global warming trend.* The business imprimatur provided by the WBCSD is part of the familiar CFR strategy to provide both pressure from above (from business, governments, and the media) and pressure from below (enviro-radicals and other activists) in support of empowering UN institutions to "solve" so-called global crises. The ultimate objective, as Governor Dixy Lee Ray warned at the UN's Rio Earth Summit, is world government under an all-powerful United Nations.
* See "Myths and Meteorology" in the July 30, 2001 issue of TNA. This article is available at www.thenewamerican.com (click on "back issues").