More Than Words: Fulfilling Global Environmental Agreements

By Stephen D'Esposito; Bode, Thilo | Harvard International Review, Spring 1996 | Go to article overview

More Than Words: Fulfilling Global Environmental Agreements


Stephen D'Esposito, Bode, Thilo, Harvard International Review


IN RECENT YEARS, environmentalists have popularized the catch phrase "think globally, act locally" in order to encourage local action addressing global environmental problems. Starting from the premise that small-scale efforts collectively make a significant impact, they have advocated such measures as suburban tree-planting to reduce global warming and community recycling to conserve resources and alleviate waste disposal problems. While these local efforts are important, local action alone cannot solve our collective environmental problems: action on a global level is even more critical.

Environmental issues have moved to the top of the international agenda and play an increasingly significant role in international relations. Discussion on the environment, however, is not equivalent to action, and international negotiations and agreements to date have been characterized by evasion rather than resolution of the most challenging issues. Insufficient international action, for example, has emerged from government commitments made at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit or from ongoing UN-sponsored negotiations to limit carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in industrialized countries--despite wide-spread recognition that CO2 emissions have a potentially catastrophic impact on climate change. To successfully cope with the pressing environmental problems now faced, citizens, activists, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), corporations, and especially governments must move beyond discussion and take concrete action.

Today the over-consumption of renewable resources presents the greatest risk. Two decades ago, environmentalists thought that the depletion of oil reserves was the fundamental problem arising from the overuse of fossil fuels to power our energy and transportation infrastructure. But it is now clear that the greater challenge stems from global warming, a result of the massive amounts of CO2 produced through the burning of fossil fuels. In addition, irrational and excessive consumption of renewable resources is leading to the devastating loss of biodiversity in our forests, wetlands, and seas. We are almost literally biting off the hand that feeds us.

Human consumption levels and patterns are wasteful and unsustainable. Greater efficiency and technological improvements will help us combat global warming and resource depletion, but they will not be enough to fully resolve these problems. Unrestrained growth will destroy life support systems such as our atmosphere and the biological diversity of eco-systems, as it has already begun to do. For too many years government policies and environmentalist campaigns focused on coping with environmental damage rather than striking at the root cause, our own excessive growth and consumption. This focus led to many successes but did not create the underlying changes necessary to address our worst environmental problems. The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio underscored the need for more international action, but in the years following the Summit, insufficient progress has occurred.

Transcending National Interest

The effects of our consumption and waste seldom recognize the sovereignty of nations. Most environmental problems, such as ozone depletion or the loss of tropical rainforests, neither start nor stop at national borders. National governments, even those with the best of intentions, will find that domestic measures undertaken without international commitment have limited global results. International measures to counter environmental problems, however, seldom win the acceptance of multiple states because they often require action that appears contrary to the economic or political interests of national governments. Benevolence alone has rarely moved governments to pursue policies they see as jeopardizing their interests or those of powerful economic actors within their countries.

International negotiations and agreements; then, must be based upon the acceptance of a fundamental principle: though preserving the environment will in the end result in a net gain, there will be both winners and losers during the process. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

More Than Words: Fulfilling Global Environmental Agreements
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.