Shaping Environmental Policy on a Worldwide Scale

Article excerpt

IF you have a difficult time getting interested in the earth's global environment, maybe you should try harder. Here are some facts to ponder: * One billion more people will join us here on earth by the year 2000. * About 25 percent of all animals and plants will become extinct, or close to it, in the next 30 years. * Tropical forests are being leveled at a rate of 40 to 50 million acres a year. * Asia dumps 90 percent of its waste into the water or next to it.

These estimates, gleaned from scientific sources, will be at the forefront of United Nations thinking when it convenes a Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) at Rio de Janiero next June. Regrettably, the United States administration has dragged its feet in giving priority to this prestigious environmental meeting.

UNCED gives the US an opportunity to shape environmental policy on a worldwide scale. This policy would become the foundation for environmentally sustainable development practices well into the next century.

Environmental issues have become significant factors in shaping US foreign policy toward the developed and the developing world. Major environmental issues such as ozone depletion, climate change, tropical deforestation, and loss of bio-diversity are now recognized as truly global issues because by their nature they ignore national borders.

At the same time, most of the major economic, political, and social issues of our day reflect environmental concerns to some degree. For this reason alone, next year's UNCED meeting and its planning process deserve US action. The US has been at the forefront of environmental protection issues and should hang onto its leadership role. Particularly, this should be a high priority for an "environmental" president.

So far, the US has said that it would like to see a convention on worldwide climate tied into an agreement on preservation of forests. We'd like such a convention to be ready before the UNCED meeting and a pact ready for signing in Rio next June. …

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