You're Right, Barbara, Stay Home!

By Tester, Frank | Canadian Dimension, April-May 1992 | Go to article overview

You're Right, Barbara, Stay Home!


Tester, Frank, Canadian Dimension


I confess. I never thought the day would come when I'd agree with something said by Minister of External Affairs, Barbara McDougall. Usually, her raspy voice--not to mention what she actually says--sends a justifiable jitter up my spine. My fillings ache. My whole body reacts as if I were standing in front of one of those machines the highway department uses to turn tree branches into a spray of white wood chips.

The United Nations is hosting a conference on the global environment -- otherwise known as the 'Earth Summit' -- in rio, Brazil, June 1-12, 1992, The summit is supposed to address the conflict between international environmental protection and the pressures of economic development. Canadian environmentalists and non-governmental organizations are starting to sound orgasmic about its possibilities. Reaching agreement on the hundreds of environmental issues to be addressed if such an approach is to consider whole ecosystems seems more than a little unlikely, despite some limited success in dealing with atmospheric CFCs through the Montreal -- and then the Bergen -- Declarations, endorsed by 34 countries in 1990. Policing such agreements and using international law to enforce them seems even more improbable. Svend Robinson might agree that just raising the issues is problem enough.

On February 21, Ms. McDougall candidly suggested that expectations for the event had been 'inflated beyond the realistic ability of the world's institutions to deliver." Good heavens Barbara, for once you've got it right.

The forest industry has chosen Claude Richmond, BC's Minister of Forests in the former Social Credit government, to represent its interests. Claude should do well. He certainly represented their interests with distinction as Minister.

Think about it. Over 100 heads of government -- God knows how many bureaucrats -- and thousands of lobbyists, trying to do something significant for the global environment in 12 days. The idea is absurd. Getting agreement is one thing, enforcing all these good intentions is another. Canadian environmentalists and NGOs are playing into the hands of the very organizations and interests they need to target if the planet is to look like something other than a global feed lot several decades hence.

The last thing the IMF, the GATT, the World Bank and transnational corporations want to see is the spread of tactics like the challenge to GATT mounted in 1989 by the US Congress when it banned Mexican tuna tainted by the slaughter of dolphins. …

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