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U.S. Department of State 95/08/01 Speech: T.With on Global Issues Office of Global Affairs TIMOTHY E. WIRTH Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs Ecological Society of America National Conference Keynote Address Salt Lake City, Utah August 1, 1995 Thank you. I am delighted to be with you and to be back in the American West -- what a beautiful setting for this important conference. I am honored to have such a distinguished audience. For 20 years I have been reading the work of many of you, and some of you have been intellectual coach and mentor to me during my years of public service. So I have real pride and trepidation in addressing such a group. This morning I want to talk to you about change; about the global issues that confront us; about the resultant need to change the way we think about foreign policy and our national security; and about the political tides that have the potential to profoundly change our government, and which have already changed the obligations that each of us has as citizens of the United States of America. Indeed change is all around us -- in the angry election results of last fall, in the altered nature of geopolitics in the post-Cold War era, and in the relationship between human beings and the natural world. Comparing the experiences and priorities across generations is one way to comprehend the utterly changed nature of our world. In August of 1961, I was an Army private when the Berlin Wall was started; we were placed on alert and thought we were about to go to war in Central Europe. Thirty years later, my children sat on top of that same Wall with some 750,000 other young people from across Europe and the United States, listening to a Pink Floyd concert. What a remarkable change in one generation. For my generation East-West confrontation was the formative experience. It defined who we were, what we thought was valuable, what we thought was important for the country. For my children the Cold War is a distant reflection in the rear view mirror. Change can also be measured in the progress of the medical community, the altered priorities of scientists and the new findings of scientists, researchers and scholars like all of you. Measles, smallpox and polio -- major global challenges only thirty years ago -- have been all but tamed in virtually every region of the world and the international community is now working to develop a single children's vaccine that will innoculate the young against a host of easily preventable diseases. In their place, however, new and reemerging infectious diseases are surfacing and demand our attention -- HIV/AIDS, resistant strains of malaria, tuberculosis, various hemorrhagic fevers, including the perplexing and devastating ebola virus. Here in the United States, the 1960s brought us Rachel Carson's ominous warning about the possibility of a Silent Spring and the environmental movement was born. A host of citizens groups and scientists began investigating, learning, extoling and leading us toward change. The Cuyahoga River caught fire, and became the poster event for the first Earth Day 25 years ago. The National Environmental Protection Act was passed -- the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, energy legislation, the Endangered Species Act, and a host of measures at the federal, state and local level. Private industry changed dramatically, responding to the public will and to new markets -- and resulting in increased productivity and enhanced competitiveness. When the science on ozone depletion started coming in, the first response by some was to suggest that people wear hats, suntan lotion and dark glasses. We then got serious, and agreed with dozens of other nations to phase out harmful chlorofluorocarbons, and industry invested several billion dollars to produce substitute chemicals and design CFC-free systems. The U.S. model for government organization -- public-private partnership and science-based law -- has become the model for the world. Scores of countries have copied our approach and programs; and defenses for the environment and preservation of God's creation are being built around the globe. Like it or not, the world looks to the United States for leadership. I cite these successes, and emphasize this momentum, not to be a pollyanna, or to suggest that our work is done and that we can now relax. I cite them because these successes are important, very important: -- they prove that these partnerships between public and private sectors, between science and government can work. -- they prove that public dollars, wisely invested, can bring a significant return; -- and they should give us a basis of great confidence and momentum to face the challenges of Washington today. And I need not remind you that the challenges are great. When many in our Congress attempt to overturn carefully crafted law and regulations that protect our citizens from pollution and the looting of our natural heritage, they are, in a very real sense, not merely overturning a legislative legacy of several decades. They are doing something even more deadly -- they are attempting to overturn a 500 year legacy of civilization that has steadily replaced superstition and irrationality with understanding of, and respect for, science. The long-term consequences of such actions will reverberate through the coming decades in ways that will degrade far more than the health of our citizens and environment and our material well-being. This is the context for my exchange of thoughts with you this morning, and as I will suggest, must be the context for your actions and your involvement as citizens: to act with confidence in your successes; to act with surety in your science; and to act with urgency in your mission. Let me return to Rachel Carson. Because of her DDT was banned. Thirty years later we celebrate the soaring once again of our national symbol, the bald eagle. This is an important case study, loaded with science, meaning and symbolism. Like so many successes in the environmental movement, where science bested self-destruction and stewardship replaced neglect, we also discovered newer challenges and broader implications. Even as the eagle rebounds, the same chemicals are impacting in new ways, here at home and around the world. A growing field of scientific study is looking into the effects of DDT, PCBs and other chemicals, which due to their persistance and pathways may interfere with the endocrine systems of mammals, significantly affecting reproductive capability and fetal viability: -- infants of mothers who ate just two meals of contaminated fish per month from Lake Michigan during the six years prior to pregnancy were smaller at birth and had poorer cognitive development, suggesting neurological damage during embryonic development; -- in the North of Alaska, indigenous peoples are being found to have dangerous loadings of toxics and chemical compounds despite their pristine environment; What does that mean for us? What are the implications of bioaccumlative persistent organic pollutants on human health and reproductive capability? There is much to learn from the eagle. This is one of the many new subtle, persistent and urgent challenges we face. In fact, the changes and the choices that the United States and the world community now confront are every bit as demanding as those we have known since 1945. The nature, diversity and speed with which the new challenges proliferate dictate a new understanding of the meaning and nature of national security and of the role of individuals and nation-states in meeting new tests and forging a better world. We are accustomed to searching for international purpose and the causes of international instability in such factors as ideology, geo-politics, economic inequity, or intense hatreds spawned by nationalism, race and religious fanaticism. To these we must now add such factors as population growth, climate change, biodiversity, carrying capacity, ozone depletion and many others. Compared even with the complex considerations that determined our national security policies during the Cold War, the new global threats to international stability are almost bewildering in their interplay of man-made and natural phenomena. All of these factors are linked through complex chains of cause and effect, resulting in issues that can make even the arcane calculus of nuclear deterrence seem like a simple proposition. Climate change calculations, as just one example, challenge even the most sophisticated and powerful computers designed for our Cold War weapons programs. But, complexity need not be the enemy of a coherent concept for policy related to global issues. Instead, we have to recognize and adapt to new responsibilities and new challenges -- issues that will define the 21st century. These include familiar issues: political relationships and non- proliferation, trade and democratization. Also included must be the overriding issue for the future -- sustainable development, a concept that recognizes the mutually reinforcing nature of economic, social and environmental progress. I have long believed that the biggest obstacle to the pursuit of sustainable development -- here in our country or around the world -- is the misguided belief that protecting the environment is antithetical to economic interests. How often have we heard it said that "I'm for protecting the environment.as long as it doesn't cost jobs." It is within this terribly mistaken analysis that we encounter the fundamental intellectual challenge to sustainable development. Over the long-term, living off our ecological capital is a bankrupt economic strategy. Stated in the jargon of the business world, the economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment. Virtually all economic activity is dependent in some way on the environment and its underlying resource base. When the environment is finally forced to file for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 because its resource base has been polluted, degraded and irretrievably compromised, then the economy goes down to bankruptcy with it. To avoid stealing from our children's future, we must make it clear that sustainable development is a worthy challenge and incredible opportunity for renewing our common sense of purpose in the aftermath of the Cold War. We must demonstrate that hope and hard work are the antidote to fear and resistance to change. We must meet misinformation with renewed creativity and the powerful force of ingenuity. We must transform the debate from one that often frames scientific issues as obstacles to ways of the past, and instead views them as opportunities for new ideas, new products and a better quality of life for the future. Sustainable development can serve as a cornerstone of national renewal and individual purpose. It can serve as a broad, comprehensive and future-oriented vision to replace the narrow cynicism and base greed that grips our nation in gridlock. This is a vision that views the challenge of protecting and understanding our biological resources as an enormous opportunity for cataloguing our inheritance and prospecting for products from nature's wonder. We can measure the distance to the moon within a matter of centimeters, but don't know whether there are 10, 30, or 100 million species on our own planet. This vision embraces the quest for knowledge -- to unlock the mysteries of the oceans, the atmosphere, and the biosphere, to understand how they work individually and how they interact collectively -- a wondrous opportunity. It is a vision that sees clearly the opportunity of global trade and the necessity for nurturing the family of democratic, free-market economies so that poverty is vanquished and human misery obscured; where sustainable development and basic human needs are met in every nation. It is a vision of a society that will once again place on its pedestals Nobel Laureates, astronauts and scientific geniuses, not the purveyors of television violence, political pundits or million-dollar athletes who distinguish themselves in the police blotter. And it surely is a vision that will not be realized unless those with shared values about the various components of sustainable development come together, work together and succeed as one. Unhappily, U.S. leadership in international science, in international relations and in the effort to improve the lives of our citizens and the world's are in question as never before. A political wave has swept the country which suggests that the response to change is retrenchment. Within innocuously labelled legislative proposals and arcane appropriations bills are a host of initiatives whose message is that we should face backwards while we travel the down escalator toward the 21st century -- rolling back the gains of the past, and undercutting the momentum for progress in the future. This approach appears to be more than a reluctant unwillingness to invest in the future. It seems willfully premised on the misguided belief that what we don't know can't hurt us. It is an attempt to avoid knowledge, sidestep reason and ignore change for narrow and sharply political reasons. For example: Based on obscure writings of individuals with no experience or peer- reviewed work in the field of atmospheric chemistry, the State of Arizona -- bucking unprecedented international consensus among public and private sector experts (not to mention national law and international agreement) -- passed a law allowing the manufacturer of chemicals with the greatest capacity to destruct Earth's protective ozone layer. Bouyed by the bombast, several members of Congress are following suit. Similar absurd "experts" halted what had appeared to be a smooth ratification of the Convention on Biodiversity. After being reported out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on an overwhelming 16-3 vote, the Biodiversity Treaty was stopped in its tracks when a long-time writer for Lyndon Larouche wrote a 75-page report evoking images of world governance, paganism, nature worship and a host of other nonsense. It would have been funny had it not been so destructive. Despite broad industry support, the treaty was shelved as a result of willful misinformation. Ignoring that family planning and reproductive health care is the best means of reducing the need for abortion, the Congress has repoliticized domestic and international population programs and certain members are on a crusade to eliminate them altogether. These efforts are based on an unmistakable campaign to equate family planning and reproductive health programs with the issue of abortion, knowing full well that U.S. policy has banned federal funding for abortions at home and abroad for 25 years. Even domestically this agenda has become clear: the House is moving full steam toward the elimination of the nation's family planning program -- a step so extreme that even fellow Republicans have noted that their colleagues have taken their anti-choice agenda to the field of contraception. On the international front, the void left by the end of East-West conflict has evoked suggestions that the U.S. mission is domestic only; that since our interests and responsibilities around the world are greatly diminished, we should simply maintain a strong defense to guard against military threats and traditional security concerns. This view ignores much more than the extensive human deprivation and environmental degradation occurring in today's world, it ignores our interests in a peaceful and prosperous and democratic community of nations; it ignores our responsibility and enormous opportunity to shape progress for the world of tomorrow. And what of that world? Will we be a nation that participates in enterprises that by their nature require cooperation among nations? Will we be a nation that continues to move forward in science, technology and ideas -- which have been and remain the essential underpinnings of making this country prosperous, strong and successful? Or will we withdraw and retreat; shut the doors on scientific and technologic progress; stifle the efforts to renew our economy; delay our preparation for an ever more complex 21st century -- in which our economy, our society and the environment will be challenged as never before? Preparations for the new century are being made in classrooms and laboratories and boardrooms and households all across America. But these preparations will only be successful if public policy is just as thoughtful -- and the signs are not encouraging. No doubt, intergenerational equity requires that we guard our children from a crushing burden of inherited debt. But we need to leave our children more than a budget in balance; it is equally essential that we not leave an environmental debt, a scientific black hole, a legacy of neglect on pressing health concerns, which also presage an unsustainable future for our children. The recent direction of Congressional actions sacrifice the latter objectives in haste to achieve the first. By withdrawing from international cooperation, undermining health and safety laws and gutting the research needed to enhance scientific understanding of the world we live in, we are diminishing our readiness and relinquishing our ability to shape change on behalf of America and her interests. Global cooperation on environmental threats -- ozone depletion, climate change, loss of forests and irreplaceable species -- has been one of the most exciting untold stories of the last decade. Remarkable strides have been made in linking economic and environmental progress on behalf of all nations, large and small, rich and poor. These efforts have demonstrated that we can respond to the best information scientists are providing us about the health of the environment and the state of the world. And the critical glue making this possible has been parternship -- scientists with policymakers, public with private sectors, industrial with developing nations. But as recent actions to reverse protections for the stratospheric ozone layer demonstrate, these kinds of partnerships are now threatened. International cooperation to protect the ozone layer is endangered by revisionism and neglect. One month ago, the House of Representatives voted to slash funding for the Montreal Protocol Fund -- which links our successful efforts to halt production in the developed countries with the developing countries more difficult transition to safe substitutes. This funding is not charity -- it represents enlighted self-interest: ozone depletion transcends boundaries regardless of where the chemicals are released. The House has also voted to reduce the U.S. contribution -- a 70 percent cut -- for the Global Environment Facility, which was established precisely for the purpose of lowering the cost to any one nation of protecting the global environment. Every dollar we invest leverages 8 in return. Eliminating GEF funding risks unravelling the facility, and with it our efforts to bring developing countries into the process of safeguarding the globe. More troubling is the emerging, but none-too-subtle attempt to block the underpinnings of environmental policy, the very science that is necessary to improve understanding and decisionmaking. Domestically, the Congress is bent on diminishing -- if not eliminating -- the National Biological Service and NSF's Long-Term Ecological Research, initiatives premised on the unassailable idea that reasoned judgements are predicated on knowledge. Internationally, they hope to wipe out the scientific basis for concern about global climate change -- as if shutting down science will still the course of nature. A primary target is the comprehensive global change research program -- conceived and begun under President Reagan and Bush (no knee- jerk, regulatory zealots they) -- and now being systematically dismantled in the budgetary process. Is it a coincidence that funding for global change research at EPA, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Energy, NASA, NOAA, the National Science Foundation and elsewhere are all slated for deep cuts? -- EPA on the order of 90 percent, NASA 40 percent, and the list goes on. The industry lobbyists who have been fighting science with evasion, action with obstruction -- they don't think so and neither should you. Nor should we be complacent about the misguided attempts to gut the President's Climate Change Action Plan -- which is built around voluntary programs that save our economy money while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. To some in Congress, these programs aren't targets of opportunity for reducing emissions...they are just plain targets. That is why we are confronting disabling cuts in programs that promise to reduce emissions and save almost $2 billion annually by the year 2000, including EPA's Green Lights, Energy Star Computer, Natural Gas STAR and similar voluntary efforts. And that is why there are numerous so-called "policy-riders" on appropriations bills, including proposals to halt the issuance of more modern, more efficient appliance efficiency standards and building codes which have the potential to save yet another $2 billion annually. All told, the concerted attack on the President's Climate Change Action Plan could take a heavy toll. Preliminary analysis -- to be completed in October -- reveals the scale and potential scope of this damage. The analysis shows three things. First, we have made great progress in controlling greenhouse gases over the past few years and many of the programs that we have initiated have been even more successful than predicted. Second, we still have a long ways to go to meet our commitment to return to 1990 emission levels by the year 2000. And third, the targetted cuts proposed in Congress would move us at warp speed in the wrong direction. Our review to date indicates that Action Plan programs implemented to date have both reduced greenhouse gas emissions and saved the American people money. But our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are not sufficient to meet our objective of reaching 1990 levels by the year 2000. This gap is largely the result of our economic successes over the past two years. The stronger-than-expected economic growth under the Clinton Administration, as well as lower-than-expected oil prices, have combined to push up the rate of our emissions. We would welcome an opportunity to work constructively with the Congress to close this gap. But the Hill is moving rapidly in the wrong direction. Our analysis indicates that House Republican proposals in all likelihood would double the gap. This very likely means that emissions in the year 2000 would be close to where we would have been without any plan at all. As the situation in Congress looks right now, the gap wouldn't get smaller -- it would explode. The failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is not one of sound planning, it is a victory of short-term politics over long-term public policy vision. We will regroup, but the forces against reason, against science, against progress and the environment are ascendent. We have a steep hill to climb. I point these actions out not to recite the laundry list of horror stories, but to suggest that reason must be revived, that the search for knowledge and wisdom, science and new technology are not a given in today's politics, yet they remain a must for tomorrow's environment. But if we are to continue to make progress, scientists such as yourselves are going to have to think anew. Most scientists understandably believe that the great battles pitting reason with research, scientists with society have been fought and won. But the current debate over public policy in America demonstrates that progress is determined by politics, not reason. If ever there was a time -- or a need -- for the scientific community to enter the fray beyond peer-review and publish or perish, it is now. Engagement in the world around you is not only necessary, it is essential. Reaching across disciplines, overcoming silence, defining priorities and working together must characterize your work in the months and years ahead. There will be an overwhelming urge to fight over the crumbs, to atomize efforts on behalf of this project or that institution. This is a doomed strategy. On the other side are interests and organizations far more mobilized, with deeper pockets and an instinct for the jugular. In one of the most impressive organizing efforts ever, the Christian Coalition has built an organization of almost 2 million members with chapters throughout the country, a $20 million annual budget and a grassroots organization capable of shaping public policy to the will of a vocal, well-organized minority for many years to come. Reportedly, the organization has detailed voter files for 1.7 million Americans, and aims to have an organizational arm in every voting precinct in America within the next five years. I do not agree with their views, but I acknowledge their success in mobilizing an enormously effective political operation. Unhappily, these are the great battlegrounds for the environment and science in the future. The skirmishes will not be fought -- despite posturing to the contrary -- on the basis of sound science, common sense, and relative risk. They will be fought out in neighborhoods and precincts, they will be fought on computer terminals, through grassroots organizing and active participation in our democratic processes. And this is where you come in. Like it or not, you must get involved -- each and every one of you -- in the processes that govern our country. You must apply your knowledge, your expertise and your ability to express yourselves. You must research your local situation and find out who is doing what and why. And then you must act -- to teach your fellow citizens (in classrooms and editorial boards, town meetings and talk shows) and to be the involved citizen that our country depends upon. This may make you feel uncomfortable -- you may be saying to yourself "that's not my job -- I'm a scientist". So ask yourself who built the great medical establishment in the United States? It was a partnership of doctors, researchers and public policymakers, building NIH, our medical schools, the rural hospital network. Who built the space program? It was scientists, engineers and political leaders. And who built our great research universities? It was the impetus of World War II, the quest for knowledge and great leadership from scientists and academics in America. I don't have to tell you that the stakes in all of this are huge -- for each of us, for our children, for life, for the earth. The high degree of political volatility is matched only by the magnitude of global challenges. In 1948, when the notion of space exploration was still science fiction, the Astronomer Fred Hoyle said: "Once a photograph of the Earth, taken from the outside, is available...a new idea as powerful as any in history will be let loose." Twenty years later, when space travel became a reality, the travellers themselves provided powerful testimony to Hoyle's sense of the unity of the world. Let me read to you from our own astronaut, James Irwin: "That beautiful, warm, living object looked so fragile, so delicate that if you touched it with a finger it would crumble and fall apart." And now from a Russian cosmonaut: "After an orange cloud -- formed as a result of a dust storm over the Sahara -- reached the Phillipines and settled there with rain, I understood that we are all sailing in the same boat." In this last decade of the millennium, we have the power and enormous responsibility to captain that boat carefully. We also have the ability to shape change for the benefit of the United States and the entire world. The interests and intellectual capacity reflected in this room today bears a special burden in this regard. Working together, your talents, your energy and your power is more than the match for the challenges and the institutions involved. I hope that each of you will engage in this effort and that we can harness that energy and wisdom in service of these objectives. Our future certainly depends on it.
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