Kathleen Frith, Center for Health and the Global Environment
Wednesday, 2 Apr 2003
My time at the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies conference yesterday was informative, and provided a “shot in the arm” through hearing what other groups and individuals are doing to protect the environment. My afternoon workshop discussed the World Summit on Sustainable Development, held last year in Johannesburg, South Africa, and progress that’s been made since then. The group discussed the value of large, multilateral policies about the environment and the pros and cons of such huge summits. Overall, I left feeling like these summits, while rife with organizational flaws, provide an incentive to governments and corporations around the world to face these issues and create policies to address them.
What is most upsetting about the international pressure for environmental agreements is my own nation’s stubborn non-participation. Someone at the workshop said that even modest wording in the Plan of Implementation at Johannesburg was rejected in deference to anticipated U.S. resistance. It seems that the Bush administration is totally satisfied with a go-it-alone policy and does not value international consensus with regard to a range of issues.
One of the most compelling remarks at the conference was made by a union representative for U.S. Steelworkers. He spoke of the union’s long involvement with environmental issues, and especially with the human-health consequences of pollutants commonly found in his industry. He pointed out, however, that in order for a real transition to cleaner energy to occur, the burden of those industry workers must be taken into account. Simply put, no one will trade in his or her livelihood unless there are other employment options. He pressed all of us to find innovative and real options for these workers as we move forward in our quest for cleaner technology.
I took the shuttle back to Boston early this morning and have been working all day on press releases for the event on Friday. One would think Meryl Streep and Sigourney Weaver would attract the press easily enough, but I am having to work the phones quite a bit. Most reporters and editors are glued to the Iraq conflict and a good-news celebrity event does seem a bit out of place.
In addition, we are working on the giveaway bags for the event, which include a great deal of information about organic and environmentally responsible food. We hope the event will be a major educational opportunity and that the guests will feel empowered to know that their personal choices can make a huge difference.