‘Tree huggers’
vs. global traders

By Anthony C. LoBaido

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – It was trade and transnational corporations versus the environment at the recent Rio Plus Ten World Summit on Sustainable Development here, and the green groups, complain their supporters, came out on the short end of the stick.

When the world gathered in Johannesburg a few weeks ago for the conference, the world’s major environmentalist groups and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) believed they would make major gains in their respective agendas. However, now that the dust has settled, it would appear that the world’s most powerful corporations have cemented their agenda of promoting trade, while the concerns of environmentalists – both radical and moderate – have been overrun.

In fact, the IUCN-World Conservation Union, the world’s largest environmental lobbying group, says that the environmental agenda was totally sidelined during the conference. The IUCN had sought to completely rewrite the current draft agreement on globalization and trade, which it termed as “abysmal.” Over 7,000 environmental organizations in all attended the WSSD. Not one of them could stop the weakening of previously tough language in international treaties and texts aimed at protecting the world’s biodiversity.

“This summit was an all-around disaster. Over 500 million rand (the rand is worth 1/10th of the U.S. dollar) were squandered to host this summit. The U.N. announced after the summit that no further gatherings would be held until governments around the world enacted environmental legislation which they had already committed themselves to over the past decade or so,” Stephanie Dubois, a French NGO representative to the conference told WorldNetDaily.

“The elites of the world genuflect before notions of trade and competitiveness and privatization. Trade is the new ‘god.’ It is a religion. It is a mania,” said Dubois. “The IMF, WTO and World Bank are constantly beating the drums about international competitiveness. But global trade doesn’t make sense. Why should British citizens be able to buy butter produced in New Zealand, which is 80 percent less expensive than butter produced inside the UK? It’s just madness.”

South Africa’s ruling ANC – a government with Soviet-era training yet committed to privatization – was blamed for creating an ambiance at the WSSD where the environmental NGOs of the Northern Hemisphere were marginalized as tree huggers who did not have the interests of the poor in mind. However, the IUCN presented a program that sought to give the United Nations dictatorial powers to force rich nations to give financial aid to poor nations.

“As one might expect, that notion lasted about as long as a snowball in the Kalahari,” Dubois added.

“It may be true that the rich nations of the world have hurt their environments in the race for development – Japan and Taiwan come to mind. And it may be true that China and India are following the same path. Yet everyone is missing the most important point: We must make environmentalism cost-effective and financially lucrative. Take empty aluminum cans. In New York, once a 5-cent return fee was placed on the cans, people began recycling. Poor people, even homeless people, scrounged for cans. Right now, there is no economic incentive to engage in environmentally friendly policies. What’s good for business is not always good for the people of the world.”

Negotiations over energy consumption and production, fishing rights, water and agriculture were deemed an unmitigated disaster at the WSSD. Not even massive street demonstrations mounted by South Africa’s and the world’s largest radical environmental groups could sway the agenda of the transnational trading elites. One tactic that made front-page headlines in South Africa featured a beautiful blonde American named Lisa Franzetta who wore only specially placed lettuce leaves while handing out vegetarian food and leaflets to WSSD delegates.

Rejecting economies of scale and modern scientific methods, the socialists at the WSSD seek the dismantling of large, productive farms in Namibia, Zimbabwe and now South Africa in favor of 19th century-style subsistence and semi-subsistence farms. Namibian and Zimbabwean leaders like Sam Nujoma and Robert Mugabe, trained in China and armed in their communist revolutions by Beijing, openly called for Maoist-style agricultural reform at the WSSD. Mugabe, in particular, was met as a conquering hero by throngs of South Africans carrying Zimbabwean flags. After the WSSD, Nujoma spoke of confiscating all farms in Namibia (formerly Southwest Africa until its fall to communism in 1989-90) owned by whites.

African leaders railed against the West, lamenting that there are 13 million people facing starvation in Southern Africa and 75 percent of the world’s HIV-positive population live in Sub-Saharan Africa. Over 50 percent of Sub-Saharan Africans face a future without access to fresh water, this despite the fact that the Great Lakes region of Africa contains abundant water supplies.

Environmentalists at the WSSD lambasted the United States, claiming Uncle Sam absorbs $300 billion from the developing world and consumes 40 percent of the world’s resources. Europe was slammed for giving its farmers billions in subsidies. Third-world nations at the WSSD sought increased access to U.S. and European markets, but were stonewalled in that quest. China was condemned for rejecting a call to stop using chemicals that damage human health and the environment by the year 2020.

Additionally, the U.S., EU, Japan, Canada, Australia and New Zealand were chided at one time or another for rejecting the Kyoto Global Warming Protocol, failing to sign on to treaties aimed at enforcing corporate accountability, failing to act on targets for establishing “access to sanitation” in developing countries and an outright rejection of targets and treaties on climate change and poverty reduction. The development of alternative energy sources was also an issue, with the U.S. rejecting it outright, although renewable-energy advocates were happy with the fact that the U.S. committed $7 billion toward research on renewable energy.

The American position remained that Kyoto would be too expensive to implement, would cost the U.S. a million jobs and have a negligible effect on climate change. The U.S. further contended that human-produced pollution was not conclusively proven to cause global warming and that the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines spewed more so-called poisonous gases into the atmosphere in one hour than all of the automobiles and factories created in human history combined. The U.S. seeks to continue its course of engaging bilateral treaties and understanding on climate change and to reduce emissions by means of technology transfer and technical assistance.

The U.S. position at the WSSD was enforced by Japan, say observers.

Remi Parmentier, the political director of Greenpeace, told the international media gathered at the conference that it appeared that “Japan was doing some of the dirty work for the United States.” Japanese officials, Parmentier claimed, were “telling ministers from developing countries that Japan and the U.S. will support the [WSSD’s] target on water if the targets on renewable energy are removed” from the agenda.

“By bargaining water against energy issues, the U.S. and Japan are totally disregarding science and the needs of the planet. You cannot do one without the other,” Parmentier said.

A major water player at the summit was France-Libertes, who have a strong patron in Danielle Mitterand, the wife of the late French leader. According to France-Libertes, a human-rights group Danielle Mitterand founded in 1986, 20 percent of the world’s citizens don’t have access to fresh water. By 2022, that number, says France-Libertes, will rise to 66 percent. France-Libertes and other organs of the International Association for a Global Water Contract argued at the WSSD against the privatization of water resources. Almost 75 percent of the world’s fresh water is used by the agricultural industry. Another 20 percent goes to industry. Only 6 percent is used by households around the world.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell was booed off the stage at the conference for criticizing Mugabe’s murder of white farmers and the confiscation of their land in Zimbabwe. Powell was derided as serving his “masser,” President George W. Bush, while the CIA and rich white nations of the G-8 (with the exception of Russia and Japan) were condemned for their alleged “exploitation of the non-white world.” The pollution of Asian countries, especially China, was overlooked at the WSSD, yet the pollution generated by the white countries was placed under a microscope.

Another positive note for the international socialist cause was the massive street demonstrations that drew between 10,000 and 25,000 people. The marches were South Africa’s largest since the end of apartheid and the creation of South Africa’s Marxist regime in 1994.

South Africa’s Landless People’s Movement, which seeks the confiscation of white-owned farmland, was also a big winner. By the end of the conference, the LPM had been united with the transnational movement for landless people, La Via Campensina, and the Social Movements Indaba. The Social Movements Indaba included groups such as the Anti-Privatization Forum, Jubilee South Africa, the Environmental Justice Networking Forum and the Palestinian Solidarity Committee. The Indaba was led by Dennis Brutus, a Marxist of the South African left who spent time in prison in Robbin Island for his anti-apartheid activities.

During their anti-globalization marches, the Indaba handed out pamphlets that read, “The eyes of the world will be on Jo’burg at the biggest meeting ever of world leaders promising ‘people, planet and prosperity.’ Their lies cannot be allowed to stand. Join us as we build a new world with our lives and bodies, as we unmask W$$D.”

Brutus told the world that the international trading system, dominated as it is by multinational capital, is “illogically and destructively competitive.” He claimed this system destroys both people’s lives and the environment. “It is almost Freudian, the pursuit of pleasure to the points where pleasure becomes destructive,” he added.

Former Soviet dictator Mikhail Gorbachev also was a major figure at the WSSD. The head of Green Cross International and the major figure behind the “Earth Charter,” Gorbachev told the WSSD delegates, “We are declaring our planet in danger and accuse the self-interested politics of ‘business as usual’ pursued by governments.”

Britain, the U.S., Israel and South African President Thabo Mbeki were criticized by marchers and WSSD attendees in general for their pro-Israel policies and failure to help the poor. The U.S. was also criticized for rejecting French President Jacques Chirac’s proposal to set up a World Environmental Organization.

Jim Connaughton, the White House’s director of the committee on environmental quality, told the South African media that the U.S. rejected the criticisms launched against it at the WSSD, claiming that the U.S. only “worries about criticism if it [is] true. Our fundamental interest is to protect the hard-working people of the United States.” Connaughton also said that the U.S. was working with the G77, Europe, South Africa and the U.N. to set up a “forward-looking agenda of action.” He also defended the U.S. position against a World Environmental Organization, claiming it would “take so much time to set up and manage while the world waits for action.”

The White House representative also claimed that environmental issues were already a part of the “day to day” business planning and decision-making of corporations. He also said that “a hallmark of the [WSSD] summit was the integration of environmental, economic and social considerations. That was the aspiration at Rio 10 years ago – these three pillars as the foundation of sustainable development. This conference fulfilled that vision.”

One idea that was bandied about the conference was that of Jared Hardner and Richard Rice of Conservation International. These two men have proposed that “green concessions,” which mean “leasing land” and paying the owners of that land to put it to ecologically friendly use – as is currently being done in Indonesia, Guyana and Guatemala – was economically viable. According to Hardner and Rice, green groups should and could outbid, say, logging companies for rights to land and to help local people manage the intact ecosystems. They point to the fact that governments, transnational development banks and conservation groups spend over $500 million per year on biodiversity conservation in tropical regions alone.

In the final analysis of the WSSD, some major goals were met. An agreement to lower the number of people in the world without access to sanitation by 50 percent was reached. That target goal is 2015. South Africa and other nations agreed to pacts reducing the use of harmful and toxic chemicals. WSSD attendees agreed to seek to help the 1.2 billion people on Earth who live on less than $1 per day. World leaders hope to help at least 600 million of those people to improve their lives within the next two decades or less. In a white paper prepared for the WSSD, the World Bank claimed that growth would reduce poverty in the developing world. The paper stated, “If low-income countries grow at 3.6 percent a year, the 29 percent of the world population that lived on $1 per day in 1990 would be halved by 2015.”

Another positive note for environmentalists was the commitment to restore the world’s fisheries by 2015 and give developing nations the right to fish in those waters. The United Nation’s notion of “biodiversity” also was mutated to include the high seas.

The Holy Grail of the WSSD – and the major victory of the environmental NGOs over the U.S. – was the agreement to give consumers worldwide “eco labels” on products that provide information on how environmentally “friendly” they are. An agreement was also reached on developing a sustainable-development plan to be implemented within the next decade and periodic reports to measure progress.

Another overlooked development to emerge from the WSSD is the fact that the little-known yet extremely powerful Global Environmental Facility, or GEF, had its coffers increased with a $3 billion infusion. The GEF was launched at the 1992 Earth Summit and has 173 member states. The body will spend that $3 billion on various environmental projects around the world. Its major aim is to buy up large tracts of land around the world and bring them under the control of the environmental elites of the United Nations and the world. Since 1992, the GEF has been given $4.2 billion in grant money and has managed to gain another $11 billion from other sources.

Ten years after Rio, Johannesburg showed the world that despite the consolidation of the world’s socialist and Marxist groups, as well as the uniting of the world’s environmental NGOs under the “eco-equity” umbrella, not much has changed on the global trade scene.

For now, development will go on.

As Dubois told WorldNetDaily, “Who knows if that development will be sustainable, or even if it should be?”

Editor’s note: The upcoming October 2002 edition of WND’s monthly Whistleblower magazine – titled “GREEN WITH ENVY: Exposing radical environmentalists’ assault on Western civilization” — is a mind-boggling expose of the radical environmentalist movement. It documents how environmentalist-inspired laws outlawing asbestos caused the early collapse of the World Trade Center, killing thousands; how this year’s ferocious western wildfires were largely the result of environmentalist policies; how environmentalist policy elitists want to lock up as much as one-half of the United States as “Wilderness,” basically off-limits to humans; why the save-the-rainforest movement is a fraud; and much, much more. Subscribe to Whistleblower.