Good News/Bad News Sept. 5, 2002
Well, we made it through another World Summit on Sustainable Development, and there wasn't a corporate coup, and our political and corporate leaders didn't pull off their masks to reveal their true alien-monster faces. So that's good news. Otherwise, it was a moderately crappy week for Mother Earth's health. That said, we'll be starting with the Bad News:
Mad Max, where are you now? A hundred years from now, thanks to the Bush Administration's ruling on privatizing water supplies, the world will be a desert, with wealthy oases holding all the water, and poor schlubs like Barstow, Calif., pouting in their sand gardens. Sure, we're talking more about Kevin Costner than Mel Gibson, but "Mad Max" is a much more dramatic name than "The Mariner," don't you think?
Just when the dread scourge of acrylamide had sunk below the public radar for the time being, a German magazine found the toxic chemical in coffee. However, at the same time a group of scientists found that caffeine reduces the risk of skin cancer. What's a coffee junkie to do?
Environmentalists are complaining that the Earth Summit was unable to accomplish any meaningful sustainability progress because said summit was caught in the mighty invisible hand of capitalism, with the thumb of that invisible hand being the OPEC nations, and the (middle) finger being the almost comically evil and greedy Bush Administration.
The best part of this job is finding the little stories that just perfectly illustrate the larger problems. It seems that only seven of the 200 countries attending the Earth Summit have volunteered to pay into the fund for cleaning up the site of the Summit. Can't you just imagine a bunch of rich, fat white guys sitting around, smoking, tossing their Big Mac wrappers far and wide, and then going home to brag about their green sensibilities to the gullible press?
Despite this absolute lack of interest in truly helping out, the Bush Administration offered, as its showcase at the Earth Summit, more voluntary partnerships to save the planet! This time, he wants the world to partner with transnational corporations. Pardon our cynicism, but won't this just perpetuate the current cycle of corporate "responsibility:" It will allow the government to do nothing, and the corporations to do nothing, but both groups will be able to just feel good about themselves...
The EPA has just approved the use of toxic chemicals, like diesel fuel, to open up oil and gas wells. We are comfortable applauding this asinine maneuver, as it is just giving one more clear example whose side the EPA is on in the ongoing battle between industry and environmentalists.
Along with most right-thinking people these days, we get a little jittery and paranoid any time Bush wants to "review" and/or "modernize" environmental legislation or treaties. The latest on his hit-list is the Nat'l Environmental Policy Act, established by everyone's favorite environmentalist, Richard Nixon, to prevent hasty or unnecessary logging and development without environmental impact reports. After Bush's stellar work on the Kyoto Protocol and the Earth Summit, we can only wonder what's in store for the next Act.
Now that that's behind us, let's discuss some Good News:
The good news this week is that it's becoming easier and easier for global citizens to level the finger at the U.S. as the ultimate obstacle to sustainable development. Russia and China have both ratified the Kyoto Protocol. Canada and even Australia are making hints that they will as well. If the U.S. is the last country on the "No" list, do we win some sort of stupid-head prize?
Even Bush's erstwhile best friend Tony Blair is jumping on the Bash Bush bandwagon. Not only does he criticize Bush's withdrawal from the Kyoto treaty, but he's even calling said treaty a mediocre first step. This is the direction we like seeing the global pendulum swing...
In GM food news this week, Zimbabwe is standing strong in its resistance to shipments of GM corn, despite pressure from the U.S., in the form of a stern rebuke from former Ag. industry player and current USDA head Ann Veneman.
Malawi, on the other hand, has decided to accept GM food shipments, but will mill all the food prior to distribution, so that it will be used only for eating (yikes!) and not for planting (double yikes!). We understand that pragmatism has to win out when people are starving, and at least Malawi has tempered it with a little consideration for the future, unlike the U.S.
Japan has developed and produced a new strain of rice for Africa, dubbed NERICA (New Rice for Africa), through standard Mendelian cross-breeding rather than genetic maniuplation, that produces more rice per acre, using less water and pesticides, than other strains of rice.
Further detailing the EU's commitment to fighting climate change, German chancellor Gerhard Schroder announced the planning of a follow-up green energy summit to plan "decisive action." Bravo, Herr Schroder! Sie sind eine Inspiration zu jeder! (Thanks as well to Babelfish...)
Tuvalu, one of the most dramatic examples of the reality of climate change, is gearing up to sue the U.S. and Australia over their negligence and unwillingness to join in the fight.
And since we're talking about the fight to save the planet, there's been some encouraging news recently about auto emissions: a study released from the University of California-Riverside has shown that Low-Emission Vehicles are capable of seriously lowering the amount of pollutants in the air, and are rapidly becoming practical to mass-produce. Since ULEVs and SULEVs were thought to be utterly impractical 10 years ago, perhaps we will someday all be driving Mr. Fusion-powered DeLoreans?
Matt Wheeland is an editorial intern at AlterNet.