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June 22, 1972 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1972-06-22

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Ecology parley: No solution to pollution

AS MY Boeing 747 lifted above
Stockholm's smog cover last
Friday, the world's first Inter-
sational Conference on the Hu-
man Environment started shak-
ing apart because the delegates
couldn't agree on a vaguely
worded, non-binding proposal for
saving planet Earth. The na-
tions, who joined together under
the motto "only One Earth,"
couldn't agree, for one thing, on
a recommendation to ban nuc-
lear bombs, which some coun-
tries felt cause harm to t h e
human environment.
Originally, Article 21 of the
draft Declaration on the Human
Environment, which was prepar-
ed by U.N. functionaries long
before the conference began,
read: "Man and his environment
must be spared the serious ef-
fects of further testing or .use in
hostilities of weapons, particu-
larly those of mass destruction."
That wasn't acceptable to t he
United States, which offered a
substitute: "States must inten-
sify efforts to maintain inter-
national peace and security so
that man and his environment
can be spared any serious ef-
fects of testing and use in hostil-
ities of weapons, especially those
of mass destruction." Note the

tion against which we ha
voted," and anyway, he
no one has really ever
that nuclear tests are h,
The Conference was save
when it concocted a comp
wording which barely sr
everybody: "Man and h
vironment must be spar
effects of nuclear weapor
all other means of mass d
tion," which seemed tox
specific than the other
Besides. the delegates
tired of Stockholm's
congestion, vehicle fume:
rageously high prices and
to go home. They passed
solution, a broad declarat
the environment, an actio
to fight pollution, set
new U.N. agency to moni
vironmental programs a
conference was over.
IF THE delegates at
vironmental conference b
a resolution against ma
struction, you may wonde
environmental principle
can agree on. Not many
ed Nations officials wer
ing all along that the ve
the conference even exist
a marvelous accomplishm
since the U.N. first dec

ve just STAFF COMMITTEES it a d
added, been drafting resolutions and
proved declarations and the conference
armful. agenda for two years; confer-
d only ence organizers hoped that the
romise two weeks in Stockholm would
atisfied approve the package deal with a
his en- show of pomp and a flourish
ed the so that UPI tickers around the
ns and world would carry messages of
lestruc- 113 nations uniting in interna-
he less tional goodvill and common pur-
propos- pose+
Maurice Strong, the Canadian
w e r e former petroleum corporation
traffic magnate who organized the con-
s, out- ference, said the event would
wanted succeed if it approved the de-
the re- claration, a sort of international
tion on code of ethics, an action plan
n plan and a new UN agency. Accord-
up a ing to Strong, then, it succeed-
tor en- ed. The action plan, which dele-
nd the gates did approve, is a long list
of technological programs -
including an Earth Watch, a
an en- worldwide pollution monitoring
balk at system. Now, scientists wil l
iss de- know better than ever with
r what reams of new data, precisely
s they how we're destroying the planet.
. Unit-
say- As for stopping this destruc-
re fact tion, the Action Plan suggests a
red was 10-year moratorium on killing
tent - whales - some proposed a 10
ided to year moratorium on killing peo-
ple, but that was too contro-
s Nttt The moratorium faces some
grave obstacles - namely, the
International Whaling Commis-
)n sion, controlled by Russia and
Japan, the two major whalers,
sial. must approve it. Under the Ac-
tion Plan the United Nations will
also sponsor special areas and
ttsttat " "banks" where animals, plants
and tissues threatened with ex-
tinction can survive unmolested
he pro- a sort of antique museum
ith one where future generations can see
other. the kinds of stuff Nature doesn't
see re- make anymore.
as gath- Still other Action plan's will
tables, lead to an international confer-
oint to ence on ocean dumping, a n d
no rele- call on nations to "minimize"
al eris- toxic air pollutants. The Unit-
hose ir- ed States backs the ocean dump-
o bind- ing convention strongly - only,
ignore it wants to exempt military
ships, which account for a
draped major share of ocean pollution.
gs with Minimize air pollution? Go ask
to; but U.S. Steel what "minimal'
of the means.
dustrial The conference had been doom-
nd nei- ed to cotton candy, meaningless
ropean achievements since its concep-
ermany tion four years ago. United Na-
olm be- tions countries kept posing the
of the wrong question - what laws can
of its
ve been
Id have
ud West

we past to plug up pollution
from smokestacks and ships and
bombs? So, they were bound
to get nonsensical answers. If
the conference achieved any-
thing, it was to provide radicals
thte incentive needed to stags
counter conferences which raised
some of the relevant issues.
How should we define "human
environment," and how do econ-
omic and political structures
control it? Half a dozen groups
scattered about Stockholm ham-
mered away at the problem -
ecologists from Sierra Club,
Friends o fEarth, "progressive"
scientists like Barry Commoner
and Margaret Mead.
Perhaps the most perceptive
contributions came from the 0I
group, radical scientists f r o r1
Asia, Africa and Latin Amer-
ica. They continually reminded
Stockholm, or those who would
listen, that the prevailing no-
tion of environmental distress as
by industrial pollution - toxic
chemicals and metals in our
water, air and food - is wrong.
This predicament plagues t h e
industrial nations which account
for a minority of the world's
population. Everywhere else, en-
vironmental distress means po-
verty, starvation, disease, and
economic stagnation. The same
corporations which foul the air
and water in American suck the
natural resources from so-called
Third World countries, and con-
demn them to poverty. One third
of the world's people - America
and Western Europe - consue
85 percent of its resources: in
America, five percent of t h e
people control 95 per cent of its
THE CAUSES of environmental
distress aren't faulty smoke-
stacks of inconsiderate ship
captains, but economic and poli-
tical systems which allow a tiny
minority to exploit the w h o l e
world's riches; which promote
maximum production at mni-
mum cost for the benefit of a
corporation's shareholders, rath-
er than. production of goods
which benefit the entire society
and don't destroy the environ-
As one delegate from Brazil
said, "we underdeveloped coun-
tries will be glad to have one-
tenth of your pollution if we can
have one tenth of the economic
power that goes with it.
It was a foolish statement,
based on a desire for western
economic power with a lac of
understanding of the long term

social costs that go with it. If
the United Nations wanted to
talk about real issues, it would
have to demand an end to Amer-
ican corporate ventures outside
the United States, nationaliza-
tion of resources throughout the
world, and planned econornies
which can avoid the mistakes
made in the West.
SOME NATIONS, most notably
China and Algeria, demanded
that the conference turn to the
crucial political issues, b u t
eventually they gave in to in-
ternational pressures and shut
up. When the conference finally
did pass the declaration and ac-
tion plan on Friday, the world's
press hailed them, according to
plan - noting, like in Washing-
ton's Evening Star, that "des-
pite several political derail-
ments (the conference) finally
got back on track and succeed-
ed in doing what it set out to
I shouldn't dismiss the c on-
ference entirely - it gave peo-
ple a clear picture of what the
environmental movement is and
what's wrong with it. One thing
I learned: the environmental
movement is for government of-
fciials and not for the people.
Delegates from every country
were whisked from meeting to
meeting in limousines, o f t e n
with police escort, to avoid con-
fronting small bands of protest-
ers who kept trying to raise is-
sues like the Vietnam war.
Sweden called in police and
military troopers from all over
the country to keep demonstrat-
ors from coming within sight of
the convention halls, based in
the parliament buildings and the
opera house - horse police with
whips, motorcycles cops, and the
German Shepard corps. T h e
delegates stuffed themselves on
royal banquets of cavier, salmon,
reindeer, beef and wine w h i 1e
they bemoaned the world food
crisis, and while kids who flock-
ed from all over Europe for the
conference subsisted on soy-
beans at a campground organiz-
ed by the Hog Farm.
I HAD A nagging sense of the
UN fiddling while the w o r I d
burned; the prognosis for sur-
vival didn't seem good. The UN
delegates won't save the environ-
ment any more than whales will.
Daniel Zverdling, a former
Daily Magazine Editor, at-
tended the entironnental con-
erfence in Stockholm, Sweden
last week.

Some proposed a 10 year moratorium a
killing people, but that was too controver.

clever insertion of the w o r d
any. That language would take
away from the United States the
onus of destroying Indochina
physically, while emphasizing
instead its responsibility to bring
diplomatic peace in Vietnam,
which it is doing, if we can be-
leve President Nixon.
AS IT WAS, some delegates
kept harping on Vietnam, charg-
ing that our war has wrought
the world's worst environmental
damage; the U.S. delegation
dismissed what it called these
There was also a ticklish ques-
tion of nuclear weapons - ear-
lier in the conference, delegates
had approved a draft resolution
condemning nuclear bombs and
urging nationals to abandon
testing them. China voted no,
because it said it must develp
nuclear weapons for self defense.
France voted no because it will
explode one on French Mururea,
off New Zealand next week.
As the French delegate said.
his country "could not be bound
in any way by a recommenda-

hold one four years ago, t
ject has been fraught w
political crisis after an(
It was heartening to
presentatives of 113 nation
ered about conference
but there wasn't much p
it if their decisions hadr
vance to the environment
is. Furthermore, even tl
relevant decisions had n
ing force; nations would
All of Stockholm was
with United Nations flag
the Only One World mot
the Soviet Union, one
planet's two biggest in
powers, wasn't there, ai
ther were its eastern Eu
bloc countries. East G
was barred from Stockhc
cause it isn't a member
United Nations or one
organizations; it could ha
a member of the World
Organization, which wou
qualified it for the con
but the United States an
Germany thwarted that
for cold war political res

M't s~rhiigan Baity
Stumnmer Staff


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