The Guardian August 28, 2002


Rio plus ten

Ten years ago the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro raised great hopes 
among the world's people that governments would implement policies that 
would wind back the race towards the precipice of cataclysmic environmental 
change. Then came the Kyoto Summit and the adoption of the Kyoto protocols 
which had the aim of limiting greenhouse gas emissions. This week another 
earth summit is being held in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Since 1992, the date of the first earth summit the environmental dangers 
have not been overcome. If anything they have increased. There are more and 
more signs of environmental degradation and climate change. The record-
breaking floods in Europe, the huge forest fires in the US and the present 
drought in NSW are, perhaps, indications that substantial changes are 
taking place.

The real problem is that the rich countries, and first and foremost the US, 
have refused to carry out the measures necessary if the objectives of the 
Rio and Kyoto are to be fulfilled. Both the US, which is the greatest 
polluter, and Australia which is the greatest per capita producer of 
greenhouse gases, have refused to ratify the Kyoto protocols.

Recent remarks of Bush and Howard illustrate the attitude of the 
governments of the industrially developed countries. In connection with the 
forest fires in the US  forests that have stood in the US for thousands 
of years  Bush proposed, as a solution that more trees be cut down! At 
the recent Pacific Forum Pacific nations raised the problem of rising sea 
levels, Howard remarked that it was not the rising sea levels but the 
erosion of Pacific Island beaches that were the problem.

It is hard to contemplate such stupidity but it illustrates the big 
business mind that refuses to face the real problems and the necessity to 
dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions (such as from power generation 
and motor vehicles) as well as the damage caused by massive logging of 

How can the planet be saved for human beings and for the biosphere as a 
whole? How can ordinary people be involved in the struggle for the planet's 

There is already a substantial environmental movement in Australia that has 
done much to alert people to the dangers  Friends of the Earth, 
Greenpeace, the Greens and others have done a great job  but still the 
destruction continues.

In addition to tackling the immediate issues of greenhouse gases, forest 
clearing, etc, it is necessary to take on the real culprit that stands in 
the way of progress.

Kerry Nettle, who recently took up her seat in the Senate as a Green Party 
representative indicated the problem when she said:

"The ecological vandalism that is inherent in the current land clearing 
patterns that we are seeing is a symptom of a phenomenon that is becoming 
increasingly familiar. It's a symptom of the economic fundamentalism that 
has blighted much of Australian society and rages at a global level through 
the destructive policies of the WTO, IMF and World Bank." (Link to speech)

* * *
When is four greater than 11?
Answer: When the four are the dissident Democrat Senators and the 11 are those of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Democrats who voted Brian Greig as the interim leader of the Democrats following the resignation of Natasha Stott Despoja. The four recommended that Aden Ridgeway should be the interim leader for the very good reason, in their eyes, that Ridgeway was one of the conspirators. When the NEC voted for Brian Greig there were howls of rage and rejection of this perfectly democratic decision. This did not stop Ridgeway and John Cherry, another of the gang, from mouthing off about "unity" and "moving forward". But it is all relative. "Unity" is when everyone else agrees with the four and "moving forward" means moving forward on the terms and conditions that they have laid down. The gang also shows no signs of listening to the membership many of whom have made their criticisms of the gang very clear in letters to the newspapers, by email and phone calls. There is more than a suggestion that the four also regard themselves as greater than the membership as well.
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