Of Substantial Development Policies For The Environment. Essay, Research Paper
Although protection of the environment has been a topic present since the late nineteenth century, it has only come into prominence as an issue in the late twentieth century. The first time that the issue brought enough attention to bring together many great minds and governments, came in the form of the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment. This conference established the first ever North-South relationship in respect to the environment. What followed was many more conferences and agreements established to protect the earth. Agreements such as: the Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution Agreement (LRTAP, 1979), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES, 1971), in addition to many others.
In 1987 the UN s World Commission on Environment and Development, produced the Brundtland Report. This report aimed to fix the plethora of earlier environmental agreements. Earlier agreements which failed to recognize the need to harmonize development considerations when implementing its environmental protection plans.
The Brundtland Report described sustainable development as the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. (Baylis, 1997, p.318) It also centered its attention on finding strategies to promote economic and social development in ways that avoided environmental degradation, over-exploitation or pollution, and [moved] away from less productive debates about whether to prioritize development or the environment. (Baylis, 1997, p.138).
Twelve years have passed, and many movements have been made concerning the well being of the environment, since the introduction of the Brundtland Report. When examining the effectiveness of the report we will be able to see the effect that globalization has had on the implementation of substantial development during the late twentieth century.
The Brundtland Report brought about a new way of thinking in the area of economics when concerning the environment. The report acknowledged that to keep serious problems in third world from worsening, nations needed to push for economic growth. This would create the capital necessary to remove poverty, improve living conditions, and move to a world with fewer inequities. This was certainly not support for growth for growth s sake but rather an impassioned cry for a better world. (Hall, J.D., 1992, p.10). The report had hoped to create lifestyles more in tune with the ecological realities of the planet (Hall, J.D., 1992, p.10). It also desired to create this form of living by encouraging nations not to overuse their natural resources, but to work to improve them and then to utilize these enhanced resource that had been created as a result.
Ignoring the depreciation of capital assets is a recipe for bankruptcy in business, and it is becoming apparent that this is the case for planet management as well. Environmental degradation incurs an enormous cost, but it has never been incorporated into national accounts. Neither do the prices of resources and environmental services such as clean air and the protection of watersheds reflect their true value, either in the economy or to society. Even worse classical economics had not recognized that there are ultimate limits to the Earth s capacity to provide biological, chemical, and geological limits. We need to live off our interest and not our capital. (Hall, J.D., 1992, p.10)
All that most conference s can do is encourage and persuade. They have no binding control over any nations that would allow them to force these standards of conduct onto these countries. One of the principles that came out of the 1972 Stockholm Conference explains the situation best. It acknowledged states sovereignty over their natural resources but stipulated that states have the responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other states or areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction. (Baylis, 1997, p.317) If you can read between the lines, it seems as if the principle is claiming that any nation can go about and ruin their own resources, so long as they do not affect the resources of another country. How are environmental organizations and reports from environmental conferences supposed to have any positive effects with a principle like this one?
Before we assume that the conferences and organizations have no influence whatsoever, we must examine what type of avenues they do use when they wish to affect a nations policy. In the international arena, environmental policy making involves many of the same blends of science and politics found in domestic settings, but usually without binding institutional mechanisms to force compliance once policies have been agreed on Instead of tough sanctions, the principal tools of international implementation are gentle persuasion and embarrassment caused by media exposure of noncompliance. (Hempel, L.C., 1996, p.122). The new age of influence seems to have turned toward the electronic age. All organizations and protest groups fight for coverage on the news and in the papers. Combined with a society that is now knowledgeable in the area of environmental destruction, a mention of a environmental no-no in the news will bring an uproar over the infraction in question. Negative publicity like this is unwanted by large corporations, who are usually the culprits in the environmental transgression. As a result a little bad publicity can quickly change the mind of a violator of environmental policy.
On the flip side, many corporations are also vying for airtime, through the news, with stories of good deeds towards the environment. But quite often we are now seeing corporations with commercial time, attempting to explain why their actions, whether they be detrimental towards the environment, are suitable. We have seen examples of this in Canada with commercials for the logging industry. The commercials speak of how the industry is replenishing the forests with new tree s and how its logging methods are not harmful to the earth. So it is once again left up to the public to decide for themselves who they believe is telling the truth and who is stretching or shading this truth.
When examining the lumber industry of Canada there are a few interesting figures that can be criticized by environmentalists. Canada is currently the leading exporter of forest products. In 1988 Canada accounted for 59 percent of newsprint, 40 percent of softwood lumber, and 36 percent of wood pulp traded on the international market. In 1988 Canada s exports of forest products added up to $22.6 billion Canadian. Although in contrast our imports of the same material from developing countries came to almost $140 billion Canadian. Most of these imports are mahogany, white luan, etc. and were imported for the making of furniture, picture frames, and other lavish products. So as a result environmentalists argue that not only is Canada clear cutting its own fertile forests, but also taking advantage of tropical forests that will be cut. Cut due to the financial, economic, and political control Canada and other industrialized countries have over these developing countries.
Add to this, the increasing amount of imports of fresh fruits and vegetables from these developing countries, and the result is the creation of cash crops. When a lack of clear land for these crops appears the nations will begin to clear away fertile forests to create more crop space. Additional to this environmental destruction is the immense amounts of pesticides used to farm these crops (which end up in Canadian produce stands), that ruins the land for future growth, and in most cases contaminates the area s drinking water. Given there are new types of pesticides that aren t as dangerous, but these cost more and are not affordable to developing nations.
This is a reason why third world countries can produce such cheap crops. The third world farmers are rarely limited by their government to what kind of fertilization and pesticide use they can implement. In Canada farmers are restricted, by law, as to what they can put into their crops, both in the way of fertilizers and pesticides. In the area of forestry, Canada and its lumber industry is limited to what they can take out of the land, and what they must do once the lumber has been taken from the earth. As a result Canada s industry makes other concessions, that can effect the environment, to keep their businesses afloat.
We can use Canada s large amount of lumber imports and exports as a case to apply how environmental organizations can change Canada s policies under the theory of globalization.
It is unlikely that Canada would outright stop their logging industry if the environmentalists asked them. Seeing that logging is one of the top job creators in the nation, and many cities if not provinces economies would completely collapse without its support. As a result an outright end to logging is not an acceptable request to put forth to Canada. Instead these organizations and conferences could suggest to Canada that they scale back their logging practices and decrease the amount of lumber they import, to only what is needed for essentials. This might not be welcomed with open arms, as Canadian history shows in the area of the lumber industry. Although if some protestors took measures, possibly that of radical nature, they might be able to create some publicity, through the media, that would awake the public to the issue. This has happened in Ontario with the notable Tomogamy logging protests of recent years. As a result of this protest and many others, recent changes have come to Ontario s logging policies. Ontario s Premier Mike Harris introduced a new plan that would scale back the amount of land that can be logged in Northern Ontario in March of 1999. A Conservative Premier, like Harris, may not normally be so keen to bring about limitations to the logging industry. The thing that Harris realized was that, during an election year, a decision like this might bring him many votes due to the overwhelming support for the issue within his province’s public.
On a more national scale these organizations could again use the media to their advantage. Although it would be beneficial for them to get not only the Canadian publics support but also International support. International support in the way of other governments that might be able to lean on Canada and their lumber policies.
An example of how one nation can effect others trading policies is evident in a current dispute between the United States and Canada. Canada wishes to implement Bill C-55; a new law that will ban American split run publications in Canada. It will force American published magazines off the shelf if they do not have a certain amount of Canadian content; in addition it will hinder Canadian companies from taking their advertising money, south of the border, to these same magazines. The Americans have promptly turned around and threatened trade sanctions on Canadian goods; this forced Canada to rethink its policy and the Bill is still being reworked as a result.
This effect could be accomplished in the same manner for Canada s, and other nations, questionable logging policies. If protestors got enough countries, that had some influence on Canada, to support them they would be able to pressure the Canadians into creating some change, similar to the pressure in the Bill C-55 dispute. They could propose a new tax on all imports of lumber to Canada from developing countries. The proceeds could then go to improve the conditions of the farming and lumber industries in those countries, assisting them in the cost of more expensive and safer pesticides and fertilizers. This in turn would also benefit Canada, the country paying the tax, as it would help to create goods that are safer to ingest, apply, and use.
With the support of these other countries, that have influence on Canada, the logging policies in Canada would be easily changed. Although these countries would have to be part of Canada s $22.9 billion dollar lumber export market, to make an effective influence on Canada’s policies. As a result these countries could say that without change they would no longer accept any Canadian lumber. As a result the Canadian logging industry and Canadian government would have no choice but to make changes to their policies.
Given that we are only considering the best case scenario here. Currently there are many environmental issues that are being ignored due to the thwart and influence that industrialized countries and the corporations that operate out of them have over the lesser nations. As a result third world countries are forced to spend valuable natural resources in a wasteful manner to please the richer more influential countries and corporations that do not wish to pay more than rock bottom prices for their products. As a result it is important that more people become involved in the protests and organizations that are fighting to improve the substantial development of both the developing countries and the industrialized nations that control them.
Baylis, J. & Smith, S. (1997) The Globalization of World Politics. New York: Oxford University Press Inc.
Cornelis van Kooten, G. (1993) Land Resource Economics and Sustainable Development. Vancouver, British Columbia: UBC Press.
Dale, A. & Robinson, J.B. (1996) Achieving Sustainable Development. Vancouver, British Columbia: UBC Press.
Hall, J.D. & Hanson, A.J. (1992) A New Kind Of Sharing. Ottawa, Ontario: International Development Research Centre.
Hempel, L.C. (1996) Environmental Governance. Washington, D.C.: Island Press.