Gorbachev: “Saving the environment is saving ourselves.”
Mikhail Gorbachev, as International Green Cross chairman, arrived in Australia with a warning and he didn’t mince words over the message.
He told the weekend Green Cross conference in Brisbane that the world was facing a crisis and a threat to the foundations of its existence, or rather, our existence. Moreover, he said politics was lagging behind the pace of change of developments in the world and international politics had stalled when it needed to be active in the world’s problems. Some politicians were confused and did not know what to do and there was a lack of political will to act.
He called on politicians to fulfil their promises and to recognise that international government went beyond national boundaries. He said despite recommendations and declarations, things were often left “in the air and not much done”.
“Political leaders need to find a way to act or leave,” he said.
It was a sober note on which to begin the conference. He was supported by three other Nobel Peace Laureates - Ireland’s Betty Williams, Iran’s Dr Shirin Ebadi and Argentina’s Aldolfo Perze Esquivel - many leading environmentalists, business and political leaders, scientists and academics from 11 countries. Organised by Green Cross, the Queensland Government and Brisbane City Council as part of Brisbane Festival, the three-day forum discussed climate change and energy, human development and economic growth and cities and spaces.
Mr Gorbachev, who now devotes his life to Green Cross which he founded after he left the Kremlin, told the conference that 60 per cent of the world’s ecological system had been damaged and it would be difficult, or impossible, to restore some of it. “Saving the environment is saving ourselves and (the future) for succeeding generations,” he said. Focusing particularly on a shortage of energy and a shortage of water, he said it is estimated that by 2050, 100 million people could be facing death because of lack of arable land.
He said the facts on climate change have been established using very sound science: on which, in turn, the Kyoto Protocol is based. All attempts to refute this scientific assessment have been unsuccessful and the need to reduce emissions has been demonstrated.
The global crisis was occurring when half the world’s population already live in poverty and only one third live in conditions worthy of human beings.
The UN General Secretary Kofi Annan has recently warned of “water wars”. For example, waters that started in India were shared by India and Pakistan. Green Cross has proposed a rights-based approach to water resources and launched a global campaign to recognise every person’s right to have access to safe drinking water - 80 per cent of infectious diseases come from unclean water.
When people wonder why the Israeli military action in South Lebanon is on such a scale on behalf of two captured soldiers, it is useful to know that a reservoir supplying Israel is in Southern Lebanon.
In support of international organisations, he said, “If we don’t have such organisations, the result will be that some nations will act without any international control or oversight”. The United Nations, sometimes described as obsolete and unnecessary, but where reforms are under consideration, needs to adjust to deal with urgent problems backed by new political will. The IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) is necessary to make the industry safe (despite alleged recriminations).
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