Volume 96, Issue 13
Thursday September 19, 2002

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UN on vacation and they're no Chevy Chase

What's next?
Dave Van Dyck
Gazette Staff

I've always wanted to enjoy a nice holiday in Africa. If I had played my cards better, maybe I could have been one of the 45,000 people who enjoyed a nice 10 day holiday in Johannesburg, South Africa during the recent 2002 Earth Summit.

The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janiero, Argentina, was a moderate success. Johannesburg was billed as the summit which would bind countries to new environmental resolutions and remind some nations they have yet to act on the previous agreements reached in Rio.

However, the Johannesburg summit became just the latest United Nation's extravaganza which can be placed under the category of "complete waste of time."

Sure, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien was able to officially announce his next major political hot potato – ratifying Kyoto. Still, is it really necessary to hold a massive summit to make such announcements?

Obviously, tens of millions in taxpayers' money was spent on this latest summit from nations which span the globe – and that's just the pure economic cost.

Apart from the financial game, the environmental impact of the delegates is equally suspect. Aircrafts flying the delegates to the summit emitted an estimated 290,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Tons of paper was wasted and water consumption was increased in a region already suffering from water shortages.

I will give the organizers credit for trying to ensure their delegates didn't gorge themselves while in Johannesburg – after all, the summit is all about trying to end global over-indulgence.

The problem: the summit itself was an over-indulgence.

We are all well aware of the protests that occurred in Seattle over the World Trade Organization meetings in 1999 and the blood that has been shed at the various summits since then. It's about time we start to question these summits' existence in the first place.

In Johannesburg, organizers hoped to radically change the world with environmental initiatives. They should have come up with a global agreement on holding more summits and conferences via telecommunications.

Considering the economic and environmental cost of Johannesburg, true environmentalists should have stepped up to the plate and convinced the UN to try something radical themselves – not holding the conference – before asking the world to change its ways.

Nonetheless, I hope all of the delegates enjoyed their holiday in Johannesburg.

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