CONTACT: Stanford University News Service (415) 723-2558 EDITORS: For transcripts of Secretary Christopher's speech and the question and answer session that followed it, contact the State Department's fax on demand at (202) 736-7720 or check the World Wide Web at http://dosfan.lib.uic.edu/index.html. For a transcript of the press conference that followed the address with Stanford experts and Undersecretary of State Timothy Wirth, contact Stanford News Service (415) 723-2558 or our Website at http://www.stanford.edu/news/.
Christopher challenges academia to aid in environmental initiative
STANFORD -- Secretary of State Warren Christopher issued a resounding invitation to Stanford faculty and students on Tuesday, April 9, to provide the intellectual resources for the Clinton Administration's major new initiative that brings environmental issues into the American foreign policy equation.
"I am convinced that the instability created by environmental problems is crucial to American interests," Christopher said in a breakfast meeting with Stanford faculty and students before his major foreign policy address on the environment. "These threats are not as graphic as a nuclear threat, but they could have similar potential for impact. There has not been enough study of the interconnections [between environmental destruction and America's national interests], and this is where Stanford, and academia in general, can help."
Christopher's foreign policy address was delivered from Memorial Auditorium, before a crowd of 1,400 Stanford students, faculty and trustees.
The new initiative, as outlined in his address, is based on recognition that the nation's ability to advance its global interests is inextricably linked to how the earth's natural resources are managed.
"The environment has a profound impact on our national interests in two ways," Christopher said. "First, environmental forces transcend borders and oceans to threaten directly the health, prosperity and jobs of American citizens. Second, addressing natural resource issues is frequently critical to achieving political and economic stability, and to pursuing our strategic goals around the world."
He cited examples ranging from the overfishing of oceans that has already cost thousands of American jobs, to global threats such as greenhouse gases that affect climate and may cause billions of dollars in damage from rising sea levels and changing storm patterns.
In addition, pollution and environmental degradation threaten stability in regions with a direct effect on American peace and prosperity, Christopher said. He added that to build stable market economies in Eastern Europe, "we must help them overcome the poisonous factories, soot-filed skies and ruined rivers that are one of the bitter legacies of communism."
"I have seen how rapid population growth and pollution can raise the stakes in water disputes as ancient as the Old Testament," Christopher said. "As Shimon Peres once remarked to me, the Jordan River has more history in it than water."
Christopher outlined a strategy to advance environmental priorities in foreign policy on a global, region and bilateral basis. He pledged to make 1997 "the most important year for the global environment since the Rio Summit" with international work toward further cuts in greenhouse gases and toxic chemicals and a conference on strategies to improve compliance with international environmental agreements. And he called on Congress to approve the international conventions on biodiversity and the law of the sea.
A major part of Christopher's strategy is to reinforce diplomatic approaches by building partnerships with private business and non-governmental organizations.
"American businesses . . . recognize that pitting economic growth against environmental protection is what President Clinton has called 'a false choice,' " Christopher said. "Both are necessary and both are closely linked."
He also promised to help U.S. companies expand in the $400 billion international market for environmental technologies - an effort championed by the late Secretary of Commerce, Ron Brown.
In a question-and-answer session, Christopher fielded questions from speakers - mostly Stanford students - about the North-South dichotomy in international environmental issues, with the U.S. in the role of a major consumer asking developing countries to limit their own development. Christopher answered that a critique of his own address might be that he had not emphasized the difficulty of balancing competing interests on an international scale.
He pointed to the Conference on Sustainable Development scheduled to take place in Bolivia later this year as an example of diplomatic efforts to meet the "very challenging issue" of making both development and consumption sustainable. He said the U.S. role was not to dictate but to "counsel" other nations about the risks of long-range development that do not take the environment into account.
Christopher finished the session to standing applause.
A panel of Stanford faculty members, along with Tim Wirth, (Stanford Ph.D. '73), Undersecretary for Global Affairs, joined a press conference after the address to react to Christopher's address. Press questions centered on the national politics of the State Department's initiative: would the International Biodiversity treaty, for example, pass in Congress?
"Not this Congress," Wirth said. But he said that Congress is moving back to a bipartisan approach to the environment. He predicted that a number of junior Congress members - many of them conservative Republicans - would bring environmental issues to the fore. "The junior members are changing the nature of environmental politics," he said.
Among the faculty, perhaps the highest praise for Christopher's address came from biology professor Paul Ehrlich, Stanford's highly acclaimed environmentalist and a lifelong critic of government policies on local and global environmental issues.
"I never thought I'd live long enough to see a Secretary of State communicate what is basically the scientific community's view of the current population-resource-environment problem," Ehrlich said. "He understands that population growth interacts with high levels of consumption and use of faulty technologies that threaten our security in many, many different ways."
Others critiqued Christopher's speech for what it left out.
Agriculture is often dissociated from environmental discussions, warned Rosamond Naylor, director of the Goldman Honors Program in the Environment and a specialist in food and development issues.
"Agriculture is a main driving force in the loss of biodiversity, the loss of arable land and the loss of water resources," Naylor said. She called on Christopher to use the international summit on food resources this fall as a chance to link the issues of agriculture, resource use and poverty.
And interdisciplinary research scientist Gretchen Daily warned that not enough attention was paid to the role of the United States as the "superpower" of international consumption, the largest user of global environmental resources. Without setting an example in changing consumption patterns, the U.S. will have little weight in environmental discussions, she warned.
First on Christopher's agenda upon reaching Stanford was the morning meeting with the Environmental Policy Forum at Stanford's Institute for International Studies. He met with 35 faculty and students in fields ranging from biology to economics to political science to law. The forum meets biweekly to coordinate research on international environment issues.
Christopher was accompanied by several aides, including Wirth and James Steinberg, State Department Director of Policy Planning. His hosts were biological sciences professor Donald Kennedy and IIS director Walter Falcon, co-directors of the Global Policy Forum.
The seminar quickly took on the flavor of a planning session, with academics and politicians suggesting ways that researchers could offer knowledge and tools for environmental diplomacy that State Department officials could use in practice.
"We could get in harness and help you any way we can," Kennedy offered. "There are a lot of us who would be seriously interested in working in this area."
"How soon can we take you up on that?" Wirth asked.
Kennedy said later that one major contribution of institutions like IIS might be to help the State Department develop the tools to help individual countries make decisions about their own environmental problems.
As an example, Marcus Feldman, director of the Morrison Institute for Population Studies, cited the use of the institute's computer models by the Chinese vice-minister for family planning to project the effects of China's population policies. Feldman suggested that simple computer models could be given to U.S. diplomats in key regions so they could demonstrate to policy makers how different levels of population growth, resource use, loss of arable land or water would affect their nations' futures.
An example of research that might aid diplomats was put forward by David Holloway, co-director of the Center for International Security and Arms Control at the IIS, who is working with Kennedy on a joint program to study the link between international security and environmental degradation. As nations clash over issues such as depleted fisheries, trans-border pollution and mass migrations from degraded land, their conflicting interests are not so different from the problem that faced nuclear arms negotiators, Holloway said. "During the cold war we learned that it's better to think of security as mutual security," he said. When both sides are suspicious of each others motivations and actions, they might be able to put into play arms negotiating principles like transparency (mutual surveillance to make sure both sides live up to the provisions of a treaty).
After Christopher left to prepare for the Memorial Auditorium speech, Wirth stayed for a conversation with faculty and graduate students. Talk quickly turned to ways that computer software could be provided to individual embassies.
"This speech is a kind of challenge to us at Stanford and of course to the academic community, to respond with ideas about the way in which the environment can be made a central issue in our foreign policy, and how that can be done effectively," said Holloway. "I think this is pretty clearly an invitation to get moving on these research issues.
"Now the challenge is to see how we respond."
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