Surprise us - do something

Feature story - 26 August, 2002
On the first day of the Earth Summit, a coalition of non-governmental organizations, including Greenpeace, called on the delegates to go further than insubstantial rhetoric to achieve real, lasting gains.

As well as showcasing the cultural richness of South Africa, the opening of the Earth Summit explored themes such as people being tied to a degraded environment.

Over the next weeks, that will mean a battle of wills and a battle of words.

Despite the deep pessimism felt by many, there's still some hope that the Summit can make a difference, if it adheres to a few basic principles. The issues are complicated, but the answers are simple.

We need real targets and timetables for change.

We need a rejection of the absurdity that industry self-regulation is enough to protect our world.

We need binding measures without waffling language and 'wiggle room'.

Governments must recognise and address the real downsides of economic globalisation, and make an ambitious effort to turn the concept into a positive force for far more of the planet's people and its environment.

What is lacking is not financial commitment; it's the political will. The European Union shows some signs of progressive leadership, together with a long list of potential partner countries - beginning with Brazil, Japan, Indonesia and South Africa.

Floods in Europe and China, food crisis in southern Africa, droughts in the United States, the "brown cloud" over much of Asia, are timely reminders that natural and man-made disasters can be hugely exacerbated by the failure of policy-makers driven by the commercial interests of the rich world. The corporate sector is overtly present here lobbying to ensure that those very commercial interests will not be obstructed or regulated by Governments. These same bodies are calling for 'self regulation', or insist that market forces will keep them honest.

We all know better. From the Enron scandal, to Dow's refusal to clean up Bhopal, the legacy of corporate behaviour is sheer irresponsibility. All the money in the world won't wash away that truth.

Greenpeace has a published a checklist for a successful summit, which we invite you to have a look at. Over the next two weeks, we urge you to pay close attention to what our world's leaders are doing here in Johannesburg. Whose futures are they looking out for? Exxons? BMW's? or yours? Make sure they know that theirfuture as leaders depends entirely on how well they look after the future of your planet.