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U.S. Department of State
95/08/01 Speech: T.With on Global Issues
Office of Global Affairs 

                                TIMOTHY E. WIRTH 
                     Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs 
                           Ecological Society of America 
                                National Conference 
                                 Keynote Address 
                              Salt Lake City, Utah 
                                  August 1, 1995 
Thank you.  I am delighted to be with you and to be back in the American 
West -- what a beautiful setting for this important conference. 
I am honored to have such a distinguished audience.  For 20 years I have 
been reading the work of many of you, and some of you have been 
intellectual coach and mentor to me during my years of public service.  
So I have real pride and trepidation in addressing such a group. 
This morning I want to talk to you about change; about the global issues 
that confront us; about the resultant need to change the way we think 
about foreign policy and our national security; and about the political 
tides that have the potential to profoundly change our government, and 
which have already changed the obligations that each of us has as 
citizens of the United States of America. 
Indeed change is all around us -- in the angry election results of last 
fall, in the altered nature of geopolitics in the post-Cold War era, and 
in the relationship between human beings and the natural world. 
Comparing the experiences and priorities across  generations is one way 
to comprehend the utterly changed nature of our world. 
In August of 1961, I was an Army private when the Berlin Wall was 
started; we were placed on alert and thought we were about to go to war 
in Central Europe.  Thirty years later, my children sat on top of that 
same Wall with some 750,000 other young people from across Europe and 
the United States, listening to a Pink Floyd concert.  What a remarkable 
change in one generation. 
For my generation East-West confrontation was the formative experience.  
It defined who we were, what we thought was valuable, what we thought 
was important for the country.  For my children the Cold War is a 
distant reflection in the rear view mirror. 
Change can also be measured in the progress of the medical community, 
the altered priorities of scientists and the new  findings of 
scientists, researchers and scholars like all of you. 
Measles, smallpox and polio -- major global challenges only thirty years 
ago -- have been all but tamed in virtually every region of the world 
and the international community is now working to develop a single 
children's vaccine that will innoculate the young against a host of 
easily preventable diseases. 
In their place, however, new and reemerging infectious diseases are 
surfacing and demand our attention -- HIV/AIDS, resistant strains of 
malaria, tuberculosis, various hemorrhagic fevers, including the 
perplexing and devastating ebola virus. 
Here in the United States, the 1960s brought us Rachel Carson's ominous 
warning about the possibility of a Silent Spring and the environmental 
movement was born.  A host of citizens groups and scientists began 
investigating, learning, extoling and leading us toward change.  The 
Cuyahoga River caught fire, and became the poster event for the first 
Earth Day 25 years ago. 
The National Environmental Protection Act was passed -- the Clean Air 
Act, the Clean Water Act, energy legislation, the Endangered Species 
Act, and a host of measures at the federal, state and local level. 
Private industry changed dramatically, responding to the public will and 
to new markets -- and resulting in increased productivity and enhanced 
competitiveness.  When the science on ozone depletion started coming in, 
the first response by some was to suggest that people wear hats, suntan 
lotion and dark glasses.  We then got serious, and agreed with dozens of 
other nations to phase out harmful chlorofluorocarbons, and industry 
invested several billion dollars to produce substitute chemicals and 
design CFC-free systems. 
The U.S. model for government organization -- public-private partnership 
and science-based law -- has become the model for the world.  Scores of 
countries have copied our approach and programs; and defenses for the 
environment and preservation of God's creation are being built around 
the globe.  Like it or not, the world looks to the United States for 
I cite these successes, and emphasize this momentum, not to be a 
pollyanna, or to suggest that our work is done and that we can now 
I cite them because these successes are important, very important: 
--  they prove that these partnerships between public and private 
sectors, between science and government can work. 

--  they prove that public dollars, wisely invested, can bring a 
significant return; 

--  and they should give us a basis of great confidence and momentum to 
face the challenges of Washington today. 
And I need not remind you that the challenges are great.  When many in 
our Congress attempt to overturn carefully crafted law and regulations 
that protect our citizens from pollution and the looting of our natural 
heritage, they are, in a very real sense, not merely overturning a 
legislative legacy of several decades.  They are doing something even 
more deadly -- they are attempting to overturn a 500 year legacy of 
civilization that has steadily replaced superstition and irrationality 
with understanding of, and respect for, science.  The long-term 
consequences of such actions will reverberate through the coming decades 
in ways that will degrade far more than the health of our citizens and 
environment and our material well-being. 
This is the context for my exchange of thoughts with you this morning, 
and as I will suggest, must be the context for your actions and your 
involvement as citizens:  to act with confidence in your successes; to 
act with surety in your science; and to act with urgency in your 
Let me return to Rachel Carson.  Because of her DDT was banned.  Thirty 
years later we celebrate the soaring once again of our national symbol, 
the bald eagle. 
This is an important case study, loaded with science, meaning and 
symbolism.  Like so many successes in the environmental movement, where 
science bested self-destruction and stewardship replaced neglect, we 
also discovered newer challenges and broader implications. 
Even as the eagle rebounds, the same chemicals are impacting in new 
ways, here at home and around the world.  A growing field of scientific 
study is looking into the effects of DDT, PCBs and other  chemicals, 
which due to their persistance and pathways may interfere with the 
endocrine systems of mammals, significantly affecting reproductive 
capability and fetal viability: 
--  infants of mothers who ate just two meals of contaminated fish per 
month from Lake Michigan during the six years prior to pregnancy were 
smaller at birth and had poorer cognitive development, suggesting 
neurological damage during embryonic development; 

--  in the North of Alaska, indigenous peoples are being found to have 
dangerous loadings of toxics and chemical compounds despite their 
pristine environment; 
What does that mean for us?  What are the implications of bioaccumlative 
persistent organic pollutants on human health and reproductive 
capability?  There is much to learn from the eagle. 
This is one of the many new subtle, persistent and urgent challenges we 
face.  In fact, the changes and the choices that the United States and 
the world community now confront are every bit as demanding as those we 
have known since 1945.  The nature, diversity and speed with which the 
new challenges proliferate dictate a new understanding of the meaning 
and nature of national security and of the role of individuals and 
nation-states in meeting new tests and forging a better world. 
We are accustomed to searching for international purpose and the causes 
of international instability in such factors as ideology, geo-politics, 
economic inequity, or intense hatreds spawned by nationalism, race and 
religious fanaticism.  To these we must now add such factors as 
population growth, climate change, biodiversity, carrying capacity, 
ozone depletion and many others.  Compared even with the complex 
considerations that determined our national security policies during the 
Cold War, the new global threats to international stability are almost 
bewildering in their interplay of man-made and natural phenomena.  All 
of these factors are linked through complex chains of cause and effect, 
resulting in issues that can make even the arcane calculus of nuclear 
deterrence seem like a simple proposition.  Climate change calculations, 
as just one example, challenge even the most sophisticated and powerful 
computers designed for our Cold War weapons programs. 
But, complexity need not be the enemy of a coherent concept for policy 
related to global issues. Instead, we have to recognize and adapt to new 
responsibilities and new challenges -- issues that will define the 21st 
century. These include familiar issues: political relationships and non-
proliferation, trade and democratization.  Also included must be the  
overriding issue for the future -- sustainable development, a concept 
that recognizes the mutually reinforcing nature of economic, social and 
environmental progress. 
I have long believed that the biggest obstacle to the pursuit of 
sustainable development -- here in our country or around the world -- is 
the misguided belief that protecting the environment is antithetical to 
economic interests.  How often have we heard it said that "I'm for 
protecting the long as it doesn't cost jobs." 
It is within this terribly mistaken analysis that we encounter the 
fundamental intellectual challenge to sustainable development. Over the 
long-term, living off our ecological capital is a bankrupt economic 
Stated in the jargon of the business world, the economy is a wholly 
owned subsidiary of the environment.  Virtually all economic activity is 
dependent in some way on the environment and its underlying resource 
base.  When the environment is finally forced to file for bankruptcy 
under Chapter 11 because its resource base has been polluted, degraded 
and irretrievably compromised, then the economy goes down to bankruptcy 
with it. 
To avoid stealing from our children's future, we must make it clear that 
sustainable development is a worthy challenge and incredible opportunity 
for renewing our common sense of purpose in the aftermath of the Cold 
War.  We must demonstrate that hope and hard work are the antidote to 
fear and resistance to change.  We must meet misinformation with renewed 
creativity and the powerful force of ingenuity.  We must transform the 
debate from one that often frames scientific issues as obstacles to ways 
of the past, and instead views them as opportunities for new ideas, new 
products and a better quality of life for the future. 
Sustainable development can serve as a cornerstone of national renewal 
and individual purpose.  It can serve as a broad, comprehensive and 
future-oriented vision to replace the narrow cynicism and base greed 
that grips our nation in gridlock. 
This is a vision that views the challenge of protecting and 
understanding our biological resources as an enormous opportunity for 
cataloguing our inheritance and prospecting for products from nature's 
wonder.  We can measure the distance to the moon within a matter of 
centimeters, but don't know whether there are 10, 30, or 100 million 
species on our own planet. 
This vision embraces the quest for knowledge -- to unlock the mysteries 
of the oceans, the atmosphere, and the biosphere, to understand how they 
work individually and how they interact collectively -- a wondrous 
It is a vision that sees clearly the opportunity of global trade and the 
necessity for nurturing the family of democratic, free-market economies 
so that poverty is vanquished and human misery obscured; where 
sustainable development and basic human needs are met in every nation. 
It is a vision of a society that will once again place on its pedestals 
Nobel Laureates, astronauts and scientific geniuses, not the purveyors 
of television violence, political pundits or million-dollar athletes who 
distinguish themselves in the police blotter. 
And it surely is a vision that will not be realized unless those with 
shared values about the various components of sustainable development 
come together, work together and succeed as one. 
Unhappily, U.S. leadership in international science, in international 
relations and in the effort to improve the lives of our citizens and the 
world's are in question as never before.  A political wave has swept the 
country which suggests that the response to change is retrenchment.  
Within innocuously labelled legislative proposals and arcane 
appropriations bills are a host of initiatives whose message is that we 
should face backwards while we travel the down escalator toward the 21st 
century -- rolling back the gains of the past, and undercutting the 
momentum for progress in the future. 
This approach appears to be more than a reluctant unwillingness to 
invest in the future.  It seems willfully premised on the misguided 
belief that what we don't know can't hurt us.  It is an attempt to avoid 
knowledge, sidestep reason and ignore change for narrow and sharply 
political reasons. 
For example: 
Based on obscure writings of individuals with no experience or peer-
reviewed work in the field of atmospheric chemistry, the State of 
Arizona -- bucking unprecedented international  consensus among public 
and private sector experts (not to mention national law and 
international agreement) -- passed a law allowing the manufacturer of 
chemicals with the greatest capacity to destruct Earth's protective 
ozone layer.  Bouyed by the bombast, several members of Congress are 
following suit. 
Similar absurd "experts" halted what had appeared to be a smooth 
ratification of the Convention on Biodiversity.  After being reported 
out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on an overwhelming 16-3 
vote, the Biodiversity Treaty was stopped in its tracks when a long-time 
writer for Lyndon Larouche wrote a 75-page report evoking images of 
world governance, paganism, nature worship and a host of other nonsense.  
It would have been funny had it not been so destructive.  Despite broad 
industry support, the treaty was shelved as a result of willful 
Ignoring that family planning and reproductive health care is the best 
means of reducing the need for abortion, the Congress has repoliticized 
domestic and international population programs and certain members are 
on a crusade to eliminate them altogether.  These efforts are based on 
an unmistakable campaign to equate family planning and reproductive 
health programs with the issue of abortion, knowing full well that U.S. 
policy has banned federal funding for abortions at home and abroad for 
25 years.  Even domestically this agenda has become clear: the House is 
moving full steam toward the elimination of the nation's family planning 
program -- a step so extreme that even fellow Republicans have noted 
that their colleagues have taken their anti-choice agenda to the field 
of contraception. 
On the international front, the void left by the end of East-West 
conflict has evoked suggestions that the U.S. mission is domestic only; 
that since our interests and responsibilities around the world are 
greatly diminished, we should simply maintain a strong defense to guard 
against military threats and traditional security concerns.  This view 
ignores much more than the extensive human deprivation and environmental 
degradation occurring in today's world, it ignores our interests in a 
peaceful and prosperous and democratic community of nations; it ignores 
our responsibility and enormous opportunity to shape progress for the 
world of tomorrow. 
And what of that world?  Will we be a nation that participates in 
enterprises that by their nature require cooperation among nations?  
Will we be a nation that continues to move forward in science, 
technology and ideas -- which have been and remain the essential 
underpinnings of making this country prosperous, strong and successful?  
Or will we withdraw and retreat; shut the doors on scientific and 
technologic progress; stifle the efforts to renew our economy; delay our 
preparation for an ever more complex 21st century -- in which our 
economy, our society and the environment will be challenged as never 
Preparations for the new century are being made in classrooms and 
laboratories and boardrooms and households all across America.  But 
these preparations will only be successful if public policy is just as 
thoughtful -- and the signs are not encouraging. 
No doubt, intergenerational equity requires that we guard our children 
from a crushing burden of inherited debt.  But we need to leave our 
children more than a budget in balance; it is equally essential that we 
not leave an environmental debt, a scientific black hole, a legacy of 
neglect on pressing health concerns, which also presage an unsustainable 
future for our children. 
The recent direction of Congressional actions sacrifice the latter 
objectives in haste to achieve the first.  By withdrawing from 
international cooperation, undermining health and safety laws and 
gutting the research needed to enhance scientific understanding of the 
world we live in, we are diminishing our readiness and relinquishing our 
ability to shape change on behalf of America and her interests. 
Global cooperation on environmental threats -- ozone depletion, climate 
change, loss of forests and irreplaceable species -- has been one of the 
most exciting untold stories of the last decade.  Remarkable strides 
have been made in linking economic and environmental progress on behalf 
of all nations, large and small, rich and poor.  These efforts have 
demonstrated that we can respond to the best information scientists are 
providing us about the health of the environment and the state of the 
world.   And the critical glue making this possible has been parternship 
-- scientists with policymakers, public with private sectors, industrial 
with developing nations. 
But as recent actions to reverse protections for the stratospheric ozone 
layer demonstrate, these kinds of partnerships are now threatened.  
International cooperation to protect the ozone layer is endangered by 
revisionism and neglect.  One month ago, the House of Representatives 
voted to slash funding for the Montreal Protocol Fund -- which links our 
successful efforts to halt production in the developed countries with 
the developing countries more difficult transition to safe substitutes.  
This funding is not charity -- it represents enlighted self-interest: 
ozone depletion transcends boundaries regardless of where the chemicals 
are released. 
The House has also voted to reduce the U.S. contribution -- a 70 percent 
cut -- for the Global Environment Facility, which was established 
precisely for the purpose of lowering the cost to any one nation of 
protecting the global environment.  Every dollar we invest leverages 8 
in return.  Eliminating GEF funding risks unravelling the facility, and 
with it our efforts to bring developing countries into the process of 
safeguarding the globe. 
More troubling is the emerging, but none-too-subtle attempt to block the 
underpinnings of environmental policy, the very science that is 
necessary to improve understanding and decisionmaking.  Domestically, 
the Congress is bent on diminishing -- if not eliminating -- the 
National Biological Service and NSF's Long-Term Ecological Research, 
initiatives  premised on the unassailable idea that reasoned judgements 
are predicated on knowledge. 
Internationally, they hope to wipe out the scientific basis for concern 
about global climate change -- as if shutting down science will still 
the course of nature.  A primary target is the comprehensive global 
change research program -- conceived and begun under President Reagan 
and Bush (no knee- jerk, regulatory zealots they) -- and now being 
systematically dismantled in the budgetary process.  Is it a coincidence 
that funding for global change research at EPA, the Department of 
Agriculture, the Department of Energy, NASA, NOAA, the National Science 
Foundation and elsewhere are all slated for deep cuts? -- EPA on the 
order of 90 percent, NASA 40 percent, and the list goes on.  The 
industry lobbyists who have been fighting science with evasion, action 
with obstruction -- they don't think so and neither should you. 
Nor should we be complacent about the misguided attempts to gut the 
President's Climate Change Action Plan -- which is built around 
voluntary programs that save our economy money while reducing greenhouse 
gas emissions.  To some in Congress, these programs aren't targets of 
opportunity for reducing emissions...they are just plain targets.   That 
is why we are confronting disabling cuts in programs that promise to 
reduce emissions and save almost $2 billion annually by the year 2000, 
including EPA's Green Lights, Energy Star Computer, Natural Gas STAR and 
similar voluntary efforts.  And that is why there are numerous so-called 
"policy-riders" on appropriations bills, including proposals to halt the 
issuance of more modern, more efficient appliance efficiency standards 
and building codes which have the potential to save yet another $2 
billion annually. 
All told, the concerted attack on the President's Climate Change Action 
Plan could take a heavy toll.  Preliminary analysis -- to be completed 
in October -- reveals the scale and potential scope of this damage.  The 
analysis shows three things.  First, we have made great progress in 
controlling greenhouse gases over the past few years and many of the 
programs that we have initiated have been even more successful than 
predicted.  Second, we still have a long ways to go to meet our 
commitment to return to 1990 emission levels by the year 2000.  And 
third, the targetted cuts proposed in Congress  would move us at warp 
speed in the wrong direction. 
Our review to date indicates that Action Plan programs implemented to 
date have both reduced greenhouse gas emissions and saved the American 
people money.  But our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are 
not sufficient to meet our objective of reaching 1990 levels by the year 
2000.  This gap is largely the result of our economic successes over the 
past two years.  The stronger-than-expected economic growth under the 
Clinton Administration, as well as lower-than-expected oil prices, have 
combined to push up the rate of our emissions. 
We would welcome an opportunity to work constructively with the Congress 
to close this gap.  But the Hill is moving rapidly in the wrong 
direction.  Our analysis indicates that House Republican proposals in 
all likelihood would double the gap.  This very likely means that 
emissions in the year 2000 would be close to where we would have been 
without any plan at all.  As the situation in Congress looks right now, 
the gap wouldn't get smaller -- it would explode. 
The failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is not one of sound 
planning, it is a victory of short-term politics over long-term public 
policy vision.  We will regroup, but the forces against reason, against 
science, against progress and the environment are ascendent.  We have a 
steep hill to climb. 
I point these actions out not to recite the laundry list of horror 
stories, but to suggest that reason must be revived, that the search for 
knowledge and wisdom, science and new technology are not a given in 
today's politics, yet they remain a must for tomorrow's environment. 
But if we are to continue to make progress, scientists such as 
yourselves are going to have to think anew.  Most scientists 
understandably believe that the great battles pitting reason with 
research, scientists with society have been fought and won.  But the 
current debate over public policy in America demonstrates that progress 
is determined by politics, not reason. 
If ever there was a time -- or a need -- for the scientific community to 
enter the fray beyond peer-review and publish or perish, it is now.  
Engagement in the world around you is not only necessary, it is 
essential.  Reaching across disciplines, overcoming silence, defining 
priorities and working together must characterize your work in the 
months and years ahead.  There will be an overwhelming urge to fight 
over the crumbs, to atomize efforts on behalf of this project or that 
institution.  This is a doomed strategy.  On the other side are 
interests and organizations far more mobilized, with deeper pockets and 
an instinct for the jugular. 
In one of the most impressive organizing efforts ever, the Christian 
Coalition has built an organization of almost 2 million members with 
chapters throughout the country, a $20 million annual budget and a 
grassroots organization capable of shaping public policy to the will of 
a vocal, well-organized minority for many years to come.  Reportedly, 
the organization has detailed voter files for 1.7 million Americans, and 
aims to have an organizational arm in every voting precinct in America 
within the next five years.  I do not agree with their views, but I 
acknowledge their success in mobilizing an enormously effective 
political operation. 
Unhappily, these are the great battlegrounds for the environment and 
science in the future.  The skirmishes will not be fought -- despite 
posturing to the contrary -- on the basis of sound science, common 
sense, and relative risk.  They will be fought out in neighborhoods and 
precincts, they will be fought on computer terminals, through grassroots 
organizing and active participation in our democratic processes. 
And this is where you come in.  Like it or not, you must get involved -- 
each and every one of you -- in the processes that govern our country. 
You must apply your knowledge, your expertise and your ability to 
express yourselves.  You must research your local situation and find out 
who is doing what and why.  And then you must act -- to teach your 
fellow citizens (in classrooms and editorial boards, town meetings and 
talk shows) and to be the involved citizen that our country depends 
This may make you feel uncomfortable -- you may be saying to yourself 
"that's not my job -- I'm a scientist".  So ask yourself who built the 
great medical establishment in the United States?  It was a partnership 
of doctors, researchers and public policymakers, building NIH, our 
medical schools, the rural hospital network. 
Who built the space program?  It was scientists, engineers and political 
leaders.  And who built our great research universities?  It was the 
impetus of World War II, the quest for knowledge and great leadership 
from scientists and academics in America. 
I don't have to tell you that the stakes in all of this are huge -- for 
each of us, for our children, for life, for the earth.  The high degree 
of political volatility is matched only by the magnitude of global 
In 1948, when the notion of space exploration was still science fiction, 
the Astronomer Fred Hoyle said: "Once a photograph of the Earth, taken 
from the outside, is available...a new idea as powerful as any in 
history will be let loose." 
Twenty years later, when space travel became a reality, the travellers 
themselves provided powerful testimony to Hoyle's sense of the unity of 
the world.  Let me read to you from our own astronaut, James Irwin: 
"That beautiful, warm, living object looked so fragile, so delicate that 
if you touched it with a finger it would crumble and fall apart." 
And now from a Russian cosmonaut: "After an orange cloud -- formed as a 
result of a dust storm over the Sahara -- reached the Phillipines and 
settled there with rain, I understood that we are all sailing in the 
same boat." 
In this last decade of the millennium, we have the power and enormous 
responsibility to captain that boat carefully.  We also have the ability 
to shape change for the benefit of the United States and the entire 
world.  The interests and intellectual capacity reflected in this room 
today bears a special burden in this regard.  Working together, your 
talents, your energy and your power is more than the match for the 
challenges and the institutions involved.  I hope that each of you will 
engage in this effort and that we can harness that energy and wisdom in 
service of these objectives.  Our future certainly depends on it. 
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