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U.S. Department of State
95/10/31 Remarks:  Strobe Talbott at UN Conf. on Marine Environ.
Office of the Spokesman

                                Remarks by 
                 Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott 
                         United Nations Conference  
              on the Protection of the Marine Environment  
                       from Land-Based Activities. 
                            October 31, 1995 

On behalf of Secretary of State Christopher, let me welcome all of you 
to the Loy Henderson auditorium and the State Department this morning. 
This is an impressive gathering, both quantitatively and qualitatively.  
I understand that there are representatives of 102 governments and 31 
non-governmental and inter-govovernmental organizations here for this 
And as I understand it, the common denominoator of this otherwise 
diverse group is expertise and commitment in a field vital to the life 
of the planet and of our species. 
I know that you have a lot of important work to do, so I'll going to 
keep my remarks short, so as to let you get down to business as quickly 
as possible. 
I would like to put before you a single point, establishing the 
connection between on the one hand, your efforts on behalf of oceanic 
science and policy and, on the other, the work we do in this building on 
behalf of American foreign policy. 
At the heart of President Clinton's approach to international relations 
-- and underlying much of his domestic policy as well -- is a 
recognition that the world is increasingly interdependent and a 
determination to make that interdependence work in our favor.   
Interdependence means that, for good or for ill, every nation, region 
and continent is susceptible to influence from others.  As we approach 
the twenty-first century, distances are shorter, and national boundaries 
are more permeable.  Commerce and culture ride the jet streams, the air 
waves, and the fiber-optic cables, promoting shared interests, shared 
values, and shared prosperity.  But crime, terror, nuclear 
proliferation, and infectious diseases spill over borders as well -- to 
our common peril. 
There is no better example of global interdependence than our shared 
interest in protecting the environment. Global environmental degradation 
affects all of us, whether it is depletion of the ozone layer, climate 
change, species extinction, or desertification.  And there are no better 
examples of global environmental interdependence than the ones that you 
will be discussing over the next two days.   
What one person, or one nation, puts in the ocean can, and often does, 
wash ashore thousands of miles away. 
As world population grows, and more and more people migrate to coastal 
areas, the pollution of our oceans will be a growing common hazard. 
The state of our oceans increasingly affects our fisheries, our beaches, 
our health, and our economies.   
Precisely because of their transnational character, these issues will 
require creative, innovative and sustained diplomatic efforts.  
Multilateral cooperation is an imperative. 
There have been several recent encouraging examples of international 
cooperation on marine issues.   
In August, we completed a successful round of consultations on the 
International Code of Conduct for Resposible Fishing, and we reached 
agreement on the Treaty on Straddling and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks.  
These will become the primary international norms for fishing practices 
on the high seas.   
Another area of recent success, of which we can be proud, is the 
International Coral Reef Initiative that Under Secretary Wirth launched 
in June 1994 at the Smalls Islands Developing States Conference in 
Today's Conference will serve to consolidate all these gains by helping 
to build a consensus around ways to protect our marine ecosystems.   
I know that you will be addressing a number of specific concerns, such 
as the threats posed by sewage and persistent organic pollutants.   
I hope that you'll also give some thought to ways that we can promote a 
broader public awareness of how important the marine environment is.  
That's the only we can build support for the actions our governments are 
taking individually and collectively. 
Here in the United States, environmental protection programs, including 
policies to protect the marine environment, are under withering attack 
in our Congress.  The Clinton Administration is doing  everything in its 
power to repel that attack.    
One of the main weapons in our arsenal is education.   
We need to teach people that promoting economic growth and protecting 
the environment are not incompatible or conflicting goals.  In fact, 
quite the contrary: we can sustain economic growth only if we preserve 
the environment that makes that growth possible.  And that means 
remembering that, just as our bodies are made up largely of salt water, 
so our environment, even if we live far inland, is made up largely of 
the oceans. 
Somehow we have to induce our citizens, our governments, our 
legislators, our media to stop taking the oceans for granted. 
That, too, is a challenge of education -- of re-reading, or at least 
remembering, the most common and basic texts of our culture and 
We should remember that in order to send Odysseus on his adventures, 
Homer had gray-eyed Athena send him a favorable breeze, a fresh west 
wind, singing over the wine-dark sea.  Too often today the dark coloring 
of the Mediterranean is due to the befouling influence of modern man. 
And let me put in a plug for another Homer -- the great 19th and early 
20th century American painter Winslow Homer, whose works are on exhibit 
less than a mile from here at the National Gallery.  If you can find a 
bit of time, wander over to the Mall and visit the exhibition.  Whiile 
you're there, imagine how realist that he was, Winslow Homer he would 
have to paint those seascapes today if their natural beauty had spent 
the last 100 years fighting a losing battle against civilization and 
In introducing me, Eileen mentioned that I'm a scuba diver.  So are my 
wife, Brooke, and 15-year-old son, Adrian. 
Adrian spent much of this past summer, wearing a wet suit and a 
regulator, studying marine biology off the coast of Florida.  It was 
great fun and a highly educational experience, but it was also sobering, 
even ominous.  He found himself literally plunged deep into the 
consequences of our own folly.  In addition to lovely sea life, he saw 
ugly sea-death: dead and dying coral, along with the floatsam and jetsam 
of our many bad habits. 
Somehow, we've got to reinculcate in ourselves an awareness of the sea 
as the mother of our life on land,to be treated with respect, care and 
That is an exceedingly practical challenge, on which our very survival 
depends.  And it's a challenge all of you here today are helping us 
meet.  For that, you have my respect, gratitude and support -- and that 
of all my colleagues in the Administration. 
So welcome again to Washington and to the Department.  You honor us -- 
and I hope will educate us -- by bringing your deliberations to these 
premises.  Thank you very much. 
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