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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
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
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
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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