Pronk, the U.N. Secretary-General's Special Envoy to the
Earth Summit, led one of the liveliest panel discussions
so far. Yogi Hendlin photo
from the 2002 U.N. World Summit on Sustainable Development
Berkeley senior Yogi Hendlin dares to stroll Johannesburg at
night, is glad to see Jerry Brown, and talks to Germany's minister
of the environment
Editor's Note: Yogi Hendlin, a fourth-year political science
student at UC Berkeley, is attending the 2002 World Summit on
Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, from
August 26 to September 4. One of several members of the Berkeley
campus community at the event, Hendlin will attend the summit
as a representative of the Adbusters Media Foundation, a not-for-profit
group. This is his second dispatch from the summit. (To read
the first, in which he explains why he has gone to Johannesburg,
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA I am currently staying
at a "home stay," in a house surrounded by 8-feet walls and
another 2 feet of electrical fencing.
After a week of computer problems, lack of electrical adapters,
and walking down streets in a city where everyone I've met has
explicitly warned me not to walk at night, I finally have solace.
The past few days have expanded my heart and knowledge in so
many ways: Fiat Lux.
Hendlin, at night in Johannesburg.
The electric fences and concrete compounds remind me of some
apocalyptic vision of the future in which everyone lives in
fear of going outside of walking the streets and meeting
others. Yet the people of South Africa have been nothing but
kind to me, and the culture seems uniquely alive. I feel that
the people of South Africa, equally with the people attending
this Earth Summit, would benefit from a message that I saw written
under a traffic sign: STOP Being Afraid.
A high point for the Summit so far was the Civil Society Forum
panel moderated by Jan Pronk, the Dutch Minister of Housing,
Spatial Planning and the Environment as well as the U.N. Secretary-General's
Special Envoy to the WSSD. Pronk led major sustainable development
players in a lively debate that exposed some of the underlying
assumptions of each group. Some cathartic group therapy took
place in front of the officials of the world.
After the Bush administration held a press conference conveying
its five-point plan for the Summit to form "signature
partnerships" that would provide a "vital step down the road
toward sustainable development" three U.S. congressmen
and our very own mayor of Oakland, Jerry Brown, held a press
conference that gave an alternative U.S. perspective on sustainable
Helping to decrease my embarrassment when I'm asked where I'm
from, Congressmen Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), Earl Blumenauer
(D-Oregon), and George Miller (D-California) and Brown called
for the U.S. to produce 10 percent of its energy from renewable
sources by 2010, an initiative first proposed by Brazil and
other Latin American countries. Currently the Bush administration
is only willing to push for a 1 percent increase in the use
of clean sources over the next 10 years.
Today Friday, August 30 I attended a partnership
launch for a Youth Dialogue on Consumption, Lifestyles, and
Sustainability, where I had the chance to comment on the seeming
contradiction of a meeting on curbing consumption in which a
disposable plastic water bottle was given to each panelist,
to Germany's Minister of the Environment. With a look of chagrin,
he proceeded to tell me how Germany is currently working on
refilling containers, thus keeping in accord with the Reduce,
Reuse, Recycle mantra of the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit of
I also learned a bunch of interesting facts. For example: it
would take the resources of four more Earths to support developed-nation
consumption levels for all of the world's 7 billion people.
And how 90 percent of the 1 billion people aged 15 to 24 live
in developing countries, therefore providing an untapped source
of green influence for the sustainable development of such countries.
Tomorrow, many delegates, along with the Ministers of the Environment
from several nations, will be marching to protest the deliberations'
inefficacy. As many as 20,000 expected peaceful protesters will
convene in the center of Johannesburg in conjunction with the
Landless People's Movement. The protest isn't planned to disrupt
the official U.N. meetings, but to make clear that a large number
of people who have come here as delegates feel that their voices
have not been heard.
After a week of talks that have produced much frustration,
Britain's Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said he feared
that negotiations could unravel due to conflicts among the United
States, the European Union, and developing countries over the
most contentious policy issues. As the Summit prepares for some
100 of the world's heads of government to arrive starting Monday,
Prescott warned that the Summit must "reverse the trend of environmental
degradation" and act to reduce poverty.
The poverty prevention efforts adopted at the U.N. Millennium
Conference only two years ago aimed to halve the number of people
living in poverty and unsanitary conditions (now numbering 2.4
billion) by 2015. The Bush administration opposes this 2015
deadline, preferring laws that are voluntary and do not have
repercussions for noncompliance.
As one world leader here has said, "It is time to stop using
the carrot," referring to the need for measurable progress and
strict compliance for implementation protocols.