African farmers seeking land to cultivate make a statement
at the Summit. Photo, Yogi Hendlin
from the 2002 U.N. World Summit on Sustainable Development
Three: Berkeley senior Yogi Hendlin reflects on personal
and national responsibility and a bittersweet Summit experience
Editor's Note: Yogi Hendlin, a fourth-year political
science student in the College of Letters & Science
at UC Berkeley attended the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable
Development in Johannesburg, South Africa. One of several
members of the Berkeley campus community at the summit,
Hendlin attended as a representative of the Adbusters
Media Foundation, a not-for-profit group. This is his
final report from the summit. Hendlin's first
dispatches also are online.
SOUTH AFRICA As
the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) comes
to an end, I am sad to say that we leave this conference
without the concrete results many of us had hoped for.
back more than 10 years to the unenforceable goals which
were the major weakness of the 1992 Rio de Janeiro Earth
Summit, no targets or dates were set here in Johannesburg
for using renewable energy sources. Nor were concrete
goals set for eliminating the billions in oil and agriculture
subsidies that prevent greener energy and organic farming
from becoming viable options.
the last round of formal talks today, there was an uproar
during U.S. Secy. of State Colin Powell's speech. As Powell
advocated the Bush administration's "free trade creates
sustainable development" policies, he was drowned
out by angry chants, clapping, and vocal insurgent remarks.
Hendlin in Johannesburg.
was good news: Canada and Russia have committed to ratify
the Kyoto Protocol, which will activate it at the end
of this year, pressuring the U.S. and Australia to ratify
it as well. This is a major gain for sustainable environment,
and undoubtedly is a byproduct of the Summit.
for me, I admit that there have been several times during
the Summit where I have questioned the value of my attendance.
I'm afraid that in terms of high-level decisions, unless
you are a prime minister or a transnational corporate
executive, there is little possibility of contributing
to the solution.
why most people I have talked to here tell me the same
thing: "I didn't come for the Summit, but for the
people." When I met Professor Claudia Carr (Dept.
of Environmental Science, Policy and Management) in Berkeley
before I left, she told me this is what motivated her
to attend the Summit. I ran into her at the World Conservation
Union (IUCN) when we were watching a Zulu play from Zimbabwe.
Claudia was busy trying to get the actors' contact information
because she believed that the vibrant yet sobering play
ought to be shown to everyone. Discussing the progress
of the Summit, we were joined by a company of newfound
friends, researchers, investigators, and activists who
believe that their words and actions can make a difference.
20,000 people representing non-government organizations
from all over the world attended. Among this crowd, the
networking possibilities were endless. I identify with
the people here, and have instant rapport with many of
them. From Nigeria to Korea to Mexico to the U.S., I have
met dedicated individuals who are changing the world,
and want to share in changing it together.
what does the World Summit on Sustainable Development
(WSSD) have to do with UC Berkeley? Everything.
conference will affect life on this planet for at least
the next 10 years. Any Berkeley student studying international
politics, PACS, natural resources, law, or many other
disciplines will be citing the events and declaration
of the WSSD.
conference, although perhaps deemed by some a failure,
nevertheless provides an important benchmark for future
conservation efforts. Again, the connection to Berkeley
is immediate. Throughout the University, the search for
the discoveries necessary to create a sustainable planet
is a way of life.
through scientific research that reveals more sustainable
means of production, examining our nation's pattern of
consumption, or learning more about every aspect of people
from the rest of the world, Berkeley has its work cut
out for it. Ultimately, each of us must make our own contribution
in our own way. Sustainable development, the watchword
of this conference, has at its root a metaphysic which
every religion and code of ethics posits -our dreams become
citizens of the United States of America, we first must
improve how we live as individuals before we can better
our country. I believe that the "oil of obstinacy"
has stained my country's reputation, and only by a concern
for human life and nature can we restore it.
own thoughts about these past two weeks here in Johannesburg
are bittersweet, discovering so much hope in the power
of teamwork and organization, and yet finding a nagging
lack of such order and agreement among the world's leaders.
My own goal - using the political arena to provide information
and empower people - has been reaffirmed. I realize that
education provides my personal foundation, not only to
keep up-to-date on the world events, but to flesh out
my own ideas of what is important and how to go about
realizing that vision.
now, I do know this much: 10 years from now, I'll be at
the next Earth Summit. Perhaps by then, I will have a
different role to play.