The Earth Debate: A Special Roundtable From the UN Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg

  • submit to reddit

As 65,000 delegates prepared to gather in Johannesburg, South Africa, for the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, over 13,000 people were dying each day from water-related diseases. The United Nations predicted that if current patterns of development continued, nearly half of the world’s people would suffer from water shortages within the next 25 years, greenhouse gas emissions would grow, and the world’s forests would continue to disappear.

On Friday, August 30, 2002, NOW With Bill Moyers and the BBC presented “The Earth Debate,” a special 90-minute program from the World Summit on Sustainable Development. 


NARRATOR: From our studios in New York, Bill Moyers.

MOYERS: Welcome to NOW.

We’re in South Africa at a spot called the Cradle of Humankind.

Scientists have discovered here remains of some of our earliest ancestors, appropriately enough, a few miles away, tens of thousands of people have gathered to debate how to sustain the life that started here.

The World Summit on Sustainable Development also known as the Earth Summit is asking whether we humans can treat the Earth as if we intend it to say.

That is the subject of this special edition of NOW co-produced with the BBC.

I’m joined by Nisha Pillai.

NISHA PILLAI: The delegates gathered here are under no illusions about the size of the task ahead of them.

Ten years ago at the last big Earth Summit in Rio de Janiero, they signed up to an ambitious agenda to eradicate poverty and to protect the environment. But in the ten years since pollution has worsened and the gap between rich and poor has widened.

But you know the aspirations of people in poor countries are pretty much the same as our own in the rich world — to live better lives. And that could put even more burdens on our precious natural resources and increase the tension between rich and poor.

MOYERS: In one central fact everybody would agree, we live off the natural world. We need, air, food and water to survive. But there is a staggering array of opinion on how to manage those resources and a lot of passion including protest in the streets by impoverished people seeking access to land and water.

Once upon a time our ancestors would have reached consensus around a camp fire. Now that we’re six billion and counting, agreement on the challenges facing human survival is hard to come by.

NISHA PILLAI: We wanted to hear from people with visionary solutions. They will be challenged and tested by activists, decision-makers, and thinkers gathered with us here today. We wanted to see if their ideas could work in the real world where the desire for economic growth collides with the environment.

I would like to start with you Nadine Gordimer, South Africa’s Nobel Laureate, one of the most eminent thinkers of the region.

NADINE GORDIMER: Well, I find looking at all the tremendous issues that the summit is going to deal with, the two that I focus on are water and AIDS. The poet Yeats said as his epitaph, “Here lies one whose name is write in water.” In our world, our life is writ in water.

NISHA PILLAI: Ricardo Navarro, a Friend of the Earth International, the most pressing problem for you?

DR. RICARDO NAVARRO: Well, certainly one of the most pressing problems. is climate changes that we are facing, but because of that is the power that all the transnational corporations have taken. I think that is the most pressing problem at this time.

NISHA PILLAI: Bjorn Lomborg, you have all but divided the whole environmental world with your writing. What is the top of your “must do” list?

BJORN LOMBORG: It is that we need to focus on the right priorities, and the most important thing is to get clean drinking water and sanitation for every single human being on Earth.

NISHA PILLAI: Fred Smith, over to you.

MR. FRED SMITH, JR: I think the challenge is to extend the institutions of civilization. Over the last centuries we’ve learned how to integrate man in solving problems. to make the economy better. The challenge now is to extend those institutions, particularly private property, to the environmental field so we can integrate man and environmental problems. and solve them better rather than restrict them to the channels of politics.

NISHA PILLAI: Naomi Klein, a rather different take from you, I’m sure.

NAOMI KLEIN: I think the biggest barrier to solving all of these problems. is the privatization of every aspect of our lives, that so much of our collective wealth and knowledge and resources is being patented, privatized, and put out of reach of the majority of humanity.

NISHA PILLAI: Vandana Shiva, you’re joining us from India, where you are a well-known environmental campaigner. Let me put the same question to you.

DR. VANDANA SHIVA: Well, I think there’s only one problem left, and that is the problem of the survival of the species.

We are sitting at the cradle of humanity. We are on the verge of becoming the graveyard of humanity, and all the issues — erosion of biodiversity, privatization, depletion of water, climate change — they all end up threatening the very possibility of survival on this planet.

NISHA PILLAI: A big range of opinions we’ve just heard, and divergence of opinions, too. But, you know, identifying the problems. is relatively speaking the easy part. Putting them right is the real challenge. And if nothing else, we’ve learned this much in the ten years since the first big Earth Summit in Rio.


NARRATOR: Astronauts looking down from space report a changing planet. Green fields have become barren deserts. Rain forest has been turned to parched stubble. Natural jungle has become concrete. Many of these changes are manmade, some direct, others through global warming.

Scientists are now predicting in 50 years’ time we will need to have colonized two planets the size of Earth to feed our population.

Ten years ago in Rio governments promised a different future by signing up to sustainable development.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: I will stand up for American interests and the interests of a cleaner environment.

MALE VOICE AT RIO SUMMIT: today, we’re here not to argue for a national cause but for the future of our planet.

NARRATOR: The pledges were made. The documents signed but what happened to those bright promises? Poverty was to be eradicated. Today nearly 1/3 of the world’s population still lives in extreme deprivation on less than 2 dollars a day. That number is growing. The amount of aid given by rich countries as a proportion of their wealth is supposed to increase, in fact, it has fallen.

The careless destruction of the world’s national resources was to end. It patently hasn’t. Global warming was to be reversed. The planet is now warmer than ever.

Meeting the needs of the present without jeopardizing the needs of future generations won’t be easy. But time is running out.

MOYERS: Jeffrey Sachs, you were there in Rio. What’s gone wrong?

JEFFREY SACHS: There’s actually been progress in some part of the world and a lot of deterioration in others. For the rich world, actually, the 1990s was a pretty good decade. For the poorest of the poor, it was a disaster.

We haven’t been able to solve the problem of using our wealth, our knowledge, our science and technology, both to help our economies in the rich world, to find ways to extend the benefits all over the world.

MOYERS: Vandana Shiva? Does what you’re reading, what you’re hearing, what you’re seeing make you pessimistic?

VANDANA SHIVA: No, nothing can make me pessimistic, though what’s going on there is disastrous, because even though this was supposed to be the Earth summit, the Earth has literally disappeared, and instead of a summit, what we have is a trade valley.

Free trade, trade liberalization, liberalization of finance and marketization and unfortunately, this summit has been hijacked by those who think the market is a solution for everything, who think everything is a commodity and that the commitments of Rio can be undone like that.

MOYERS: Was Rio a wake-up call for China?


MOYERS: In what sense?

JUSTIN LIN: The Chinese government pay a lot of attention to the importance of sustainability and create all kind of institution to deal with this issue.

MOYERS: Bjorn Lomberg, your book THE SKEPTICAL ENVIRONMENTALIST says that things are not all that bad. Now, is that true of global warming?

BJORN LOMBORG: The real issue here is as long as we don’t focus on what is the real problems. of the world, as long as we don’t say, sure, there are thousands of problems, but which ones are the most important ones. If we end up over-worrying about the small problems. or the problems. that we can do very little about, we end up under-worrying. And when you talk about global warming, yes, it’s happening, yes, it’s bad for the developing world. But the thing we can actually do about it is going to be extremely costly, do very little good, and the argument is simply to say we could do so many other good things.

Now, I was allowed to say what was the good thing in the first little clip, clean drinking water and sanitation to everyone on Earth for the cost of what we’re allowing ourselves to commit to Kyoto, you know, basically doing almost nothing to global warming. Isn’t that a better thing to do? Is save two million lives each year, save half a billion people from getting seriously ill?

MOYERS: One of the big changes since Rio is the rise of global trade and the rise of global corporations. There were 35,000 multinational corporations, I believe, in 1992 and there are over 50,000 now. So Naomi Klein, what does it say to you that global trade and global corporations now seem to be in the driver’s seat?

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, it says to me that the real action is actually outside the summit, and all the headlines in the papers here in Johannesburg are about the fact that the conference center has been turned into a fortress to protect the conference essentially from the people.

MOYERS: Corporate man, Harvey Bale, what do you say in response to Naomi Klein?

DR. HARVEY BALE: Well, many of the new multinational corporations are coming from developing countries. China is certainly a source of much of the new trading we expect out in the future, but corporations live by the rules. The rules that have been set up are sometimes very complex, overly technical, and can be gained.

Unfortunately, I think we’ve got to find an effective set of rules for corporations as well as every other citizen.

MOYERS: Sunitha Narain, what do corporations have to do to prove to you that they are willing to be good stewards?

SUNITA NARAIN: I think the biggest problem you have today is that corporations think that they can set the rules and that there has been, particularly in the developing world, and I think pretty much in the West as well, a nexus between corporations and the state, where the state and corporations have learned to do business the way it suits them.

And I think the most important change that needs to come in the world is a deepening of democracy: greater rules, greater regulations, and greater respect for the rules. And that’s one of the most scary things that has been happening in the world today: that the most powerful in the world renegade on the rules that are set.

MOYERS: Justin Lin, does China consider that democracy is important to globalization?

JUSTIN LIN: Yeah, I think accountability is very important. Certainly the government should be responsible for the people.

MOYERS: What about corporations?

JUSTIN LIN: The corporation is partly in the legal system and they have to be governed by the legal set by the government.

MOYERS: Jeffrey Sachs, give me a one sentence definition of globalization.

JEFFREY SACHS: Globalization is the increasing interconnectedness of society, economy, financial flows, culture, science and technology and the rules by which nations, business, individuals, do business with each other.

MOYERS: Taking this definition, Fred Smith, do you consider the heart of globalization to be the ability of corporations to move goods and services around the world?

FRED SMITH: Globalization, I agree with Jeff’s point of view. That it’s the integration of the world and that does mean that you have the chance of moving production and other things to where they are best done, where people can solve problems. the best for the purpose of man kind as a whole.

You know, the original Greek word for trade was “make a friend of a stranger,” and I think what globalization is giving an opportunity to create a maximum cooperative world among the peoples of the world.

The danger is, and this was mentioned earlier, is that some groups will try to use the state, the political institutions, to distort that process and gain special privileges for themselves. But the private aspect, the voluntary aspect of globalization, I think, is one of the greatest achievements mankind has today.

MOYERS: Harvey Bale? Yes, Mr. Navarro?

RICARDO NAVARRO: We can talk about globalization, but the important thing is to figure out for the benefit of whom. Globalization means to open the door to transnational corporations, to take resources from the third world or developing countries as some say, to bring investment, to destroy the environment, to displace peasants, to privatize water, to steal seeds — for example, the case in India.

MOYERS: There is a lot of talk at Johannesburg, something new on the table in Johannesburg, because of the rise of global corporations and it is the discussion that instead of governments enacting legislation to regulate the environment, that there will be community participation between government, between business, between non-government organizations and that they will wherever possible let the market do the job of regulating, cleaning up, protecting the environment.

Harvey Bale, can you tell me any place where markets have done that, where markets have actually made the environment better?

HARVEY BALE: Certainly in the healthcare field the market has made the environment better by producing for example, a raft of AIDS drugs over the past decade. These AIDS drugs appeared within five years of the definition and diagnosis of the AIDS crisis. So certainly the activity of doing research and research intensive industries I think has contributed much to the environment and overcoming some of the barriers that we face as man kind.

MOYERS: Jeffrey Sachs?

JEFFREY SACHS: Harvey is right. You have a private sector that generated some marvelous wonderful drugs. But they didn’t reach very poor people. In fact, in Africa where there are 28 million Africans estimated to be infected with H.I.V. AIDS right now it’s estimated that no more than one out of 1,000 of those, about 28,000, are actually receiving have access to the very miracle drugs that could keep them alive.

MOYERS: Fred Smith, I really appreciate your being here, we’re fellow countrymen, I follow your activities. I appreciate you being here because I know you don’t believe in these summits. The Associated Press quoted you last week as saying “The fortunate thing is that with 40,000 goofies present not much will be done,” present company excepted. Why are you here?

FRED SMITH: I’m here because a lot of times… and in policy wars, like in real wars, it’s very important to send your lieutenants in, but you don’t want to necessarily drop the generals in enemy territory. And having Bush come to a place where basically pies would be thrown, that would be sort of silly.

MOYERS: Mr. Smith was one of 31 Americans, leaders of conservative and industry groups, who wrote to president bush last week praising him for not coming to the summit. And the interesting part of that letter to me, Fred, was that you urged the President to make sure that the American delegation kept the issue of global warming off the table. Why did you do that?

FRED SMITH: We did that because it’s very important to realize that the United States shows leadership by basically taking a different position when it believes the rest of the world is wrong.

Right now most of the world believes that if you want to protect our planet, you’ve got to have some form of centralized ecological planning, some kind of eco-socialism. The U.S. shows leadership by trying to find a new approach. We’re not there yet in the United States, but we’re exploring that, and the rest of the world is going over the cliff with the centralized ecological planning.

The real question is, given the potential risk associated with climate changes, is the world better advised to put its scarce resources into trying to fend off that by reducing carbon based fuel around the world, or is it better designed to use those resources to build the resilience in wealth and technological change?

MOYERS: An issue has been joined and in my eyesight, by coincidence, the schism in this Johannesburg summit is revealed.

Sitting over there is Dr. Robert Watson. Dr. Watson is a scientist. Recently, early this year, some of the huge energy companies went to the White House and pressured the White House to fire Dr. Watson from the job he held, because he was saying there is such a thing as global warming.

Now, Mr. Smith’s organization is supported by some of those very energy organizations that went to the White House. The question I’m going to ask you, Dr. Watson, is can anything happen as long as powerful corporations have governments in their hip pockets?

DR. ROBERT WATSON: The answer is no, unless they have a moral responsibility, which many of them don’t. Some company have shown moral and ethical leadership, such as dupont, some of the oil companies like shell and british petroleum. But they have noticed you can be climate-friendly and make a profit.

Unfortunately, many of the companies in the U.S. Have not recognized that rather simple fact. That addressing climate change is not an expensive proposition. There are many policies and technologies that can be applied, and climate change is a major development issue today.

MOYERS: Bjorn Lomberg?

BJORN LOMBORG: Yeah, I mean basically we are touching on the very foundation of this whole summit. It seems. to me that there’s a lot of different kinds of concerns, but we need to come back to say what is it we want to spend our scarce resources on? Why is it most countries in the developing world are very, very polluted? It’s because they are poor. Look around the world. A lot of people believe that the industrialized world, the Western world, is probably the most polluted place.

No, they are the most clean places, because we can afford to care about the environment. And so the real issue here is to say if we want sustainable development, we really need to make sure that the three- quarters of the world who does not have very much get to be so rich that they can afford to worry about the environment just as much as we do now.

MOYERS: Jeffrey Sachs? Poverty and the environment, connected?

JEFFREY SACHS: It’s a fair enough point to say how would we address the poverty, but where I’m willing to agree with what Bjorn has said is that by investing in approaches and solutions to climate change, you also address the poverty, because the climate change we know, as best as we know it with all the uncertainties, is going to hit extremely hard in the tropics.

It’s going to hit agriculture extremely painfully. It’s going to hit probably the spread of disease in ways that we can’t anticipate right now. We have to address it.

Where I would disagree with Fred Smith is that the US government is really doing almost nothing right now on these issues it, hasn’t proposed a viable approach.

I would say that, where Fred and I would probably agree is the technology probably could be a major way forward. But then I looked. What is one of the most promising approaches? Find ways to keep the carbon from getting into the atmosphere; sequestering the carbon.

MOYERS: What do you mean by carbon sequestration?

JEFFREY SACHS: Carbon sequestration is a concept that fuel could be used safely in the carbon that is now emitted and goes into the atmosphere and contributes to global warming were somehow sequestered, were somehow kept from going in the atmosphere. There are many promising technologies to hold that carbon from going into the atmosphere. They require research and development.

MOYERS: Let me move from technology to language.

Nadine Gordimer, do all there words we’re hearing in this discussion and at Johannesburg, do all these words add up to anything in your judgment? Will they make a difference?

NADINE GORDIMER: well, it depends, of course, on whether the suggestions, the demands that are made, are carried out. I’ve just been listening to the different definitions of globalization, and it seems. to me that there is one definition that is glaringly missing. And that is the fact that globalization at the moment is a vast international financial institution at that level and that the people who are affected by it do not have a voice in the decisions made.

MOYERS: I’m sure some of our invited audience has some things to say about this. Nisha?

NISHA PILLAI: Martin Khor, you’ve flown over from Malaysia to join us, we’ve heard a lot of anti-globalization voices here. Is yours one of them?

MARTIN KHOR: Well, what has happened in the last ten years since Rio is that we are now seeing the debt crisis spreading from Africa 20 years ago to even the richest countries in the developing world and what we are now seeing is a combination of free trade and protectionism.

Free trade being imposed on the developing countries which are asked to stop their subsidies to the poor, the poor farmers especially, while the rich farmers in the rich countries are getting $350 billion of subsidies. Cheap food coming into the developing world and threatening the livelihood of hundreds of millions of poor farmers in the South. Industries being wiped out in Africa and so on.

NISHA PILLAI: Tom Burke, you’ve been an environmentalist, part of this movement for many years now, and I saw you shaking your head a number of times during that debate. Why?

TOM BURKE: The issues are enormously complicated, but they don’t boil down to are corporations, villains, and other people, victims. Corporations are vastly complex. You can’t talk about corporations as if they were one thing.

When you look around the world and you see where most environmental, actual environmental degradation takes place, and you see who is behind it, government subsidies for fishing, government actions and policies on energy, these are the things that are behind an enormous amount of the destruction. That doesn’t mean, by any means, that corporations are exempt.

But the idea that it’s only transnational corporations – the people who are burning down the Indonesian rain forests are Indonesian companies, and actually quite often, by the way, the Indonesian military are doing it. The people who are destroying watersheds with bad mining all over Latin America are often Latin American companies. The people who are exporting mahogany illegally from Brazil are Brazilian companies.

Wo you can’t divide the world up into these simple villains or victims: “transnational corporations, bad, everybody else, good.” It’s all the responsibility of governments, not the responsibility… actually of consumers, who have an enormously important part to play in all of this. So one needs to actually have a rather more high resolution view of the problems.

NISHA PILLAI: Thanks, Tom, and I’m sure you keep the panelists on their toes and make sure they don’t always use that broad brush.

I’d like to cross over now to the other side and bring in Jonathan Lash. We’ve heard people lambasting this jamboree that’s going on here at Johannesburg. Are you as critical?

JONATHAN LASH: You have to accept the fact that this is the global era. And it’s not just the economy that’s global. We’re also finding that the issues that are most important for us to deal with in sustainability are globally interconnected. Issues like climate change can’t be addressed by one country acting alone.

As a result, we’ve entered the period in which we have to find the means of multilateral collaboration, among nations between sectors at least this meeting is a symbol that the discussion of how to achieve that, something we failed at so far, is still under way.

MOYERS: This summit, the summit hopes to reduce poverty. People living in abject poverty by the year 2015 in half although by then for every mouth that is being fed there may well be a new mouth open to be fed. It is a very ambitious project.


NARRATOR: Just a few hundred miles from where the summit is being held people are dying of hunger. Across Southern Africa millions are in the grip of a major famine. We face oppressing challenge. How best to help the countries most at risk of desertification? How best to feed the hungry today without creating dependency on foreign aid?

How to feed an extra 3 billion people expected by 2050. And how best to insure that fair trade really is fair. At present rich countries give far more in subsidies to their own farmers than they do in aid to poorer countries. Many traditionally grown crops in the developing world are lost through viruses and pests. Biotechnology firms. have now produced genetically modified seeds designed to be resistant to these deadly viruses. Could some of the challenges be met by advances in technology?

Our Western campaign’s justified when they protest against the growing of genetically modified foods. In places where the alternative is often starvation?

NISHA PILLAI: The problems. of hunger and famine are immense, especially in this part of the country. Are there any solutions?With me here is Florence Wambugu, one of Kenya’s most eminent scientists.

Florence, first off, tell me, what is the significance of the hunger debate, especially here in Johannesburg at the Earth summit?

DR. FLORENCE WAMBUGU: First, let me say that the most important issue right now in Africa is hunger, poverty and malnutrition. Let me also say that hunger is not a concept. It’s a person I know; they are people I live with. As we are talking, we have about ten million people threatened by hunger. We’ve got 300,000 who are going to die unless a decision is made.

NISHA PILLAI: I want to ask Vandana, imagine you were a Zambian government minister and you had to make this decision, do you think you could have turned away G.M. Food aid from someone who is starving, possibly it could make the difference between life and death?

VANDANA SHIVA: When the same situation happened in India, with the (inaudible) cyclone, 30,000 people dead and many hungry, when we tested the food and found it to be gm and we just gave the information to the people who were victims, who were hungry, they led a protest to the aid agencies and they said just because we are poor, just because we are in emergency doesn’t mean you can force us to eat what we don’t want to eat. Emergency cannot be used as a market opportunity.

NISHA PILLAI: Let’s move beyond food production and look at some of the global politics of food a little bit more closely because people say in some countries it isn’t worth the producing because it’s cheaper to buy it from abroad. Such is the power of dumping.

Naomi Klein, do you think that the dumping of heavily subsidized foods by the U.S., by the European Union, ultimately in some way leads to famines here in Africa?

NAOMI KLEIN: I think it does and I think there is a kind of crisis of credibility facing globalization right now, because the U.S. government and the european union is in a position where they are not just making the rules, they are also breaking the rules and that is clear around the world.

But, I just wanted to say one of the things that I think is missing from this discussion is the question of land reform because when you speak to a lot a hungry people in this country about what they think the solution is they say they think the solution is land reform. And in fact they have organized themselves into groups like the landless peoples’ movement and are having summits of their own this week.

There is something called the week of the landless, where there are global exchanges between Indian farmers, between farmers in El Salvador, farmers in Brazil and African farmers, and they are saying our governments have all promised us land reform and have all broken that promise in the name of being more globally competitive. They are saying “we think that land reform, giving people land to plant their own food is a solution to hunger.”

And not only isn’t that on the agenda at the Earth summit, but the people who are talking about this are being told they can’t protest. They can’t have a voice in this process.

NISHA PILLAI: $20,000 a year is what the U.S. Government spends on average subsidizing U.S. farmers. Is this a problem in India as well?

SUNITA NARAIN: No, it’s not a problem. I think what is the fact that you have unfair terms. of trade. The fact that the U.S. continues to subsidize farmers, the fact that the EU continues to subsidize farmers, and the fact that Indian farmers with the meager subsidy that they get from the government, there is no way that you can compare the two: but I do think that this issue needs to be broadened a little more to say hunger is not about technology, as someone said.

Hunger is about politics. And if you look at India, we have a food surplus today, but we are still very hungry. We have desperately hungry people. And therefore, it’s about good politics, about giving people entitlements to food, and most importantly, talking about water and land as a major input to growing food. And governments are not very good at this. You have to recognize that, and I think multinational corporation therefore have been able to just run around amok and governments have allowed them to get money for it.

NISHA PILLAI: Fred Smith, give us the U.S. Government position on this.

FRED SMITH: The U.S. Government’s position is weird. We believe in free markets and subsidized agriculture. If you can make sense of that, you’re doing better than I am.

NISHA PILLAI: So it’s totally untenable then?

FRED SMITH: Well, it’s certainly politically logical, because there are special interest groups who like to be subsidized. Every proposal by Peter to pay Paul has Paul’s enthusiastic support and there’s a lot of Pauls in the farming community.

one of the challenges and one of the frustrations essentially I feel at this summit is by seeing technological change, biotechnology particularly, as a threat, there is essentially locking away the one thing that could free up some of the Earth surface for environmental purposes.

NISHA PILLAI: We heard Sunita talking just now about how small the subsidies that Indian farmers receive are because the Indian government can’t afford it.

Well in Malawi, not so far away from here, the subsidies and fertilizers and seeds that the government was paying out it was forced to stop by the I.M.F. based in Washington. Penny Fowler from OxFam, you campaigned against this, tell us about it, Penny.

PENNY FOWLER: Well, I think the situation that’s emerged from the doorstep of this summit here in Johannesburg is very serious obviously. We see 30 million people facing famine at the moment and we’re just saying one of the facts behind that, but a very important factor, is that people have been left much more vulnerable and insecure because of pressure on governments to withdraw services from rural populations.

HARVEY BALE: The goal years ago of the US was to eliminate export subsidies over time. I’m afraid recent decisions seem to reverse that.

NISHA PILLAI: You have a radical solution or you think it will be a radical solution, tell us about it.

FLORENCE WAMBUGU: The problem of hunger and poverty in Africa is caused by two things. One is the governance but most importantly the science and technology.

NISHA PILLAI: What do you think that biotechnology, genetically modified foods and you are working on those programs, what do you think they could do to change the situation?

FLORENCE WAMBUGU: Biotechnology has an opportunity for Africa. U don’t see that as a… I consider that unique, and the reason why I consider that unique is that the technology is built in a seed.

The reason why many African countries are not benefited from the chemical technology and previous technology is many small scale farmers cannot read and write. So when the technology is packaged in the seed, most people can benefit.

NISHA PILLAI: Do you think they’re safe, Ricardo Navarro?

RICARDO NAVARRO: If you have hunger and you try to look for a technical solution to hunger, it’s like taking a map from Germany and looking for Miami. You won’t find it.

NISHA PILLAI: But do you think it is safe?

RICARDO NAVARRO: Of course not.

NISHA PILLAI: Why, of course not?

RICARDO NAVARRO: For example, a genetically modified organism is something, that in 4,500 years ago mother nature has not made. I mean those people are (inaudible) to God.

NISHA PILLAI: You’re like the person who says, “if God wanted us to fly he would have given us wings.”



NISHA PILLAI: What is the Chinese position?

JUSTIN LIN: I think that GM food certainly can reduce the use of chemical pesticides, but at the same time I would say that the solution for hunger is not a form of technology.

JEFFREY SACHS: There are solutions to this and to see it just as the G.M.O. issue is a big mistake also because there are many non-G.M.O. science and technology approaches totally environmentally friendly such as intercropping, better species and better crops that could do wonders.

NISHA PILLAI: Okay, I want to bring Nadine Gordimer in here. Will we be always stuck in this cycle?

NADINE GORDIMER: We’re talking about agriculture and the basis of feeding people. The World Bank Report, which has just come out I think a week ago, points out that by 2025, half the world will be desperately short of water. Particularly Africa, Middle East, South and East Asia. How does that fit with your goal that by 2015 we’re going to half the world poverty situation. That is the question I would like to put to others.

NISHA PILLAI: Over to Bill

MOYERS: Francis Lappe, I’ve known you a long time now and all the time I’ve known you, you’ve devoted your life to helping people feed themselves. Should we just move beyond genetically modified products. Should we move beyond the issue of subsidies and just help subsistence farmers make it?

FRANCIS MOORE LAPPE: Bill, I would like to pull us back a little bit because I think that for me, anyway, to make sense of all this, I have to start by acknowledging that human beings are creatures of the mind, that we each carry a mental map through which we see the world and it’s all represented here and I think it’s useful to suggest that there are really two thought traps in this dominant map that is so much in play here.

That one thought trap is that we have to subdue nature, that nature is the enemy and GMO’s are part of that strategy. Modify nature. Another thought trap is we are so flawed we have to give over our fate to a very primitive notion of a market that is a market that is premised on highest return to wealth.

So once we’re looked into these thought traps what happens, we are blind to the fact that there is already more than enough food in this world to feed us all.

MOYERS: Yolanda Kakabadse, what is your take on this?

YOLANDA KAKABADSE: I think we have to focus on how much the consumption patterns of today’s world are affecting the natural resources. There aren’t enough natural resources around the world but there is a depletion in many parts of the world because of greed. Greed that comes from trying to copy a model of consumption. Some people call it the American way of life, but it’s not only the American way of life, it’s in Europe, it’s in my country. In Ecuador. It’s worldwide.

MOYERS: What’s your definition of greed?

YOLANDA KAKABADSE: Wanting too much and needless things, things that are not necessary to live and to be happy.

MOYERS: But this American way of life you referred to, which is the envy of the world, is the engine driving so much of the world’s imagination.

YOLANDA KAKABADSE: Which is a signal of good marketing but it’s not definitely a signal that that is what you need to live and to have a sustainable society.

MOYERS: So what’s a practical thing we can do?

YOLANDA KAKABADSE: I would invest much more in education and awareness. I think that if we knew what the impact of our behavior, the individual and social behavior of different peoples around the world, had on the natural resources, we would be much more careful, much more sustainable in our way of life. And I think that’s not there, not in the North. And I resent very much this permanent message that we have to educate the South.

MOYERS: By the South, you mean the developing world.

YOLANDA KAKABADSE: The developing world. As if the Southerners were the only ones who were depleting the Earth. It is a worldwide problem, and the consumer society is as guilty as anybody else in this relationship of the human being with the natural resources and with nature.


VANDANA SHIVA: Nowhere has the calculation been done about the resources that it takes, it takes 100 times more resources to produce food industrially with chemicals than it does ecologically.

While there is famine in Southern Africa, the case given at the summit was 160,000 peasants in the drought prone area have good agriculture, good produce, because their agricultural soils has been made resilience through enough return of organic matter. Cheating on nature by stealing in a one way process, you cannot ever replenish with chemicals.

NISHA PILLAI: Next we’re going to look at disease, another one of the big and difficult issues that the summit will be grappling with. Because you know a healthy environment and a healthy economy depends on healthy people. But poor countries can’t fund drugs or the healthcare to look after their people properly in many cases.


NARRATOR: Disease knows no boundaries. It affects both rich and poor. But while the North can treat itself, the developing world can do little to prevent its spread.

In the world today 40 million people carry the AIDS virus. Most live in countries where they can’t afford the thousands of dollars a year needed to keep an AIDS patient alive. Mothers pass on the virus to their babies, a simple pill could stop this as it does in richer countries. Those in their prime are most often affected; young men and women who provide the family income now languish and die.

Along with AIDS, malaria and TB which could easily be treated remain major killers, but 90% of the world’s research into new drugs is done to find cures for Western diseases.

As life expectancy in the West increases, in the world’s poorest countries it’s barely risen in the last 50 years, is education and prevention the answer? And who should fund it? Should the world’s poorest countries pay as much for their drugs as rich countries? Can we make health less dependent on wealth?

MOYERS: Jeffrey Sachs, you were there in Rio, and I know that you chaired a very major commission on international health in 2000-2001. Why did you all insist that AIDS/HIV Be right square dab in the middle of this summit?

JEFFREY SACHS: The AIDS pandemic is the greatest pandemic in modern history, perhaps in all of human history by the time we’re done with this. About 70 million people around the world, overwhelmingly in the impoverished countries, overwhelmingly in Africa, have been infected with this virus.

They face a certain death, unless they can get access to the life-saving drugs, and they are too poor to get access to them. And if this isn’t addressed, not only is this a human devastation beyond imagining, it is an economic and social and geopolitical devastation as well.

MOYERS: But why connect it to the environment?

JEFFREY SACHS: It’s connected to the environment because it’s connected to development and sustainability of life itself. If you have a whole continent where there is mass death…

When I went to villages in Malawi recently, which are essentially orphanages now, they have grandmothers looking after 14 or 15 of their orphaned grandchildren because all of the adult parents have died of AIDS.

What does this have to do with the environment? Well, the crops have withered on the vines. The grandmothers are too weak and too old to provide food, and that’s where you’re seeing starvation interacting with the drought and the disease; the lack of economic development.

MOYERS: Vandana Shiva, what should we do before the drugs that many people think are the ultimate answer, what should we do before the drugs get there?

VANDANA SHIVA: Well, first of all, the drugs have to reach the people. I believe if they are talking about a pandemic, it is illegitimate, immoral, and illegal to have patent rights that shoot up the prices 100-fold. Access to drugs means get rid of patents on life. That was the commitment in W.T.O. That’s the solution for the one…

MOYERS: Let me be sure on something. Do you mean that the patents held by corporations are a part of the problem?

VANDANA SHIVA: Of course they are. Because in the case of drugs, it’s very clear… This was the South African case, a very big case in this, in which 36 pharmaceutical industries organized together to threaten South Africa for importing cheap drugs from India, $200 worth of a therapy per year, per person. And under patent regimes, the same cost $20,000.

The solution being offered is let the taxpayer of the North subsidize the corporation and bring down the prices.

MOYERS: Naomi Klein, what do we mean? What is the lawsuit?

NAOMI KLEIN: The lawsuit is the lawsuit that Vandana mentioned where the pharmaceutical industry took the South African government to court for distributing generic drugs, there was a huge public outrage, uproar, social groups organized and they were eventually forced to withdraw the suit. But even after withdrawing the suit the message was sent.

MOYERS: I would like to ask Harvey Bale to come into this discussion, because you’ve spent so much of your life with the pharmaceutical industry. What is your response?

HARVEY BALE: The question of patenting and invention and development of drugs is also a complex issue. Without the patents the drugs wouldn’t exist. The fact is, the industry was called on when the AIDS crisis first hit– ’83/’84– to develop a remedy to the crisis. By 1996, we had over 15 new drugs, many of which were patented, some not, that basically prolonged life, improved the quality of life. But we have not yet found a cure, and we have not yet found a vaccine.

But I would just like to say that patent issue isn’t the whole issue. In India, for example, where patents on AIDS drugs don’t exist, you would agree?

VANDANA SHIVA: They provide it for $200.

HARVEY BALE: Okay, well, then I would like to know, Vandana, why is it that you have five million people who are h.I.V. Positive, 500,000 to a million people who need the drugs, but less than 5,000 people are getting treated.

VANDANA SHIVA: Because $200 a therapy is still too much for most people, and I think yolanda talked about education.

HARVEY BALE: …The complexity of the issue. The price of this drug is an important factor in the consumption of it. The patents are absolutely vital in creating the new drug in the first place. What we’ve got to do is to combine the inadequate financial resources in the South, with adequate financial resources in the North.

MOYERS: And again the North means the industrial nations, the South means the developing nations, some people refer to the West — but go ahead.

HARVEY BALE: Well, it’s the rich and the poor.

MOYERS: But go ahead because you were getting to a solution to Jeffrey outlined a dire situation.

HARVEY BALE: The rich countries have got to have a transfer of resources to the South to help these countries who are simply inadequately financed on their own bases to help cure this problem, to address this problem.

MOYERS: That means more taxes in the rich nations?

HARVEY BALE: Well, it could be, it could be more or less subsidies for agriculture or perhaps we need to spend less on weapons systems, I would include also some developing countries who need to change priorities.

MOYERS: In order to provide funds to the poor nations to buy drugs?

HARVEY BALE: Absolutely. To get not only drugs but you have to have diagnostics. You have to get counseling, you got to get follow-up treatment.

I think the generic industry can play a very important role in this part, and is doing so, but the answer to develop the new cures, where are we going to get a new cure for AIDS? Where are we going to get a vaccine? It’s going to come from a research-based company, and that’s where we need the intellectual property protection that I think everybody should recognize is essential.

MOYERS: I’m glad you mention generic drugs, because we have as one of our invited experts Bill Haddad. Bill Haddad has spent much of his life trying to provide generic drugs, and often successfully, to people who cannot afford the more expensive drugs. What’s the essence of your experience?

BILL HADDAD: Bill, I’m too angry to be politically correct here today. First of all, let me explode one thought trap. The patented pharmaceutical industry is not, as many people think, the pharmaceutical industry. The only one that recognizes it – not the United Nations, not Jeff Sachs, nobody recognizes that most of the drugs in the world are provided by generic companies. Only the European Union gives us any damn respect.

But let me get to the heart of the matter. 9,000 people die every single day from AIDS. They need medicine. Medicine is available. Let me quote Bill Clinton. He said, “what would somebody from another planet that came to Earth and saw the pandemic and 9,000 people dying today with a target population of 40, 60 million dead, and we had affordable medicines that convert a death sentence, a certain death sentence into a chronic illness. What would they say?”

MOYERS: You say we have affordable medicine?

BILL HADDAD: We have them right here.

MOYERS: And they are?

BILL HADDAD: And you know who stops us?

MOYERS: What are they?

BILL HADDAD: First of all, this is nevirapine. I’m going to give it to a doctor before I leave. That will save a child’s life. 25 millimeters, 20 to the mother during labor, five to the child after birth. That will stop up to 90% transmission of H.I.V.

MOYERS: What’s stopping us?

BILL HADDAD: We give it away free, but what, despite what jeff Sachs says, despite what Harvey Bale says…We cannot get it. We gave this to U.N. agencies who wouldn’t accept it, and they’ve approved it.

MOYERS: Why? Why can’t you get it to the people who need it?

BILL HADDAD: Politics. You know, first of all let me clarify something. You know, the third world was dragooned and shanghaied into the World Trade Association, often by the United — by United States, my country and I’m a patriot. And I’d die for my country but we dragooned them in. WTO became in one instance a front for the multinational companies. But when the Third World complained, they gave them a life boat Let me tell you what the life boat is, so you know.

So you put it in context, that in a pandemic in South Africa, the country has the right to produce those drugs without regard to patents and that was approved but not one single country has done anything about it. Don’t tell me that that isn’t politics.

MOYERS: I want to come to Dr. Wambugu, because your country, Kenya, is a country where HIV/AIDS is rampant.

FLORENCE WAMBUGU: I don’t think it’s Kenya alone.

MOYERS: No, it’s not alone.

FLORENCE WAMBUGU: It boils down, again, to health and nutrition.

When people are hungry, when they don’t have enough to eat, they are more vulnerable, they don’t recover. Even if they get the drugs, probably the little recovery would be poor. The issue is again hunger, poverty, malnutrition caused by lack of technology to unlock the African world of natural resources.

MOYERS: I understand, from a UN source, I believe, that it takes about $15,000 a year to treat someone who is suffering from AIDS. And you’re simply saying Kenya, and other countries, cannot afford that $15,000 a year.

FLORENCE WAMBUGU: We can’t afford it, but we are part of a global community. Not only should we access the drug, we should also access the other technology that make Africa wealthy, so that we’re able to purchase the drug and people not always wait to be given donations, but to be able to purchase.

MOYERS: I have an obligation to our audience out there to rejoin this issue that has been raised between Harvey bail and bill haddad. You say that, in some manner, the pharmaceutical companies, with their power over the political process, has made it difficult for you to get generic drugs to people in these countries.

BILL HADDAD: Thirty-nine companies sued us in the South African court to keep us out. There was a great man from India, Dr. (inaudible) Hamid, who stuck with it and made these drugs for a dollar a day.

Let me give you the bottom line: 30 million people suffering in South Africa, we learned in Barcelona and it blew me away, of the 30 million, 30,000 are being treated I can take an airplane and put these two drugs, this is a triple antiretroviral, one tablet taken twice a day, put them in a plane and send them here and 250,000 people could stay alive.

MOYERS: Why doesn’t the…you’re a special advisor to the United Nations. Why don’t you get Kofi Annan and the United Nations to do just exactly what Mr. Haddad has said?

JEFFREY SACHS: That’s what the Secretary General and I and many others have been pleading for for years.


JEFFREY SACHS: It’s exactly that.


JEFFREY SACHS: I don’t know where you are coming from. Just let me speak for just a moment.

MOYERS: Tell us where you are coming from.

JEFFREY SACHS: For many years, I have said Mr. Haddad, that the drugs should get to the poorest people at cost– exactly what you’re saying. I have no fight with you, and I want to answer the question.

At a dollar a day, it still can’t be afforded whether it’s in India or sub-saharan Africa. That’s the problem. And that’s why the Secretary General and I, working with him, propose a global fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. And we said that would provide the financing for this, for the very drugs that Mr. Haddad somehow thinks that I’m against. I’m with you, Bill.

BILL HADDAD: I live with it, I live with it every single day.

MOYERS: We asked where you are coming from.

BILL HADDAD: I’m coming from Kofi Annan, who can’t get the world “generic” out of his mouth. When he meets with the multinationals we’re not there. We can’t make our proposals to them. It is too expensive but it’s subsidizable.

MOYERS: Bill Haddad, let me ask you a clarifying question. Jeffrey Sachs asked you where you’re coming from. Do you own generic drug companies?

BILL HADDAD: I own a generic but I don’t make antiretrovirals.

I’m a volunteer at the Dr. Hamid and simply because I got so damn angry about what I saw. It was déja vu all over again. It was the same arguments that kept generics out of the United States.

MOYERS: Harvey Bale.

HARVEY BALE: Thanks. Bill, the pill you raise, the neverapine pill, a few minutes ago that you said you’re offering to developing countries, actually is being successfully offered for free by the companies who actually invented the drug, in more than 23 countries, in 38 projects, getting that drug to people.

Let’s just keep one thing in mind: you can’t have a generic version unless you have an innovative version. Now, there are some countries, that allow the copying of this under the laws, under the tripps agreements, under the W.T.O., and that’s fine. But I think the fact of the matter is the drugs are getting to people with the originator company’s efforts, and it’s not just neverapine.

We have a cooperative agreement with the world health organization, the world bank, the united nations family planning agency, the UNICEF, to get these drugs to more and more countries. Some are going to come from generic companies and a lot of them are going to come from the brand name companies that are able to subsidize.

MOYERS: He says at 10 times the price. Is that true?

HARVEY BALE: That is not true. You’re saying it’s $30 a day, in Peru the activists are saying that (inaudible) is charging $120 a month. That is over $1,000 a year. I think you just have to deal with the fact that it is not a simple solution or proposal that you are making.

MOYERS: Naomi Klein.

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah, you asked why governments aren’t distributing the generics, even though there is the clause in the W.T.O. that says in the case of a national health emergency, they have the right.

Well, that gets to a larger issue about the way the market works. And that goes to a larger issue, which is that we’ve embraced a development model, which says that the role of government essentially is to make itself hospitable to business. And that often means… And that is advanced through the World Trade Organization.

It’s advanced through the International Monitory Fund and the World Bank. And often a condition on loans is that governments have to cut spending on healthcare. So this is all interlinked, and I don’t think that we can talk about this without talking about debt, which is an issue that hasn’t come up, I think, nearly enough.

MOYERS: Rich countries have to pay, should poor countries have to pay, Harvey Bale, the same for drugs that the rich countries do?

HARVEY BALE: They should. And thankfully, increasingly they are not. Back in December of 1999, Kofi Annan called together the health ministers of Africa, the world health organizations and industry and said we’ve all got to do more.

And in fact, for the industry it was a wake-up call because many in the industry had not seen the developing countries as a major market. Because it was basically viewed as an area which governments weren’t going to spend a lot of money. Priorities were elsewhere. Civil conflict and war. But I think in ‘99, the industry started to wake up to the fact that we had to do more and if governments are willing to do more, and agencies are willing to do more then we would make our contribution.

MOYERS: Fred Smith, you’ve been furiously making notes.

FRED SMITH: I have indeed. We’ve been agreeing, I think that there are tremendous challenges in the poorer parts of the world. AIDS is one; feeding the people is another. There are tremendous technological and economic capabilities in the rich world.

The challenge is linking those two together. How do we find ways of using the strengths of the wealthy to help address the problems. of the poor? Drugs is a clear example, because it costs a tremendous amount to produce a new remedy, and then the first pill cost a lot, and then the next pills are cheap to make and this creates a tension.

How can we charge a lot for what, after all, is a relatively inexpensive drug to reproduce? But if we just give it away, then we come up with the invented incentive to do it again, because AIDS won’t be the last problem we face. Patents is an idea. Aid is an idea.

Jeffrey Sachs has come up with the idea of maybe having prizes, where governments announce that they will buy a certain number of malaria vaccines if they can… If it’s produced. Like, that’s the way the chronometer was invented to give us longitude and latitude type thing.

But the challenge is not to try to find villains and heroes in this. It’s to recognize that if we don’t somehow harness the creative energies of the peoples of the world, we’ll never solve the future AIDS problems. of the world.

MOYERS: Sunita Narain

SUNITA NARAIN: I think the issue that we are missing over here very clearly is that you are talking about corporations and you are talking about the greed of corporations here, against the need of people. And I think we need to get back to the debate to say that what are the fundamental needs of people, and how do governments across the world meet those needs.

I think the generic issue really hits at the core of it, because the generics issue is really one where you say companies, if they can produce cheaper alternatives, should be allowed to do so.

MOYERS: I would like to bring that question right back to Jeffrey Sachs, who started this, because what would you like to see the Johannesburg summit come out with beyond words is a program of action that would take all of these strands of concern, anxiety, and angst, pull them together and make a difference in this pandemic of H.I.V., this pandemic of AIDS, that’s rampaging the world.

JEFFREY SACHS: We could actually save millions of lives per year very straightforwardly. What Bill Haddad said, what many others have said is right, you can get the drugs to the people. But understand, it is really the poverty that’s the essential issue here. Even at the lowest cost of production, it’s about a dollar a day. But in Malawi, people earn for their whole income about 60 cents per day. They can’t afford these drugs, even if they were just at the cost of production.

So the rich countries are going to have to help. They’ve agreed to establish a fund to help, but then they put in about one-tenth of the amount of money that’s actually needed. So it’s basically getting the world leaders to do a little bit of arithmetic, to just stop the slogans and pull out a pen and ask: you have 28 million people in Africa, H.I.V.-infected, and you have several million of those at the clinical stage where they urgently need antiretrovirals, and let’s do it at the generic price of a dollar a day, and then ask what can be afforded. And it turns out that these countries will need a lot of help.

But then comes the critical question, can the rich countries take it on or is it just too big? And here is the shocker. We studied this for two years in the World Health Organization commission. We found the following: that if in the rich world, which is so rich beyond imagining, if we took one penny for every ten dollars of our annual income, one penny, and put it aside in a health fund, you could save eight million lives per year in the impoverished countries.

MOYERS: Nisha?

NISHA PILLAI: Thank you, Bill. In our audience, we’ve got people who have got personal experience of the way in which AIDS rips through the heart of families.

Gail Johnson, is there anything particularly that you are looking for to come out of the Johannesburg summit.

GAIL JOHNSON: I agree with Florence. While we have to extend the life of infected people, and there’s no question about that, because we’re sitting on an AIDS orphan time bomb in Africa. We need to feed the infected people first with three balanced meals a day, and give them nutrition and the basics and then supplement with the sophisticated anti-retroviral drug.

NISHA PILLAI: Juan Mayr, Colombia’s former environment minister, do you want to come in on this? Not necessarily AIDS but the whole discussion about disease in this discussion of sustainable development?

JUAN MAYR: Obviously, obviously this is a world full of diversity, of diverse cultures of diverse problems. that must be faced side by side in their own regions, in their own localities so that we can begin to give real solutions to the people.

But it will need an ethical behavior for sustainable development when we see all the numbers that you provide us today, 9,000 people dying every day of AIDS, a lot of people dying because of hunger when the people, when you go to a restaurant in the United States and you ask for a steak they bring you something like this of a steak and you can’t eat it and the people is dying because of lack of food.


TOM BURKE: Just the general point Juan made is so important, you can’t isolate specific aspects of this set of problems. and say, let’s deal with that one first and the other ones after. These problems. all relate to each other.

And that comes back to the core issue that the summit is trying to sort of address, probably won’t succeed very well, and that is about government. How do you create the conditions under which we can make a country attractive to foreign direct investment? And which it can alleviate its problem and which it can protect its environment. When you spell out what those conditions are they are exactly the same to meet all three goals so you need to treat the problems. as a whole.

MOYERS: We are making strides on some fronts. Energy efficiency, pollution control, conservation. But it seems. that every time we make a step forward that step is overwhelmed by an increase in consumption or an increase in population. It’s estimated we’re going to add three billion people to the human race by the year 2050.


NARRATOR: From the rain forests to the ocean depths our desire for a better life is depleting the planet’s resources, around the world consumption has risen dramatically in the past ten years.

To some parts of the world growth has brought things only dreamt of before: a shiny new sky scraper replaces shanty huts, a new factory brings much-needed jobs. But it all comes at a price.

MALE VOICE: We got a great thing here…

NARRATOR: In Rio the world signed up to growing in a sustainable way.

MALE VOICE AT RIO SUMMIT: I hope… My hope is that what I may call the spirit of Rio must embody the full awareness of the fragility of our planet.

NARRATOR: But most of the world’s commercial energy still comes from fossil fuels. Global emissions of carbon have continued to ride in the last decade, including in the U.S., the world’s biggest polluter. Poorer countries often have the most dangerous and dirty factories. some of them owned by Western multinationals. But when your population is starving, a job, any job may be better than none.

The developing world is faced with a dilemma: how to lift people out of poverty without damaging their country’s fast disappearing resources? Can it be done? Can the South leapfrog straight to growth without the price tag of pollution and devastation, and does the world’s very survival depend on the North helping them?

NISHA PILLAI: Time and time again during this discussion, we keep coming back to poverty. The underlying cause of hunger, the underlying cause of disease. So how do we lift hundreds of thousands of people out of poverty with better work, with better jobs?

Well, cheap energy is one of the cornerstones of a growing economy. But cheap energy comes at a price. It can be very dirty, right, Sunitha?

SUNITA NARAIN: Absolutely, I think the main thing that we have to understand is a large part of the developing world today is choking on pollution. And it is not just an issue of dirty air, it is an issue of health. It is an issue of the fact that it affects people’s health today, and it literally drives them to what we have called slow murder.

But the fundamental thing that we don’t seem to talk about in the developing world is the fact, why is this happening? It is happening simply because we are importing a model of growth, a model of development, which is intrinsically and inherently toxic. Now, in our part of the world, when we are going through an industrial change, it is leading to an enormous amount of pollution. And that is what cheap energy is doing to us.

NISHA PILLAI: What do you suggest should be done about it?

SUNITA NARAIN: Well, I think the most important thing for the developing countries is to find a way to leapfrog towards the best technology. And that is not going to be easy, that is not going to come just because we desire to leap-frog. It is going to only happen if we have an enabling framework at a global level.

NISHA PILLAI: But money should be put in from the outside world, from the west, in order for us to reach cheaper energies and cleaner energies like solar and wind power. But why?

SUNITA NARAIN: But I think that… I have been suggesting that very much within the format of climate change. And that requires money, it requires money, not because…


SUNITA NARAIN: There is no estimate that I can give you, but I want to make it clear that if I am talking…

NISHA PILLAI: A lot though, we are talking about?

SUNITA NARAIN: I am talking about rights to the global atmospheric space, which would then demand for the South to be able to buy the technology, which it doesn’t need to do today, which it is not doing today. Today it is buying the cheapest, the dirtiest technology, which is killing its own people and its environment.

NISHA PILLAI: Let’s open this out to the panel. Fred Smith, Sunitha is saying that we need to leapfrog the dirty technologies. Get to clean technologies like solar power, wind power, and she won’t put a price tag on it. Is it going to be a high one?

FRED SMITH: It is going to be a high one, and thankfully, America didn’t take that course during its energy development theory. We insisted on affordable energy, and we went from energy policies that took us from wood, peat, and other very dirty energies, to coal, which was considerably less environmentally destructive, to oil.

NISHA PILLAI: But still pretty dreadful.

FRED SMITH: But dreadful, but compared to what? It is always a question of not the best, it is the better. We have been moving to cleaner technologies over time, and we will move to cleaner ones in the future. The challenge though of relegating the energy needs of the poor people of the world to energy sources that are not yet economically or technologically viable in the richest countries in the world, is to condemn the poor to a world of less mobility, less light and comfort and incredible additional workforce problems. Because labor-saving technologies are energy using technologies.

Affordable energy is more critical for the developing world than it is for the rich world, and they should not deny themselves those opportunities.

NISHA PILLAI: Ricardo Navarro, you are desperate to come in on this.

RICARDO NAVARRO: Yes. They are talking about high cost of technologies, like they use oil and coal and these kind of things. Have you started to think what is the cost of people, you know, because of climate changes? I mean, we are not included in that cost.

And there is another thing: in the North they talk about eco-efficiency, that is okay.

we have to talk also about eco- sufficiency. The level of consumption that people in the Northern countries have is just not sustainable for the whole world. As a matter of fact, there is an ecological debt that is being generated from the North to the South. Because the North privatizes the benefits and they socialize the costs, and that means a lot of damage in the South.

NISHA PILLAI: I don’t think you agree with him do you, Bjorn?

BJORN LOMBORG: No. But I am very glad that we have started talking about the cost here, and I actually find it frankly quite stunning to just say, “Well, we don’t know the cost, but hey, let’s give it to us.” Let’s just talk about…

NISHA PILLAI: Why is it so important? Maybe the costs are unknowable. Maybe she genuinely is…

BJORN LOMBORG: Obviously, the point here is…

SUNITA NARAIN: I didn’t say, “Give it to us,” I said, “give us our rights to the global atmospheric space.”

NISHA PILLAI: Okay, let him have his say also, yes?

SUNITA NARAIN: No, absolutely, I will.

BJORN LOMBORG: The point is, first of all, to look at how has the world progressed. If you look at London since 1585, it peaked around 1900, it is now down below the air pollution that it was in 1585. It is as clean as it was in medieval times.

NISHA PILLAI: Sure, but that is not the case in Delhi, that is not the case in Mumbai, is it?

BJORN LOMBORG: The point is, and I think that was also the point that Fred was making, was that we first said, “Yes, let’s get industry.” “Yes, let’s get more money, and yes, we will cough more.” But it was only when we got sufficiently rich we started saying, “Now it would be nice to cough less.”

NISHA PILLAI: The rich world isn’t rich enough yet?

BJORN LOMBORG: And mind you, that is what Mexico City has done, that is what santiago has done, because they are getting sufficiently rich.

but no….

NISHA PILLAI: Okay, now let Sunita have her say. Yes?

BJORN LOMBORG: I have to just say the cost issue though. The issue here is when they talk about, it would be nice to do solar and wind power, I totally agree. There are lots and lots of nice things in the world to do. If we had infinite resources we should definitely also do that, but we don’t. We have to ask ourselves… No, this is costing trillions of dollars.

NISHA PILLAI: I think the ball is now in her court.

SUNITA NARAIN: The most important thing that we are asking in the South, and I don’t think we have an adequate answer– we should– is the fact that this technology that we are importing today, we cannot afford it. We cannot afford to take the steps that were taken in London, taken in New York, taken across the world. The incremental changes, no Santiago, it’s still not able to do it. It still has high level of pollution.

BJORN LOMBORG: But it is going down, right?

SUNITA NARAIN: It has huge costs.

BJORN LOMBORG: It is going down.

SUNITA NARAIN: I know, I am fighting a case in Delhi where we are introducing compressed natural gas buses in Delhi, more than you have in Copenhagen even, more than you have in London today.

Therefore, yes, technology leap-frogging is an issue, but it has a high cost. The big issue for the South is, and I think this is an issue for the South, is to start asking itself can it really afford these technologies because the cost involved is so huge.

It has to find money to invest in what I would call ecologically sensible technologies rather than the mindless technologies, like the flush toilet is my favorite example. The flush toilet today is destroying more water in our part of the world than anything else, and it is an ecologically mindless technology.

NISHA PILLAI: I want to yank this discussion right back to where it started, which is how do we try and get billions of people out of poverty.

And one of the reasons we have been talking about growth, one of the reasons we got so exercised about cheap energy is because it is a way in which prosperous economies can grow and a way in which not so prosperous economies can maybe join them. But it is not the only way, is it?

Because there is no point building the best things in the world if you don’t have markets for them, if you can’t sell them abroad. Let me give you a very good example. Ghana: it produces cocoa, one of the world’s biggest producers of cocoa, but does it make chocolate bars? Far more profitable? No, it does not. And penny fowler, who is with us here from OxFam, is going to explain to us why does Ghana not make chocolate bars, though I am sure they would make a lot of money out of it.

PENNY FOWLER: Well, one of the reasons why Ghana can’t make chocolate bars is that the barriers that are imposed against products like chocolate, more processed products, higher value products, that are imposed against those products by rich countries to keep those products out.

So they are locked into very low value primary commodity markets and that does not allow for them a way to work their way out of poverty.

NISHA PILLAI: How high are these tariffs?

PENNY FOWLER: They can be as high as 100% or more.

NISHA PILLAI: Let’s not forget that in many areas there is free trade of sorts; the clothes I’m wearing for instance, they weren’t made in Britain, they were probably made in China or perhaps Malaysia. China has benefited to a large extent, has it not, from the globalization of the last 10, 20 years?

JUSTIN LIN: I think tremendously. The trade growth in the past 23 years since we first started was 15% per year, so trade increased 25 times in the past 23 years.

And I think that made a lot of contribution towards the improvement of different standards, income, and environment (inaudible) in China.

NISHA PILLAI: So that is, jobs that used to be in the west moving to Asia.

JUSTIN LIN: I think it’s not…in the West.

NISHA PILLAI: You don’t agree, do you Jeffrey?

JEFFREY SACHS: Part of the world there has been a lot of success, China and a lot of Asia there has been a lot of success and some other places and for subSaharan Africa there is not. There are many complicated reasons for that. Physical geography makes a big difference. A population that is suffering from a lot of disease makes a big difference.

A population living far from the coasts, as is true in Africa, where you have 80% of the population in the inland of the continent, which is very expensive for international trade. Whereas China’s boom is on the coast as it is in most places. Many complicated factors. No simple story here.

NISHA PILLAI: Well, let’s get another story from Martin Khor in Malaysia. Very different from china, a much smaller country. How has it benefited by being part of the trade rules game or stepping aside of it?

MARTIN KHOR: I think the secret is that when you interrelate to the world market how will you do it, you know? And I think in the case of Malaysia or China, we never got into debt in the first place, and we were free to choose our own policies.

If you look at the African countries, their commodity prices collapsed in the ’70s and ’80s, they fell into debt, they went into structural adjustment policies that didn’t work. And now they are thrashing around in a recessionary situation.

So if we really want to get out of poverty, we have to change the way the global institutions and the G-7 think about the developing countries; give them the chance, the freedom and the flexibility to get their own production going first, in the area of food, in the area of health care, in the area of basic industry, without imposing on them trade globalization in which cheap products are coming in and destroying their industry, their farms. and so on.

If they are able to get their own production going for their local market, and then for the export market, then they will be able to get out of poverty. But we are not giving them that chance at the moment.

NISHA PILLAI: Questioning the economic model, one of the things I have been wrestling with over the last few days is the big buzz word of this conference, sustainable development, sustainable growth. Is there such a thing? Are they pulling in different directions? I am going to put that to my panel. Fred Smith?

FRED SMITH: Sustainable development should mean and is being defined as meeting the needs of the people today without impairing our ability to meet the needs of the people of the future.

NISHA PILLAI: Does that mean cutting back on growth today?

FRED SMITH: What it means to me, I think we talked about governments, Western civilization, the market economy, private property rights have made it possible…have empowered people to produce far more in their life times than they consume and therefore leave a richer world for the future.

When we don’t have those intuitions in place, when we have collectivism, when we have socialism, when we have cultures locked in reactionary policies, we leave the world as poor and the future as even poorer.

NISHA PILLAI: Bjorn Lomberg, can we have it all, can we grow? Can we aim for poverty eradication and at the same time preserve this wonderful globe?

BJORN LOMBORG: Totally, in the long run, but it needs and necessitates that we take the leadership of making the hot choices. What would we rather want to do.

NISHA PILLAI: Are you saying in the short term we can’t?

BJORN LOMBORG: The point is to say, do you want sustainability, which is what the first world talks about, the rich world talks about. Do we want environment? Yes, we all would like that, but we really need to make sure that all the developing world, the people who are still not fed, they can’t think 50 or 100 years forward.

NISHA PILLAI: Okay, just answer me, yes or no, Bjorn. In the short term, can you have growth and sustainability?

BJORN LOMBORG: We need to get development in order to get sustainability. You only get the Third World to worry about the environment once they get rich enough to be like us.

NISHA PILLAI: Is sustainable development a concept that really has value still?

RICARDO NAVARRO: Well, you see, when we talk about sustainability, it is not just environment. Sustainability is social needs, economic needs. Sustainability is also democracy, and this is the problem. We live in a world that is not democratic. It is a world that is run by the big business. It is a world that promotes development where? The profits of some corporation, it is more important than the social and ecological needs.

NISHA PILLAI: Bill, where are you going to take us now?

MOYERS: To some controversy for a change. Why are the consuming habits of the rich part of the world not on the agenda at the Johannesburg summit?

SUNITA NARAIN: It has been told to us that it is not at Johannesburg because the rich don’t want to discuss it. And I think it is the powerlessness, the complete lack of vision from the Southern governments, that I particularly resent, that they haven’t forced this issue. It has to be at Johannesburg. Issue of climate change has to be at Johannesburg. Issue of unsustainable consumption has to be discussed. It is not an issue of poverty, it is an issue equally of unsustainable wealth.

MOYERS: You are also saying that it is an issue of politics, that the rich nations do not want it discussed

SUNITA NARAIN: Absolutely.

MOYERS: Is she right in her implicit suggestion that the rich nations framed the agenda of the summit and kept our consuming habits off of it?

JEFFREY SACHS: Oh, I think the United States and others worked over time to do that. Yhey don’t want any sense of responsibility of the rich countries vis-a-vis the rest of the world to be squarely addressed.

Take the United States: we are 4.5% of the world’s population, we are emitting about a quarter of the carbon that is causing the long term climate change. We can’t just duck the issue. We can’t just say, “Well, suffer the floods, suffer the destruction, suffer the droughts, that’s your problem.” We are causing that problem or at least contributing to it.

So we have to propose new technologies, new approaches, new investments in science, working in partnership with poor countries, to solve these things. And the rich countries have not come forward adequately to do that yet.

Especially the United States, I am sad to say. Because we are the richest country in the world, we have the means to do it, and yet we are the smallest donor as a share of our income of any donor country in the entire world right now.

MOYERS: Tom Burke, you are native of what country?

TOM BURKE: I am actually a native of Ireland, but I live in Britain.

MOYERS: So are you prepared to voluntarily reduce what you consume day in and day out in order to meet the needs of people.

TOM BURKE: No, I am not and I think anybody who offers that prospect is offering the world a false prospect. but it goes right to the heart of what you think the challenge of sustainable development is.

The challenge of sustainable development is to raise real incomes for nearly twice as many people as we have got on the planet at the moment, without collapsing the ecological foundations of the economy.

NISHA PILLAI: And finally, imagine, if you will, that I am your fairy godmother, that in my hand I have a magic wand. when I wave it, it will grant your dearest wish. you have one single thing that could transform the world. what would it be, sunitha narain?

SUNITA NARAIN: Make the United States a more generous leader. make the United States a more democratic country within the global system. make them believe that democracy works not just for their own country, but for the rest of the world.


NADINE GORDIMER: Close the gap between the 1 percent of the world who earn as much per year as 57 percent of the poor.

NISHA PILLAI: Ricardo Navarro.

RICARDO NAVARRO: to change the neo-liberal economic system for another model where the lives of people and the stability of the environment is more important than the profits of transnational corporations.

NISHA PILLAI: your wish, Fred?

FRED SMITH: And I’m an American Southerner, we were very poor only 50 years ago in the American South, we have now liberated the spirit. We did that not by redistributing wealth from the North to the South. We did it by making it possible for Southerners to create more wealth. We need to take the lesson and send it to the world with property rights and elsewhere. The people of the world have no reason to be poor except their institutions and governance arrangements are bad. They should be changed.

NISHA PILLAI: Justin, what do you want?

JUSTIN LIN: What I want is that we can have a world, which we can work together, live together and find a solution together– through discussion, through debate, through working together.

NAOMI KLEIN: My wish would be if we were able to somehow let go of the idea that our politicians and leaders were going to solve our problems. for us.

I think if there is one thing that we can learn from Rio, it is that even with the best promises and even with the best ideas, we need to lead our leaders and we need to push them and we need to get angry at them.


FLORENCE WAMBUGU: I believe the single thing I really desire is to see Africa delivered or liberated from hunger, poverty, malnutrition.

Africa, which is a country that is rich in natural resources, now being defined as the center of hunger and poverty, through good governance, access to technologies that bring agricultural development, and this is all technologies, and networking with the North and development starting from Africa.

NISHA PILLAI: Do you believe in magic, Bjorn?

BJORN LOMBORG: Well, if you have it, so…allow us to focus our priorities.

Let’s prioritize in Johannesburg, and I think one of the best things we could do would be to give clean drinking water and sanitation to every single human being on Earth.

It is cheap, it is doable, it would save two million lives each year, half a billion people from getting seriously ill. It is one of the best things we can do.

NISHA PILLAI: Very briefly, Jeffrey.

JEFFREY SACHS: I would like governments to follow through on promises and commitments that they have already made. We have wonderful millennium development goals to reduce poverty, reduce hunger, fight disease.

I would like the governments, especially the rich countries, and I will put the United States first on that, to follow through on commitments so that we get the job done.

NISHA PILLAI: Our discussion is over now, though the Earth Summit itself, of course, continues through the week. It just remains for me on behalf of PBS and BBC to thank our panelists and our invited experts for sharing their ideas with us today.

Thank you so much to all of you for joining us too.

I’m Nisha Pillai.

MOYERS: It has been a delight working with you, Nisha and with your colleagues at BBC.

I’ve learned a lot from what has been said here. Now the test is whether we can apply what we’ve heard here to the realities of the world to see what all of us can do to carry on the great adventure of life that began here at the Cradle of Humankind.

For NOW, I’m Bill Moyers.

  • submit to reddit