The big news lately has been about the Bush junta’s violations of the Kyoto Protocols, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Agreement, the Geneva Conventions, the UN Charter, the Magna Carta, and the US Constitution, but those aren’t the only agreements they’re violating. I’d like to focus on three lesser-known documents that are being ignored: the Montreal Protocol and the Stockholm and Rotterdam Conventions. The Montreal Protocol is the international agreement controlling ozone-depleting chemicals; the other two are international agreements on the use, production, and export of pesticides.
First, let’s examine the Montreal Protocol. Methyl Bromide is the most serious ozone-depleting chemical still in widespread use today. In 1996, about a third of the methyl bromide applied worldwide was used in the US; today, as other countries have moved faster to ban methyl bromide, the US is both the major user and the major producer of this highly toxic soil fumigant. Our government says it is critical to the continued production of strawberries, tomatoes, and peppers, without which the American economy and way of life would totally fall apart. Tell it to the organic growers, guys. The US continues to drag its heels on ending methyl bromide use, asking for (and being granted) extension after extension, while US producers are stockpiling several years’ worth of supply in their warehouses, violating the treaty, which mandates manufacturing more only when the current supply is used up. It’s true that production and use have dropped significantly, (though American use has not declined as fast as use elsewhere in the world) but recent observations note that the Antarctic ozone hole not only is not healing as fast as had been expected but is larger than it’s ever been, and that US methyl bromide use is largely to blame for this. Screw the Aussies, pass the strawberries.
Now, let’s look at the Stockholm and Rotterdam Conventions. Stockholm’s initial aim is to ban aldrin, endrin, dieldrin, chlordane, DDT, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene, mirex, and toxaphene, PCBs, dioxins, and furans—phew. what a nasty mouthful!
The Stockholm Convention also sets up a review board to consider banning other chemicals. Two of the ten that it currently is considering are lindane and PBDE, a flame retardant that has been used in baby clothes. The Republican-dominated US congress has been reluctant to pass legislation to enforce these bans domestically—the only legislation introduced on the subject so far would have ended states’ rights to have more stringent standards than the federal government and virtually insured that the bans would not be enforceable in this country. Those family values people—gotta love ’em—putting corporate profits ahead of poisoning babies. Wealth is evidently the primary Republican family value.
In typical fashion, Bush announced plans to work for ratification of this treaty on Earth Day 2001 and has done nothing for it since. Now that the election is looking tight, he may trot it out again…but it’s more likely that he’ll whup out a war against Iran and intern enough of us dissidents for “providing aid and comfort to the enemy” to swing the election his way again. Gotta watch out for that ol’ “October Surprise.” Karl Rove…what a sense of humor…gotta love ‘im. But, I digress….
OK, from Stockholm to Rotterdam. According to Kristin Schaffer, writing for Foreign Policy in Focus,
The Rotterdam Convention… is a complementary treaty(to the Stockholm Convention) providing important controls on international trade of highly toxic chemicals. It requires that any country importing pesticides and certain other hazardous chemicals must be informed of bans or severe restrictions on those substances in other countries. This gives a receiving country the option of refusing shipments of chemicals listed under the treaty on the grounds that they may be harmful to the environment or to the health of its population.
What the Bush junta has done with this is indicative of its venality. The US asked that, in order to be put on the restricted list, a chemical would have to be banned in both Europe and North America. Europe is much more conservative about chemicals than the US—they have adopted what is called “the precautionary principle,” meaning that if there is a possibility that something will cause damage, they ban it. In the US, on the other hand, we run on the profitability principle, meaning that as long as the chemical companies that support the Republican Party are making a profit from a pesticide, it will not be banned, even if it’s causing obvious damage. This is at the heart of these negotiations, make no mistake—the US is one of the leading pesticide producers in the world– we exported 1.7 billion pounds of poison in the three years 2001-3 alone, and about a sixth of that was chemicals whose use is banned in the US. The kicker here is that, having effectively sabotaged the treaty, the US has still not ratified it.
The world remains safe for American pesticide makers. Doesn’t that help you breathe easier? (Wheeze)
But, according to a report from England’s Hadley Center, there will be less need for agricultural pesticides in a global-warming tweaked future—because there will be less land suitable for agriculture. The report predicts that, conservatively, about 30% of the planet will become unsuitable for agriculture, about twice the area now in that condition. This will come about largely due to increased severity of drought in areas already suffering—such as Africa, parts of Asia, and the upper midwestern parts of the United States…gee, that’s one of the major breadbaskets of the world, isn’t it? And one of the US’s few remaining sources of export income?
No wonder the Bush junta is acting like a bunch of desperadoes—they know the situation is desperate; from their selfish, sociopathic perspective, the best course of action is “every man for himself and devil take hindmost.” Meanwhile, the Democrats continue to try and reason with this crew…you might as well try and reason with Hannibal Lecter about his dinner plans….and, by the way, satellite photography revealed that this summer, for the first time in recorded history, there was open water all the way from Spitzbergen to the North Pole. The word for the day is, “tipping point.”