There are signs in the air that governments the world over are beginning to take the environment seriously. While it’s far too soon to report a major shift in global direction, there are reasons to be encouraged – and to work even harder to nudge governments further along. For example:
- Thailand and the Phillippines recently moved to ban logging in their remaining rainforests. Floods in Thailand in 1988 killed almost 500 people and left over 70,000 homeless, and the Thais easily made the connection between flooding and the extensive de-forestation of their land (Thailand has lost 70% of its forests since 1950). In January, 1989, the Thai Cabinet abolished all timber concessions, halting logging nationwide. In a similar but less complete move, Phillippine President Corazon Aquino announced a timber export ban effective July 1.
- Brazil, China, and the U.S. each had plans for immense dam projects. Now all three dams look to be on the way out. The World Bank canceled its $500 million power sector loan to Brazil for the building of 130 hydroelectric dams, 22 of them in the Amazon. China has shelved plans for its immense Three Gorges project, which would have been the world’s largest hydroelectric project. And U.S. EPA Administrator William Reilly seems likely to personally halt the $1 billion Two Forks dam on the South Platte River in Colorado.
- Brazil has also finally put an end to the system of tax breaks and fiscal incentives that encouraged the development of farms and ranches in the Amazon. The decree ending the tax breaks was part of Brazil’s Nossa Natureza ("Our Nature") program that also requires Brazilian industry to manage forest resources more sustainably and to restore exploited mining areas.
These actions go beyond the usual rhetoric – they are genuine steps in the right direction that were taken, in part, because of ongoing pressure from each country’s concerned citizens.