The University was privileged enough to have former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien speak Thursday at Northrop Auditorium. Chretien spoke on a variety of topics, but the lecture’s emphasis was on the environment and the importance of sustainable development.
Sustainable development is rarely discussed and commonly misunderstood. Specifically, it is growth that meets the needs of the present without hampering the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Understanding sustainable development is crucial to understanding the U.S. role in the world.
The United States must not only look out for its own interests, but begin to see itself as part of a global community. Chretien cited the huge farm subsidies the United States put aside for its own farmers and the meager contribution to agricultural communities of Third World countries.
Clearly the United States’ decision to pander to regional interests rather than long-term interests of the United States and Third World countries is problematic. Subsidies to developing nations should not be seen as charity but as investments.
Chretien’s talk also corresponded with the 40th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. Signed by President Lyndon Johnson, the act restricts mining, logging, grazing and motorized-vehicle usage in areas defined as wilderness. Despite threats by the Bush administration, especially a move to open millions of acres of forest to logging companies, the Wilderness Act remains vital to ensuring benefits of nature to future generations.
While Chretien cited the environmentally friendly moves made in Minnesota, he also pushed for renewed interest in the Kyoto Protocol, which aims to reduce climate-changing emissions. Chretien’s eloquent and sincere lecture helped to reiterate that the importance of the environment transcends cultural and political boundaries.
Maintaining the sanctity of natural wonders requires a cooperative effort between the public, the private and the politicians who represent them.