Powell heckled during World Summit speech

ABy Natalie Spray
Iowa State Daily
Iowa State University

aMES, Iowa (U-WIRE) – Iowa State University students and faculty said activists had good reason to “heckle and boo” U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell while he was in Africa.

“There are good reasons to criticize the American policy” on environmental issues, said Chris Ball, political science lecturer. “(Booing) is a way of getting the American public to look at the issues and maybe take some action.”

Powell addressed the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Wednesday.

“The U.S. is taking action to meet environmental challenges, including global climate change,” Powell said at the World Summit.

The summit’s chairwoman was forced to intervene several times throughout Powell’s speech and demand order from the hecklers who were yelling, “Shame on Bush.”

Last year the United States refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol treaty, which regulates emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. Other nations have accused the Bush administration of delaying environmental progress and blocking the goals of the Earth Summit.

“The stewardship of the environment rests on individuals and the government, but there are only so many things the individual can do,” said Robert Deitz, president of the Student Environmental Council. “Beyond that, the government should lead and direct (the country) in an appropriate manner. Thus far, we haven’t seen this in the Bush administration.”

The United States is the only major party not signing the treaty. Russia, Canada and Australia are looking into ratifying the protocol, said Clare Hinrichs, professor of environmental sociology.

“(The United States is) powerful, but we are not in step with the rest of the world,” she said.

Deitz said summit speakers were encouraging the signing of the treaty.

“The Kyoto treaty isn’t flawless, but we should consider ourselves obligated to sign on so we can get started on improving (the environment),” he said.

Michael Dale, chairman for the ISU Republicans, disagreed.

“We have to take the right steps in the right order,” he said. “I think the Bush administration is doing the right thing by waiting it out for right now.”

Dale, a sophomore in liberal arts and sciences, said the economy is likely contributing to the decision.

“I don’t think Bush is putting down the idea of helping the environment,” he said. “When the economy is treading on the line between good and bad, this could hurt the economy.”

But Ball said the economy is not an excuse.

“The Bush administration is concerned that international commitments will have (a negative) economic effect, but there wasn’t anything binding on the agenda at this meeting,” he said.

Throughout the course of the summit, “the U.S. was definitely viewed in a negative manner,” Deitz said. “I know Germany hasn’t been pleased with our refusal to sign the treaty nor with our general stance on environmental issues.”

Some Americans thought the United States made a poor showing as well.

“Expectations for U.S. were low,” Ball said. “We came out OK. Policy appeared better than the worst-case expectations, but that’s not saying much.”