A New Name for Peace

Philip Shabecoff, Author University Press of New England $35 (295p) ISBN 978-0-87451-688-3
The new name for peace is Pax Gaia and it is predicated on the need for cooperation to preserve shared air, water and resources. In 1990, while finishing his 1993 book, A Fierce Green Fire: The American Environmental Movement, Shabecoff, a 32-year veteran of the New York Times, started working on the story of the international environmental movement. He decided to use the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio as a peg. After quickly rehearsing fairly basic environmental history (Darwin, Thoreau, Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson) he moves on to Stockholm and the U.N. Conference that was Rio's 1972 predecessor. There were some changes in the years between Stockholm and Rio: sustainable development became accepted as a desirable goal; green ideas began to have a role in international relations; and environmentally concerned non-governmental organizations (NGOs) grew in numbers and power. But parochialism seemed to get in the way of real change, and that continued to be the case at Rio. The North resented the South's requests for money, the South resented the North's green imperialism. As Ambassador Razali Ismail of Malaysia said: ""The Northern countries, having depleted their own resources, are now trying to globalize remaining resources, which means they are asking for a share of the resources that are in our back yard."" Of the 178 nations at Rio, none was uglier than the U.S., which railroaded discussions on money, biodiversity, emissions and, most grotesquely, consumption (equated by President Bush with the ""American way of life""). Shabecoff is a clear, informed and compassionate, though not radical, guide. The problem here is with Rio itself. It's hard to write a book in which the main event is a nonstarter. Stronger leadership at Rio, would have made for a better conference and a better book. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/01/1996
Release date: 04/01/1996
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