Posts Tagged ‘Mikhail Gorbachev’

Rio+20 Reflections from Gorbachev

June 12th, 2012

gorbachev_green_cross_picPresident Mikhail Gorbachev, founder of Green Cross International, published a piece on the upcoming UN Earth Summit. An excerpt is below, followed by a link to the full piece on the Green Cross website.

“They say if you want make God laugh share your plans. I planned to come to Rio+20, but my 81st birthday has had unwelcome toll on my plans.

2012 will inevitably be a year of reflection. Those of us who are concerned for the future of our Earth and its inhabitants must do all we can to ensure it is also a year of action, and one that marks the end of a period of apathy and shortsightedness.

Overcoming such lack of vision was what brought us to Rio 20 years ago for the first Earth Summit on Environment and Development. But that event’s tangible results, and those of the many subsequent conferences here and around the world since, have fallen far short of what is needed to steer our world onto a sustainable path.

Looking back to 1992, when I switched the focus of my activities from national politics to international development and the environment, the situation was very different. During and just after the Rio Earth Summit, there was an overwhelming air of enthusiasm and hope for the  future. It was a time of optimism and, in retrospect, innocence, as everyone celebrated the end of the Cold War.

Then, incredible social and political changes that were deemed impossible just a few years earlier were, in fact, implemented. This was no accident. In order to unleash these energies on both sides we had to overcome the strong opposition of the existent power structures that blocked the way ahead. But the changes resonated the hopes of the time and leaders had the courage to respond to the call….” Read full article.

Field Report: World Water Forum

March 12th, 2012

wwforum-logo-2At the 6th World Water Forum in Marseille, we have the great opportunity to meet and coordinate our water program with other members of the Green Cross family — to be among the group of hundreds of international NGOs.

Green Cross International (GCI) founder Mikhail Gorbachev’s opening address was very good; he emphasized that the economic model, characterized by a focus on consumption, has not led to sustainable solutions. We need to think of how to change the model and define the goals of economic development — solidarity, the struggle against poverty, etc. All our efforts should be backed by human rights. “Let’s think and act on common principles.”

From his speech: “Water is at the heart of our economies, our societies, our futures. Water is the basis for all development and its strategic importance has demonstrated it can serve as a vehicle for peace and also tension. The risk of competition between regions and countries may only increase if we do not find a way to protect and share water.”

More: President Gorbachev’s complete speech.

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Green Cross International staff and affiliates

More observations on the forum:

Climate Adaptation: Comments about climate change made by John Matthews from Conservation International resonated. We should not think in terms of climate change — that has always been there — but climate adaptation, which forces us to think of change as a process, where step-by-step decisions are needed. Ecosystems want to adapt to climate change and will do so, as they have in the past — obviously, that does not mean do nothing about it, but understand and adapt to the process.

Rivers and Dams: David Purkey, from the Swedish Environment Institute, in a session devoted to rivers and dams, wondered aloud whether we should always expect every river to do everything — in other words, rather than applying every measure to every river, is it possible to think that some should be allowed to serve certain communities — could be downstream farming, fish spawning, etc. — at the price of not meeting other requirements.

Smart Water for Green Schools: The Green Cross presentation on Smart Water for Green Schools, which has been particularly successful in Ghana and Bolivia, underlined the necessity of involving communities, especially women, at an early stage and throughout. When people have contributed their actual sweat to building water provision and sanitation facilities, they are going to maintain them. The communities’ heavy involvement and identification with the respective projects is essential to their long-term success.

Waterways Convention: Progress has been made toward ratification of the Waterways Convention, which aims to regulate the non-navigational aspects of trans-boundary rivers and the riparian communities along their banks. But eleven countries are still needed to meet the 35 required for ratification. Green Cross and World Wildlife Fund have been working on for this for many years and the old discussions particularly on obligations in Articles 5 and prevention of harm in Article 7 continue. The question remains whether one should push for ratification as it stands, addressing amendments later, or tackle those now. From my perspective, a big sticking point is that the earlier convention covered river basins and not waterways; this makes a huge difference, as basins include the larger amount of green water, not only the blue water of the rivers themselves.

Green Cross Ambassador: Famke Janssen was named a new ambassador for Green Cross International.”Sustainable solutions to the global water crisis will not be found without engaging and understanding women’s unique relationship to water,” she said in a speech during the conference.

Alternative World Water Forum: I also attended the AWWF — in French, the Forum Alternatif Mondial de l’Eau (FAME). In the AWWF’s own words, its objective is to create a concrete alternative to the sixth World Water Forum (WWF), which was organized by the World Water Council. They do not recognize the Council as heading the global governance of water. There is still separation between policy-makers, embodied by the numerous government authorities, international organizations and development banks at the WWF, and civil society (i.e. the people) represented by the NGOs. Unfortunately, there was scant coverage at the WWF of both societal and environmental issues, compared to policy and infrastructural discussions. Indeed, there was mention at several sessions of the need to combine the tops-down with the bottom-up approach for any progress to be made, but the ground-roots voices were seldom heard, even during question times. This appeared to be true of practically every aspect of the forum — provision of safe drinking water, sanitation, trans boundary river issues, integrated water management, climate change and, most importantly, “solutions” to the problems, which is what this 6th WWF was dedicated to.

As we progress from the battle for the right to water, which has generally been granted, toward its implementation, I strongly believe that those people most affected — to say nothing of the ecologically sustainable world that we hope to achieve — must be given more attention if all stakeholders are to buy into policy decisions that affect all our futures. The 6th WWF’s recognition of this fact is a good step in the right direction — a recognition, too, that technological solutions alone are not enough. Building on progress made, all of us look forward to stronger signs of implementation before the 7th WWF in Korea in 2015.

What He Said: Gorbachev on COP17

December 14th, 2011

“It is unacceptable that world leaders are still stalling on a global plan to cut emissions of carbon to curb the increase of temperatures… We witnessed in Durban wrangling and hair splitting over legal terminology, as well as bald-faced delaying tactics that threatened to derail the negotiations. The decision-makers must wake up to the fact that the lives of billions of people today and in the future depend on them to act in unison to respond to the global challenge that climate change poses.” – Mikhail Gorbachev on the outcome of COP17

What He Said: Gorbachev on the Environmental Crisis

October 31st, 2011

Above, a video clip of Green Cross International (GCI) founder Mikhail Gorbachev, speaking about what we need to face the global environmental crisis.

Farewell to Nuclear Arms: Gorbachev on Reykjavik Anniversary

October 11th, 2011

gorbachev3Mikhail Gorbachev, founder of Green Cross International, penned a column on this week’s 25th anniversary of the 1986 Reykjavik Summit. Excerpt below.

MOSCOW — Twenty-five years ago this month, I sat across from Ronald Reagan in Reykjavik, Iceland to negotiate a deal that would have reduced, and could have ultimately eliminated by 2000, the fearsome arsenals of nuclear weapons held by the United States and the Soviet Union.

For all our differences, Reagan and I shared the strong conviction that civilized countries should not make such barbaric weapons the linchpin of their security. Even though we failed to achieve our highest aspirations in Reykjavik, the summit was nonetheless, in the words of my former counterpart, “a major turning point in the quest for a safer and secure world.”

The next few years may well determine if our shared dream of ridding the world of nuclear weapons will ever be realized. Read the rest…

Passing of a Hero: Wangari Muta Maathai

September 26th, 2011
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Photo from the Green Belt Movement website.

“You cannot protect the environment unless you empower people, you inform them, and you help them understand that these resources are their own, that they must protect them.” — Nobel Peace Laureate and leader of the Green Belt Movement, Wangari Muta Maathai.

Maathai, who is noted as the first environmentalist to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for environmental work, passed away this weekend. She was also the first African woman to be honored and is responsible for mobilizing women to plant thousands of trees in Africa. Maathai was an honorary member of the Green Cross International (GCI) board (Global Green is the American arm of GCI).

“Her leadership and work serves to enlighten us all that alleviation of poverty, sustainable development, preservation of our environment, establishment of truly democratic institutions, and peaceful resolution of conflict are all integral parts of a safe and secure global future,” said Mikhail Gorbachev, founding President of Green Cross International, in a statement. “She helped bring about a new understanding of the inter-connections between environment and peace. This is one of her very important contributions.”

More information: The Green Belt Movement website. There are also good tributes from Time magazine and on the Climate Progress website, and you can find interviews with Maathai from the Treehugger archives.

20 Years Post-Coup: Gorbachev Works On

August 25th, 2011
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Mikhai Gorbachev with Global Green USA founder Diane Meyer-Simon at a Global Green event in 2004.

When asked about the Soviet coup that ousted him in 1991, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev has said that if he had the chance to do one thing differently, he wouldn’t have taken a vacation. We are now upon the 20-year anniversary of the coup and, as he repeated in his recent Washington Post op-ed, it was when he left for a vacation in the Crimea that his political opponents overthrew him. But perhaps the takeover by Boris Yeltsin was a blessing in disguise, because Gorbachev has gone on to do extraordinary things, such as founding Green Cross International (including its U.S. national affiliate, Global Green USA) and the establishment of the Gorbachev Foundation. Over the last two decades, both organizations have undertaken very positive steps to help us all survive in the post-Cold War period; the Gorbachev Foundation in Moscow promotes socio-economic and democratic change in Russia, and Green Cross International in Geneva, Switzerland, advocates and facilitates global environmental remediation and protection.

As for his political legacy, Gorbachev deserves much credit for ending the Cold War and dismantling the Warsaw Treaty Organization, the military alliance that threatened Western Europe and NATO for four decades. He also established the major Green Cross program, Legacy of the Cold War, which I have helped lead for the past sixteen years. This effort, now entitled the Environmental Security and Sustainability Program, has helped to safely dismantle thousands of nuclear warheads, dozens of nuclear-armed and -powered submarines, and more than 45,000 tons of deadly chemical agents in millions of weapons in both Russia and the United States.  In addition, Gorbachev’s leadership since 1991 has been an important catalyst for the bilateral 2002 Moscow Treaty and the 2010 New START agreement that is responsible for reducing strategic nuclear arsenals to 1,550 deployed strategic warheads in each country — about two-thirds below nuclear force levels in 1991.

In the coming two months, we will also recognize the 20th anniversary of the closure of the former Soviet nuclear testing site at Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan and two decades without any nuclear testing in both the U.S. and Russia. The 25th anniversary of the historic Reagan-Gorbachev summit meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland, when both leaders discussed abolition of nuclear weapons, will be celebrated in mid-October.

We are grateful for his courageous and enlightened leadership, both before and after the 1991 Soviet coup, in building a more peaceful, secure, and sustainable world.

Remembering Ray Anderson: A Tribute

August 8th, 2011
Today we lost a true giant, a green pioneer, dear friend, and mentor to so many: Ray Anderson.
I first met Ray in 1995 when he gave a speech at a greening of Habitat for Humanity event Global Green organized in Atlanta. A good friend and colleague who was helping with the meeting, Bill Browning, told me, “You have to meet Ray Anderson. He’s doing some amazing things.”
Bill was right. In 1995, Global Green honored Ray — we bestowed our inaugural corporate environmental leadership award upon him. Problem is, Ray was a tough act to follow. Who could live up to a man who was both brutally honest about what we were doing to future generations and the planet, while putting his money where his mouth was in changing the course of his business (and humanity)?
Soon, however, Ray didn’t need laudatory recognition from others to punctuate what he was doing. Ray was a radical industrialist.
To Ray, it was plain and simple: there was no other way to create a product and hold out any hope for a future for our children. So he set his sights high — aiming to run a zero-footprint business — and set the best possible example for other businesses, big and small, to follow his lead. That is his legacy: hope for the future. Ray believed in humanity, despite our plundering of the Earth.
Ray was a powerful speaker. See the clip below, from his inspiring talk at the TED conference in 2009. “We have a choice to make during our brief visit to this beautiful blue and green living planet. To hurt it or to help it,” he said. “For you, it’s your call.” Ray started every talk by getting the audience to hug. I loved that, and as with many things with Ray, took it as inspiration that a corporate CEO was getting everyone to hug. And his Southern way, he was saying we need to connect and love one another if we are going to turn things around.
As Ray said, “For theft of our children’s future to be a crime, there must be a clear demonstrable alternative to the take-make-waste industrial system that so dominates our civilization,and is the major culprit, stealing our children’s future, by digging up the earth and converting it to products that quickly become waste in a landfill or an incinerator. In short, digging up the earth and converting it to pollution.”
I hope we heed his words. Thank you Ray, for taking responsibility for your corner of the world, and inspiring so many others to do the same.
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Ray Anderson (center) with me and President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1996.

Today we lost a true giant, a green pioneer, dear friend, and mentor to so many: Ray Anderson.

I first met Ray in 1995, when he gave a speech at a greening of Habitat for Humanity event Global Green organized in Atlanta. Bill Browning, a good friend and colleague who was helping with the meeting, told me, “You have to meet Ray Anderson. He’s doing some amazing things.”

Bill was right. In 1996, Global Green USA honored Ray — we bestowed our inaugural corporate environmental leadership award upon him. Problem is, Ray was a tough act to follow. Who could live up to a man who was both brutally honest about what we were doing to future generations and the planet, while also putting his money where his mouth was in changing the course of his business (and humanity)?

Ray was a radical industrialist. To him, it was plain and simple: there was no other way to create a product and hold out any hope for a future for our children. So he set his sights high — aiming to run a zero-footprint business, if not a restorative enterprise – and set the best possible example for other businesses, big and small, to follow his lead. That is his legacy: hope for the future. Ray believed in humanity, despite our plundering of the Earth.

Ray was a powerful speaker. See the clip from his inspiring talk at the TED conference in 2009. “We have a choice to make during our brief visit to this beautiful blue and green living planet. To hurt it or to help it,” he said. “For you, it’s your call.” Ray started every talk by getting the audience to hug. I loved that, and as with many things with Ray, took it as inspiration that a corporate CEO was getting everyone to hug. And his Southern way: he was saying we need to connect and love one another if we are going to turn things around.

As Ray said, “For theft of our children’s future to be a crime, there must be a clear demonstrable alternative to the take-make-waste industrial system that so dominates our civilization,and is the major culprit, stealing our children’s future, by digging up the earth and converting it to products that quickly become waste in a landfill or an incinerator. In short, digging up the earth and converting it to pollution.”

I hope we heed his words. Thank you Ray, for taking responsibility for your corner of the world, and inspiring so many others to do the same.

In the News: Gorbachev at World Summit of Nobel Laureates

November 15th, 2010

Mikhail Gorbachev called for the abolition of nuclear weapons and theratification of the New START treaty  at the 11th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates held in Hiroshima, Japan, from November 12-14, 2010.

The theme of the summit, “The Legacy of Hiroshima: A World Without Nuclear Weapons,” is one that personally resonates with Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Premier of the Soviet Union. Mr. Gorbachev spoke spoke to the assembled Nobel Prize winners and challenged them to call for the world-wide abolition of nuclear weapons in the most stringent terms. He argued that Nobel Laureates have a moral responsibility to condemn nuclear weapons and that their abolition would bring closer the safer, more just world that they all seek.

Mr. Gorbachev lamented that the disarmament process has largely stagnated in the years after the end of the Cold War, but that the danger posed by the almost 20,000 existing nuclear weapons has not. He is encouraged that both current Russian and American presidents are determined to re-energize the disarmament process. However, President Gorbachev expressed worry that New START, the nuclear weapons reduction treaty signed by both presidents, is in danger of not being realized:

“If the nuclear weapons lobby succeeds in derailing ratification, it will deal a heavy blow to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, whose obligations, as we have constantly insisted, are mutual and concern both non-nuclear states, which pledge to renounce nuclear weapons, and the nuclear weapon powers, which commit themselves to nuclear disarmament.”

Mr. Gorbachev insisted that morals and politics do not need to be mutually exclusive and hoped that practical steps can be taken to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the short term, and eventually, to zero.

Dr. Paul Walker, director of the Global Green USA Security and Sustainability Program in Washington, D.C., supported Mr. Gorbachev’s remarks: “The strong and international nuclear abolition statement of the Nobel Peace Laureates, chaired by President Gorbachev, this past week in Hiroshima is most welcome. From his commitment at the at the US-Soviet meeting in Reykjavik in 1986, just 24 years ago, to the present, Green Cross Founder Mikhail Gorbachev has been steadfast in his determination to eliminate weapons of mass destruction. This is most timely with ratification of the New START agreement by the U.S. Senate and Russian Duma hanging in the balance.