Let's Teach Americans a Few Lessons

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Anyone who thought last fall that inexperienced, silver-spooner Governor George W. Bush would make an ineffectual, do-nothing president with little presence on the world stage has been proven wrong. Less than a year into his presidency, he's already refused to endorse a United Nations' plan for a permanent international court for war criminals, announced plans to break the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, rejected a new international agreement on the enforcement of a 1975 ban of biological weapons, and, most recently, refused to adopt the Kyoto accord negotiated last weekend in Bonn, Germany. No wonder he and his nation have become international pariahs, alienating even longstanding allies like Canada and Britain. While the U.S. increasingly treats the rest of the world like its very own combination Sandals resort, sweatshop, shopping mall and toilet, its policies grow more isolationist. It supports globalization only as much as it benefits the U.S. economy and is totally, arrogantly and shamefully disinterested in protecting the economy, health and survival of the rest of the world. Still, the U.S. rejection of the Kyoto accord is more symbolic than practical. Although it is the most comprehensive legally binding environmental treaty the world has seen to date, the watered-down agreement may well be too little, too late. The very concessions that saved the accord mean the cuts in greenhouse gases by the world's richest and most developed countries will be a marginal 5.2 per cent below 1990 levels, compared with the 60 to 80 per cent scientists say is necessary. And, according to environmental groups, the reduction will likely be closer to 1.8 per cent because of the European Union's concessions on forest and agricultural land - carbon "sinks" that soak up carbon dioxide and can thus be set against national emissions targets. Blame Canada for that particular compromise. Prime Minister Jean Chrétien wouldn't have adopted the accord without it. The only good news is that the flexible framework of the agreement does allow new targets for periods beyond 2010. The U.S. is the planet's biggest polluter, responsible for a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. The devastating climate change caused by global warming affects poor tropical countries - those least to blame for the problem - the most. The United Nations estimates that the costs of disasters attributable to climate change in the developing world - floods, storms, hurricanes - are running annually in the hundreds of billions of dollars. There's even been a call for developing nations to take the U.S. to court over environmental damage. In Canada, we've certainly felt the impact of U.S. pollution this past week, when Toronto faced its fourteenth smog alert of the year, due, at least in part, to warm southerly winds bringing up polluted American air. Now, the U.S. is expressing serious interest in taking our water. After mismanaging its own supply for decades, it is now facing an enormous water crisis. Global warming is one contributor to the problem, environmentally unsound farming practices is another. Farmlands and ranches in California and the American Southwest are parched and existing water supplies cannot meet current demand. Just prior to the G8 summit in Genoa, much to Ottawa's surprise and chagrin, Bush told reporters that he's "ready anytime" to discuss a continental water pact with Chrétien. It's a dangerous proposition to even consider. Though the North American Free Trade Agreement specifically excludes bulk water exports, if Canada does agree to sell water, free trade provisions will kick in, requiring that open trade continue. So far, thankfully, Ottawa has said it isn't interested. But before we all get too smug, Canada doesn't have much to be proud of either. We sleazed our way through the talks in Bonn, and now, the Prime Minister has a battle ahead as he aims to ratify the Kyoto protocol in the face of fierce opposition from the oil industry and Alberta Premier Ralph Klein. Redemption is possible, however. The cringing, hangdog attitude that Canada and so much of the rest of the world assume in the face of U.S. bullying has to end. It may be the only global superpower, but it isn't more powerful than the rest of the world combined. We can refuse to trade our water. We can meet and exceed the Kyoto targets. We can set a global example of making the sacrifices necessary to stem greenhouse gas emissions. We could freeze the U.S. out. If standing trade agreements make tariffs and sanctions against the U.S. impossible, then global consumer boycotts of American goods, in particular, American oil, should be enacted. Someone, soon, for the sake of the survival of this planet, has to say, loud and clear: "Yankee, go home and stay there."

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