Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs, United States Department of State
Thank you very much, Jessica. Thank you all very much for being here for this remarkable gathering of great talents: Jack Gibbons, who does such a superb job of reminding us all of the role and responsibilities of the scientific community Jack, thank you very much for your great work; and David Hamburg, who has been a cogent mentor, as Jessica said, to so many of us for such a long period of time.
It is a great pleasure for me to be with you all this morning to share some thoughts about several of the issues engaging this country and this Administration, a set of new, cross- cutting global issues we are confronting in the context of profound change for our country and the world.
All over the globe, nations are beginning to recognize their opportunity and responsibility to look beyond the crisis of the moment toward the underlying causes that are making the world ever more complex, and redefining the priorities for long-term national security and global stability.
With the Cold War ever more a distant reflection in the rear-view mirror, there are those who would suggest that the United States mission is domestic only. They argue that since our interests and responsibilities around the world are greatly diminished, we should simply maintain a strong defense to guard against military threats and traditional security concerns. This view ignores much more than the increasingly interdependent nature of the world. It ignores the tremendous suffering and lost opportunities that exist in today's world. It ignores our responsibility to ensure progress and hope for our children and for the world of tomorrow.
Passive isolation will not enable us to fulfill these responsibilities. Instead, the challenges of the 21st century point us toward sustainable development, toward the central concept agreed at the Earth Summit of 1992. Sustainable development fundamentally means that the economies of the world, including our own, should attempt to meet the needs of today's generation without compromising or stealing from future generations. It is a concept rooted in the recognition of the mutually reinforcing nature of social, economic, and environmental progress.
Ecological systems are the very foundation of modern society in agriculture, in social organization, and in economic planning. Over the long term, living off of our ecological capital is a bankrupt economic strategy. At the same time, most peoples and nations aspire to economic growth and social, scientific, and technological progress, which, in turn, are the essential building blocks of environmental protection.
Understanding these new realities and stresses of economics and the environment means coming to grips with some difficult scientific information. The issues involved are devilishly complex, ranging all the way from global warming and rapid population growth to biodiversity and international health. Important for this city and for public policy is the fact that with knowledge comes responsibility, and if you do not know or do not want to know, you therefore do not have to act.
Central to these concerns and setting the pace for change all over the world is the spiral of population growth. If every ten years we go on adding a China's worth of human beings to the planet, the human population will triple from today's 5.5 to almost 15 billion by the end of the next century. To stand by and let that happen would be to doom every hope of economic progress in the developing world and most every humanitarian endeavor.
I would suggest that this generation of leadership must embrace the fact that global threats are replacing Cold War confrontations as primary challenges and catalysts for our common purpose. At the end of this century we will be measured by how well we made the transition, redirected our national efforts, and refocused our scarce resources. The incorporation of global threats into the post-Cold War definition of American national security means that we have to break down barriers. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, "...to disenthrall ourselves from old ideas."
We are accustomed to searching for the causes of international instability in such factors as ideology, geopolitics, economic inequity, or intense hatred spawned by nationalism, race, and religious fanaticism. To these we must now add such heterogeneous factors as soil erosion, air pollution, overgrazing, fresh water supply, loss of biodiversity, shortages of firewood, infectious disease, and many others.
Compared even with the complex considerations that determined our national security during the Cold War, the new global threats to international stability are bewildering in their interplay of manmade and natural phenomena. All of these factors are linked through a complex chain of cause and effect, resulting in issues that can make even the arcane calculus of nuclear deterrence seem like a simple proposition. Climate change calculations, for example, challenge even the most complex and powerful computers that were designed for our Cold War weapons programs.
Complexity need not be the enemy of a coherent concept for policy related to global issues. The Clinton Administration has emphasized a shift toward preventive diplomacy, incorporating support for democracies, sustainable development, traditional diplomacy, and military strength, aimed at preventing conflicts before they happen, addressing underlying factors that lead to undesirable political and economic competition, and containing conflicts that do occur. These measures are, it seems to us, a wise investment in our national security because they offer the prospect of resolving problems with the least human and material cost.
I want to highlight some of the major components of our prevention strategy, beginning with the Administration's vigorous efforts to promote sustainable development, both at home and abroad. Sustainable development is inextricably linked to the notion of preventing global threats before they occur. It requires discipline, sophistication, and a commitment to long- term interests. The indicators of success will not always be trophies or victories. They will often be measures of undesirable events that did not happen.
While the indicators are at times elusive, the tools, particularly as they relate to science and technology, are clear. In addition to the traditional analytical tools of the political, social, economic and military sciences, decision makers must now incorporate with increased frequency the expertise that resides in the realm of the physical and biological sciences. Science and technology are crucial to a safe and sustainable future. Indeed, given their interdependent nature, global issues require rigorous application of the basic principles of the scientific method careful, informed and disciplined approaches.
Science is essential if we are to understand the causes, characteristics, and consequences of global problems, and in teasing apart the tangled relationships. In many cases, the scientific course bears great responsibility and opportunity for alerting the public and governmental leaders to emerging problems and new understandings of long, vexing trends. For example, scientists warned about the dangers of ozone depletion long before the ozone hole developed over the Antarctic and public policy moved dramatically forward.
Space science allows us to accumulate an invaluable record of the state and evolution of the basic components of the biosphere crop lands, forests, grass lands, oceans, fresh waterways, and grappling with global climate change. Newly emerging infectious diseases and protecting the world's biodiversity require immense scientific capabilities. Precise measurements and the development of predictive quantitative models are essential tools for policy making in the post-Cold War security environment.
While we are committed to helping ensure that scientists have the resources they need, we also recognize the limits of science in some of these areas. Rooted as it is in the irreducible properties of the natural world, science does not and cannot always provide a simple answer. Ranges of uncertainty, which we are accustomed to in economic policy making, must be accepted in these new elements of national security policy. And, after all, security was equally apparent during the Cold War, when we did not know precisely when or if the Soviets might rush through the Fulda Gap. We took a precautionary approach and bought insurance.
The parallels with the Cold War do not end here. As we reach out to expand the network of allies in our generational struggle against communism, our new international agenda must also include development of appropriate technology for meeting the needs of countries in the developing world. There is a great thirst in these countries for the enormous economic, health, and personal benefits that technology can bring. We know that it is impossible to extend overnight the current technological standards of the industrialized countries to the entire population of the earth, but we have to continue to cooperate.
While rapid technological change is taking place throughout much of the world, we must be concerned about countries that are falling further and further behind, feeding dangerous gaps between socioeconomic groups and between nations. Successful assimilation of the latest technologies, on the other hand, may help us allow countries to leap-frog certain investments and stages of development, leading to less pollution, higher productivity and, we hope, to elimination of absolute poverty and some higher incomes. Because the new threats are global, international science and technology cooperation is essential. Often the research must be done in situ, as in the case of assessing and preserving biodiversity. We also recognize that though we remain a world leader in science and technology expertise, some of the best scientific minds can be found abroad. Not only does cooperation strengthen our talent through exposure to new ideas, but it has built bridges among nations, often when no other avenues were available.
Perhaps most important, during these times of severe budgetary pressure, international cooperation reduces the cost of scientific endeavor borne by any one nation and helps to ensure that scientific results are disseminated and used worldwide. The best way to promote and achieve sustainable practices globally is through participatory research, development, and commercial partnerships among developed and developing countries.
Developing countries need the opportunity to develop adequate science and technology infrastructure to incorporate and utilize sustainable technologies.
An honest appraisal of these issues must also include acknowledgment that misuse of science and technology, whether deliberate or not, and the unanticipated consequences of technological development, are often among the causes of environmental stress and potential global dangers. It is ironic that many of the marvels of our scientific age could in fact imperil future generations.
Advances in medical equipment and procedures that prolong life spans, development of pesticides, fertilizers and irrigation systems, constructions of dams and roads, introduction of enormous oil tankers and logging equipment, and fish-processing ships, wide-scale use of gaseous refrigerants and aerosol propellants, nonrenewable energy generation schemes, and the ubiquitous automobile, not to mention the dazzling sophistication of modern weaponry all of these technologies can generate stress that contributes to some degree of global instability.
We should have learned an important lesson. Our stewardship of the earth implies a responsibility to be stewards of manmade technology as well. We must routinely investigate and evaluate the economic, social, and environmental costs of the technologies that we propose to use on a broad scale. We must also accept that the public's attitude toward science and technology and support for federal research and development expenditures is often undermined by a perception of unexpected difficulties and unfulfilled promises.
No doubt our efforts to anticipate and wisely direct the course of science and technology will only be partially successful. When the transistor was first developed during the late 1940s, no one could have predicted the full impact of the technology that would follow through application of this century's perhaps most important invention. Similar surprises are in store for us and for future generations. Still, our legacy to those generations must include our utmost efforts to use our skill and knowledge in a responsible and beneficial way.
I would like to close by highlighting just one example of the tremendous importance and promise of these new challenges. I am increasingly convinced that the biodiversity issue may dwarf all others in the not-distant future. The 21st century will certainly be the century of biology. Compounds of undiscovered promise await us. Already more than 50 percent of today's top-selling pharmaceuticals come directly from plant biochemicals. I need not remind this distinguished audience of such a list: Periwinkle, foxglove, quinine, penicillin the list goes on and on, providing immeasurable assistance and comfort to mankind and creating multibillion dollar markets, which are overwhelmingly American.
Similarly, our food base comes from the reservoir of nature. Just three species of grass rice, wheat, and corn have become humanity's principal food, and as with plants possessing medical potential, we have barely begun to understand the abundance of the natural world. We can measure the distance to the moon to an accuracy of centimeters, but have not explored the wonder of our own world species. Are there 10 million? Fifty million? A hundred million? What genetic wonders do they hold? Certainly this is the overwhelmingly important frontier of the future in which we can prospect for food, fuel, pharmaceuticals and fiber as we once prospected for gold and silver in our own back yard.
Yet, there are forces afoot in our country bent upon crippling our own nation's biological survey, repealing the Endangered Species Act, ignoring the International Biodiversity Treaty. One of the major challenges that we face is to change the terms of the biological debate so that it does not take the form of oppressive government regulation, but rather is understood as a phenomenal future dominated by United States scientific, pharmaceutical, biotechnological, agricultural advances. Here, too, we can prove that economic prosperity and environmental preservation can be linked with enormous promise for posterity.
In what is left of this century we together have the responsibility to change much of the way that the world does its business so that the earth, as we know it and love it, can survive in the century to come. The partnership between the Administration and the scientific community is crucial in reaching this mission. That is why we are all here today and tomorrow, and we deeply appreciate your coming. Thank you ever so much.
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