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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > Former Secretaries of State > Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell > Speeches and Remarks > 2003 > April

Remarks on Earth Day

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Dean Acheson Auditorium
Washington, DC
April 22, 2003

(12:00 p.m. EDT)

Secretary Powel at the Earth Day ProgramSECRETARY POWELL: Thank you so much. Thank you. Well, thank you so very much, Bill, for that warm introduction. I'm very pleased to join all of you here today, and I'm especially pleased to join my good friend Jane Goodall and the other distinguished members of the panel as you come here to reflect here on the meaning of Earth Day and to focus in on the issue of deforestation. And this is also an opportunity in this room today to reaffirm President Bush’s strong commitment to the conservation and wise stewardship of our environment.

It is always a delight to meet with Jane. The last occasion was at the World Summit On Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, where I had the honor of representing President Bush and the American people; and so I'm especially glad to welcome Jane here to the State Department today.

In between our meetings, Jane writes me on a regular basis. We've become some pen pals, something of pen pals, and I'm sure she does that with a large number of people around the world, but Jane, let me take this public opportunity to thank you for the wisdom that you impart in your frequent notes to me. They usually bring a smile during a difficult day, and for that, I am grateful.

I have also learned from you, Jane, and I thank you, for your ideas and your friendship, especially on issues relating to the environment.

In today’s globalizing world it has never been more true that the well-being of the American people depends on the well being of all others on the globe. And whether we live on countries large or small, developed or developing, all of our futures fundamentally depend upon the well being of our shared habitat: This wonderful planet that has been entrusted to our care by a generous God

When you, our leading environmental experts and advocates, look at our world, you see the endlessly intricate interrelationships that comprise our global ecosystem. When I look at the world as Secretary of State, I see complex interdependencies, as well.

Experience has shown us time and again that environmental issues have far-reaching implications in other spheres of diplomacy. Because environmental issues are also health issues. They relate to good governance. They hold important consequences for stability within a region or stability within a particular country. And environmental issues are absolutely integral to development throughout the world.

It is no coincidence that in places where conflict, chaos and humanitarian crises reign, where governments are corrupt and unaccountable to citizens, where citizens struggle to scratch out an existence, it is there that we also tend to find the severest environmental problems that have to be dealt with.

We see a devastating cycle. Environmental degradation often is both the cause and the effect.

The governmental and non-governmental representatives at the Johannesburg Summit all recognized that sound economic management, investment in people and care for the environment are inextricably linked, and are essential ingredients for global development.

At the summit, we also recognized that the challenge of creating conditions for sustainable development, those challenges are much too big for governments to tackle alone. Strong public-private partnerships are needed. And, I am glad to say the United States has established such a partnership with the Jane Goodall Institute, as we have with other NGOs in the audience, and I hope we will be forging many such partnerships in the years ahead.

Deforestation, the subject of today’s open forum, vividly illustrates the links between environmental and other international challenges, and the importance of public-private partnerships to meeting these challenges.

Forests are critical to life on this planet, not just to forest-dwelling plants and animals, humans included, but to all life, and the air, water and soil from which life draws sustenance. Yet, the world’s forests are disappearing. More than 46 percent of our planet used to be covered by forests. Today, half of all our forests are gone, perhaps forever.

According to the World Bank, every year an area of forest three times the size of Belgium is cut down and there is simply no way to replace completely that, which has been lost.

And global wood consumption is expected to double over the next 30 years.

Deforestation not only decimates plants and animal species, it destroys livelihoods, spreads disease, undermines societies, erodes economies, and can destabilize entire regions. Let me cite just a few examples:

There is a connection, a direct connection between cutting down woodlands and the spread of disease. Logged forest areas can be breeding grounds for malaria. Malaria kills one African child every 30 seconds.

As people move into formerly forested areas, malaria, therefore, becomes a greater threat. Human exposure to the deadly ebola virus is also more likely in areas where logging is underway.

There also is a correlation between environmental degradation and the international drug trade. In the Andes, forests are slashed and burned for coca cultivation and the construction of clandestine landing strips and laboratories. The Peruvian Government estimates that it has lost over 5.7 million acres of rainforest to the depredations of the narcotics cartels.

Illegal logging and bad environmental management equate to billions of dollars each year in lost revenue – billions, billions of dollars that, instead, could be used by governments to build schools, to get rid of debt, or to lift millions out of misery and poverty.

The Bush administration is playing a leading role in international efforts to address the causes of deforestation and to conserve and sustainably manage the world’s forests. The men and women of the Department of State and the Agency For International Development are proud to do their part.

And the presence here today of Paula Dobriansky, my Under Secretary for Global Affairs and Assistant Secretary of State Turner and Kansteiner, and Assistant Administrator for USAID Connie Newman attests to our active engagement of the State Department family in this effort.

But a good example of the projects underway is the President’s initiative on illegal logging. The State Department is working closely with other agencies to develop and carry out this ambitious program, which will assist other nations in combating this environmental crime.

We are in the midst of hosting a series of ministerial meetings beginning in Asia and extending to Africa and then to Latin America to raise awareness of this scourge and galvanize effective action against it.

The State Department is also working with other federal agencies and NASA, as well as the private sector and non-governmental organizations to map global deforestation patterns using remote sensing technology. We all hope this will lead to new and effective approaches to this very serious and growing problem.

We are working with our partners to combat the illegal trade of species that are at risk, such as big-leaf mahogany. We are pleased that the signatories of the convention on international trade in endangered species are now committed to even stronger measures to ensure that mahogany trade is legal and sustainable.

I am especially pleased with our close cooperation with Brazil, that repository, that great country and repository of Earth’s largest expanse of tropical forest. The Congo Basin Forest is the world’s second largest intact tropical forest, after the Amazon, that is. It's 700,000 square miles -- the size of California, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, combined.

Last year, the United States launched, as you heard a moment ago, The Congo Basin Forest Partnership with 29 partners, including the Jane Goodall Institute. Jane’s institute is helping to protect animals at risk from being hunted for bush meat, especially the Congo Basin’s chimpanzees, gorillas and elephants.

The Forest Partnership initiative is close to my heart. I visited Gabon last year after the Johannesburg Summit. And in that meeting to Gabon I demonstrated our dedication to this partnership. And I also had a chance to walk through one of the forests and see the treasure that we are protecting and to understand the importance of what we were doing.

I must say, however, that it was a bit of a disappointment. It was a nice walk, it was a beautiful forest, I was expecting to see animals, but my security people were there, (laughter) and they are very good. I saw not one animal, not one insect, not one reptile -- nothing. They had been cleared for a mile around. Nevertheless, I know they are there.

This is an important initiative and I say this with not only conviction and commitment, but with great fondness. We plan to invest over $50 million of U.S. assistance in the partnership through the year 2005.

The forest partnership is leveraging the energies of a broad range of supporters from Kinshasa to Berlin, to Paris, to Tokyo, to Jackson Hole, where this fall I understand the International Wildlife Film Festival will spotlight this promising worldwide undertaking.

I began these remarks by talking about profound interrelationships: the interrelationships that constitute Earth’s ecosystem; and the interrelationships between promoting responsible stewardship of the environment and other international challenges from sustaining development, to encouraging good governance, stemming disease and fostering stability.

The message I want to leave you with today is that President Bush and every member of his administration understands these complex interconnections. We understand their far-reaching implications for our country and for the world that we live in. We are deeply committed to forging partnerships among nations and between public and private sectors across the globe for the sake of our forests, our flora, our fauna, and above all, our future.

Fundamentally, our collective efforts on behalf of the environment and sustainable development come down to creating hope – hope for all the creatures of this planet. Few people have worked harder to generate such hope than Jane Goodall, and no one appreciates the interconnections more deeply than she.

Jane has seen them firsthand. Her pioneering work has not only led to extraordinary advances in primatology, it has led her to establish the Jane Goodall Institute, dedicated to the promotion of peace and well-being among all living animals.

In addition to pursuing primate research, the institute works with villagers in dwindling forest areas to improve their access to health care, education and economic opportunities. No one advocates more passionately and more effectively than Jane for the adoption of wise environmental strategies.

She is an inspiration to men, women and children all around the world, and she certainly is an inspiration to me.

It is now my honor and pleasure to present our valued partner in the Congo Basin Forest Initiative and our dear friend, Dr. Jane Goodall.  (Applause.)

Released on April 22, 2003

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