International Environmental Policy: Some Recollections and Reflections
International Environmental Policy: Some Recollections and Reflections
Abstract and Keywords
This chapter identifies the 1960s and 1970s as a period of groundbreaking efforts in environmental protection and awareness, and traces the history of environmental conservation in Africa and the United States during this period. In Africa, the development of important private organizations, such as the African Wildlife Leadership Foundation and others, resulted in improvements in conservation of African wildlife. In the United States, environmental organizations and helpful politicians brought about changes in environmental policy that continue to guide the nation's environmental conservation efforts.
In the early 1960s, I was a judge on the U.S. Tax Court. I had been on two hunting safaris with my wife Aileen in the mid-1950s in East Africa; those experiences left me with a deep desire to help save Africa's extraordinary wildlife. So early in 1961, a small group of friends—Nick Arundel, Jim Bugg, Kermit Roosevelt, and Maurice Stans—met with me in my Tax Court chambers, and we began organizing a new foundation devoted to conservation in Africa. This foundation would be known first as the African Wildlife Leadership Foundation, later and more simply as the African Wildlife Federation.
The late ‘50s and early ‘60s were a time of political ferment in Africa. Most of the old European colonies achieved independence during that period. In the British East African countries, the countries with which I was most familiar, there were established national parks and game departments, often directed by retired British or Indian army officers or retired colonial administrators. For example, I think of Mervyn Cowie and Ian Grimwood in Kenya, Rennie Bere in Uganda, and John Owen and Bruce Kinloch in (then) Tanganyika. These men and their senior staffs—all European—were highly motivated. They had little or no professional training in national park or wildlife management, but they made up for their lack of training with their passionate commitment to wildlife and its conservation.
The British had trained essentially no Africans to be park or wildlife managers. The highest level reached by Africans was usually that of game scout on a bicycle, carrying an old Enfield rifle. Even to relatively inexperienced conservationists such as my colleagues and I, it was apparent that Africans would soon be taking over the national parks and game departments of East Africa, and it was equally apparent that almost none of them would have any professional qualifications for the job.
Consequently, at that first meeting of our new conservation foundation, we decided that the most immediate need was to train Africans to manage their own wildlife resources. This decision was rooted in the conviction that those same wildlife resources, properly managed, constituted a potentially tremendous economic asset to the countries involved, primarily through tourism. One member of our group, Nick Arundel, contacted Lee M. Talbot—then in East Africa where he (p.43) and his wife, Marty, had spent five to six years—to get his ideas on the subject. I think it fair to say that we were in full agreement that our first priority would be to develop conservation leadership in the countries of East Africa. Hence the formal name selected for our group: the African Wildlife Leadership Foundation (AWLF). I became president and chairman of the board, positions I would hold until 1969.
Later in 1961, I went to East Africa on AWLF business and attended the Arusha Conference in Tanganyika. This conference on the conservation of African wildlife had been initiated by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN, now the World Conservation Union) and was jointly sponsored by IUCN, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the Commission on Technical Cooperation in Africa (CCTA). Lee and Marty Talbot were the principal organizers of the conference.
Lee Talbot had already been a key factor in maintaining the integrity of the great Serengeti National Park and the neighboring Mara Reserve in Kenya. During the late 1950s, the newly independent Tanzanian government seriously considered breaking up the Serengeti and turning large pieces of it over to native settlement, ranching, and agriculture. The ecological work that Talbot had already done in the area and later ecological surveys, which he played a major role in initiating, demonstrated without a shadow of doubt the totally destructive effect such a fragmentation of the ecosystem would have had on the great wildlife migration patterns that are the glory and the fascination of the Serengeti.
It was also at that same Arusha Conference that Talbot helped bring together the chief game wardens of most of the participating countries. They discussed the problem of wildlife poaching, which was critical in most African areas, and they reached a vitally important conclusion: that the biggest cause of commercial-scale poaching was the demand created by the international trade in wildlife and wildlife products, a situation perhaps epitomized by the ivory-carving industry in Japan. Two years later, Talbot used that conclusion in a proposal to IUCN for international action to regulate the wild-life trade. He presented the proposal at the 1963 IUCN General Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya, which I attended as well.
The World Wildlife Fund was also launched in 1961, and its U.S. division was established in December of that year. I had the honor of being one of the five founding trustees.
As the AWLF got under way, it was responsible for several key education initiatives. We provided the initial funding for the College of African Wildlife Management, which was established at Mweka (near Moshi) in northern Tanzania. The college provided a two-year nondegree practical course in wildlife and parks management with heavy emphasis on fieldwork, the only such program in all of English-speaking Africa. (It now provides a wide array of wildlife management programs, ranging from short courses and certificate training to postgraduate training. Only recently was a similar institution established in South Africa.) The AWLF likewise provided the initial funding—in this case thanks to the generosity of Laurance S. Rockefeller—for a wildlife and parks conservation school for French-speaking Africans at Garoua, Cameroon. In addition, the AWLF awarded a small number of students from Kenya (p.44) and Tanzania scholarships that allowed them to take full degree courses in wildlife management at American universities.
After a couple of years in Southeast Asia, Lee and Marty Talbot returned to the United States, and in 1966 Lee Talbot went to work at the Smithsonian Institution. I, meanwhile, had resigned my Tax Court judgeship in 1965 to become president of the Conservation Foundation, moving the AWLF into the same offices on Connecticut Avenue. In 1969, I went back into government in the Nixon administration as undersecretary of the interior. In 1970, I became the first chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). And in January 1970, just as the CEQ was getting under way, I persuaded Lee Talbot to become one of the first members of the CEQ staff as our senior scientist. (He would be of great assistance to the CEQ on both domestic issues, for example, public land matters such as predator control, range management, and clear-cutting, and international issues.) Thus began an extraordinarily fruitful period of environmental policy development and achievement. Few remember this now, but President Richard Nixon was determined to have a strong environmental record, and I believe that what the CEQ was able to accomplish during that period of 1970–1973, with bipartisan support from Congress, was by far a more productive period of environmental policy achievement than before or since.
We at the CEQ were uniquely positioned to orchestrate policy development in a strategic way. For example, in 1970, President Nixon directed the CEQ (at its own suggestion) to do a study of ocean dumping—the discharge of shore-generated wastes into the seas. The CEQ undertook this study under Talbot's direction, involving some eighty participants from various agencies. A comprehensive report was submitted to the president in October 1970. He publicly released the report, and he called for both domestic legislation and an international convention to deal with the problem. The CEQ also ensured that the ocean dumping proposal was on the agenda for the June 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment, held at Stockholm, Sweden. I headed the U.S. delegation to the Stockholm conference, and Talbot acted as my special assistant. He had a remarkable network of friends among the various national delegations and was an enormous help in moving our agenda along. Our call for an international ocean dumping convention was endorsed unanimously by the conference; in November 1972, a conference in London, chaired by Martin Holdgate, wrote and agreed to the international convention. The completion of the international convention lit a fire under Congress and led to its final approval of our domestic ocean-dumping legislation.
Another example of the CEQ's impact on international policy development can be seen in the approval of the World Heritage Trust Convention. In 1965, long before the formation of the CEQ, I had participated in a White House Conference on International Cooperation and, together with Joseph Fisher, then president of Resources for the Future, had put forward the World Heritage Trust concept. The Johnson administration did not follow up on the idea. So in 1971, when the CEQ was putting together President Nixon's annual environmental message to Congress, we included the World Heritage Trust as one of his proposals. Subsequently, in the UN preparatory meetings leading up to the Stockholm conference (meetings at which Talbot cochaired U.S. participation along with Assistant Secretary of the Interior Nathaniel Reed), the trust program was put on the conference agenda. At (p.45) the conference, the proposal was endorsed unanimously. The World Heritage Trust Convention was formally approved in Paris on November 16, 1972, the one hundredth anniversary of the establishment of Yellowstone National Park.
In November 2002, I was privileged to participate in the thirtieth anniversary celebration of the World Heritage program, held in Venice, Italy. Sadly, the United States has taken little, and at times no, interest in the program and has never provided it with more than token support. The notion that there are sites around the world, both natural and cultural, of such unique value that they truly belong to the heritage of all people is one that can help unite rather than divide us. We badly need such programs.
Talbot was especially involved in another CEQ project, the proposal for a moratorium on the commercial killing of whales. He took the lead at the CEQ in putting the proposal together. President Nixon espoused the idea and publicly called for the moratorium. We got the issue placed on the 1972 Stockholm conference agenda, where, like the World Heritage Trust proposal, it was endorsed, albeit with two abstentions. Later that month, Talbot and I attended the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in London. I attended as President Nixon's “personal representative” to demonstrate his strong interest and involvement in the moratorium issue. We got a majority of the vote, but unfortunately the IWC rules required a two-thirds majority, so it was not until several years later that the United States prevailed in the passing of the commercial whaling moratorium. I am glad to say that the United States has stuck successfully to this position over the years despite continuing Japanese opposition. The World Wildlife Fund stays actively engaged in the issue.
Yet another U.S. agenda item (and CEQ project) at the Stockholm conference was a convention dealing with the international wildlife trade, an idea that had its roots in the 1961 Arusha Conference and in Talbot's subsequent proposal to IUCN in 1963. The proposal for this convention was endorsed at Stockholm, and a conference on the convention was held in Washington, DC, in January 1973. Chris Herter chaired the conference, I headed the U.S. delegation and, again, Talbot was my principal assistant. The conference adopted the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, commonly known as CITES. The United States’ strongest ally in the negotiation of that convention was Kenya—an important factor because the United States was a wildlife and wildlife-product consumer nation while Kenya was a prominent producer. The head of the Kenyan delegation was Perez Olindo, the director of the Kenya Wildlife Service. Olindo had been the AWLF's first university student and graduate in the United States about ten years earlier, and he and I had a very close association. The CITES convention required each country to have both a scientific and a management authority for dealing with endangered wildlife, and that was the spark that enabled us to develop, and Congress to pass, the Endangered Species Act.
I left the CEQ in September 1973 to join the Environmental Protection Agency as its second administrator. But I recall the early 1970s as a period of truly remarkable achievement on the environment front, thanks to a combination of presidential leadership; bipartisan support in Congress; strong international cooperation; active involvement by private, nonprofit environmental organizations; and a deeply (p.46) concerned public. Our environmental problems today, such as global warming, are no less critical than the problems of the 1970s. If anything, they are even more urgent. Admittedly, our problems have tended to become more complex and more contentious over time—all the more reason there is a tremendous need today for strong U.S. leadership at home and abroad and, most important, for presidential leadership. We need that above all.