U.S. government damaging its environmental image



By Patrick Johnson, guest columnist

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I am writing this message from Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India while participating in the United Nations Eleventh Conference of the Parties Convention on Biological Diversity as a youth delegate representing an environmental non-profit from the United States.

This bi-annual meeting with governmental and non-governmental delegates helps to discuss ways to implement international policy to protect and restore biodiversity across the globe, and is a result of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. To go along with the well-known UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, two other conferences were also created following this meeting: the UN Convention to Combat Desertification and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

Every country in the world sends representational governmental voting delegates to this convention, other than a select three. The Holy See and Andorra have chosen to not be participants and are joined by the United States of America. Being a representative of a U.S. non-profit, I have been frustrated during my time participating in the conference with my country’s lack of concern for one of the world’s most pressing issues.

From the perspective of the American people, this lack of participation in a United Nations conference is not only blatantly disrespectful, but it continues to confirm the steady disregard for the greater good of the citizens of this country by the federal government.

The loss of biodiversity in an ecosystem has a direct correlation with the health and well-being of the humans in that area. By choosing not to participate in this convention, the United States is showing a stunning lack of vision for the future in this country and choosing not to promote sustainability. Coming from the perspective of a young person with a relative lack of voice in governmental decisions, I am frustrated by this disregard for my future.

Through personal conversations with global delegates, the United States’ lack of attendance is being noticed around the world. By not being present with these international negotiations, we are further hurting our image by indicating that we are not interested in the concerns expressed by nations around the world who are struggling very deeply with societal problems as a result of habitat degradation. The conversations that are occurring in Hyderabad during these two weeks are shaping the future of our planet, and the participation of all of the world’s countries is of the utmost importance.

As Americans we are very focused on economic issues, as we get to choose between two very clearly different visions for the future in the upcoming presidential election. However, without proper environmental stewardship these economic conversations will be irrelevant.

As a young person, I am tired of the arrogance the United States government displays in their lack of participation in this important international conference, as well as the lack of conversation regarding environmental issues such as our role in mitigating the impacts of global climate change.

I feel very privileged that I was born and raised in the United States and express my concerns because I care very deeply. I want my children to enjoy the natural beauty that I was raised with in the woods of rural Kentucky and have a planet that is not completely decimated by resource extraction and development.

I hope that we are able to make progressive decisions on societal and economic issues in the United States but think that the top priority should be the protection of the environment.

Being in India makes it only appropriate to end with a quote from Mohandas Gandhi: “What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.”