It is ironic indeed that the United Nations -- so often a misguided ally in promulgating sensible ideas -- is marking this week what it believes is a vital anniversary in the course of global human affairs.
Manhattan's best baby blue helmets are in full celebration, but it's not to solemnly recognize the global-changing events of September 11 and the lasting change imposed on our world. Rather, the UN -- which in no major way recognized 9-11 last week -- is breaking out the party hats to celebrate the 20th anniversary of something called the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer.
The protocol is named for a wide-ranging agreement signed September 16, 1987 by 24 countries (including the United States) and the European Economic Community that called for all of the grand signatories to phase down (and then out) the use of CFCs, halons and other man-made ODCs (ozone depletion chemicals).
Dr. Henry I. Miller, a former high-ranking official of Ronald Reagan's Food and Drug Administration, described the protocol this way: "In essence, this is an agreement to limit or phase out various chemicals, and although it stipulates that measures taken to protect the ozone layer from depletion should be based on relevant scientific knowledge, taking into account technical and economic considerations, appropriate balancing of all these factors has been lacking."
The lack of "balance" Miller refers is exemplified by the holy war that the environmental community is waging against chemicals we use every day -- and their weapon of choice is the Montreal Protocol.
Kofi Annan, for example, has being quoted as saying that the treaty is "perhaps the single most successful international environment-related agreement to date." Hugo Chavez, of course, has announced that Venezuela's Ministry of the Environment won't miss the anniversary celebration for the world. This is the nature of what the United Nations thinks is important.
Many will no doubt respond, "Why should we care?" Not a bad questions, as this is not the first time the United Nations has demonstrated skewed priorities. After all, when you elect Idi Amin to your human rights commission, people are going to question your judgment.
But the Montreal Protocol is much more than another silly piece of paper under the UN's letterhead. It is more to the point a mutual non-aggression pact that the United States has essentially signed with itself, reducing its use and supply of necessary chemicals, while the rest of the world laughs at our goodwill and essentially does whatever they want to their environment.
Among the current signatories to the protocol include Cuba, Haiti, Iran and North Korea. One can hardly imagine Sheryl Crow being able to convene a rock concert and hector Kim Jong-Il about his environmental policies. This is the lack of "balance" Miller is talking about.
Closer to home, the impact of the Protocol can be felt everywhere from our agricultural industry -- which is finding it increasingly difficult to access needed chemicals and fumigants -- to our national security system, which is being compromised because of the elimination of substances that can make us more safe.
Much in the news is a fumigant called methyl bromide, a major staple of America's agricultural industry, which has been determined to have other valuable uses.
Rudolf Scheffrahn, a professor of entomology at the University of Florida, says, "As Anthrax and other biological weapons continue to be worrisome and deadly threats, our scientific research has found that the common pest control agent methyl bromide is more effective and cheaper than current treatments in eradicating deadly anthrax bacterial spores from buildings and other enclosed spaces."
One might conclude that this scientific evidence would make an impact the global environmental community, which purports to place a premium on these things. And yet a consensus is forming around the idea that the Montreal Protocol, in seeking to radically restrict America's access to substances like methyl bromide, is defiantly and dangerously making us less safe, putting protocol far above principle.
To millions of Americans, September 11 was a transformative event, and it communicated a clear learning that we are less safe than we should be and that the consequences of this educational process claimed the lives of thousands of people.
Part of that learning process was on display last week, as the UN turned to its collective calendar, noted that it's September, and determined that the most profound anniversary of the month is one that is making America more vulnerable to another terrorist attack.
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