GB No. 12, winter 1994
These days it has become quite popular to invoke ecology, in financial as well as in economic and scientific realms. Many words derived from the word "ecology" have been created -- eco-development, ecosystem, and eco-philosophy, to name a few. Many scientific and social organisations dealing with ecological problems have been established. Unfortunately, ordinary people do not look beyond problems of environmental protection such as problems of clean air and pure water and of maintaining the natural values of the environment. Many people think that ecology is only a matter of economic policy, state administration, proper enterprises, legal regulations, appropriate payments, fines, and other fiscal or organizational obligations. The issue, however, also has its global dimension. The environment is gradually, but more and more clearly, becoming subjected to international economic and political manipulations. It is becoming a pretext for maintaining the dominance of developed countries (developed due to the unrestricted exploitation of the natural environment, often not only on their own territory) over the developing nations, which have not yet succeeded in developing at the expense of their natural environment, and are now forced to devastate their environment in some way, because they do not have enough financial resources to implement appropriate protection or to introduce modern, but expensive, so called "clean" technologies.
Developed countries, made rich by exploiting their natural environment, are now trying to introduce on an international scale many limitations, connected with some quite severe sanctions. These measures are directed towards environmental protection in all countries. At the same time, however, the rich nations are keeping for themselves their current level of environmental utilization, including large-scale industrial, agricultural, and energy production. There are plans to establish an international court, which would protect this new ecological deal. Of course, this court will be severe only on the weak countries, because rich countries, as we see in other international relationships, do not need to bother too much about international courts. Actually, the idea is to compel the developing countries to abandon the opportunity for developing fast in order to catch up with developed countries. Taking into account the technological level and financial resources of developing countries, their development would inevitably lead to the violation of limits.
Just now, conditions of economic development -- or rather of arresting that development -- are being imposed upon Poland, through mandates that we should stabilize our level of consumption, because the current level is considered appropriate for our nation. This is said to be necessary in order to provide opportunities for other countries that are poorer than Poland. So, we have to pay for this "ecological justice." We, who -- like other countries in similar situations -- have been driven during the last few years to extreme economic disaster. On the other hand, we hear nothing about whether the Americans, British, Germans and French will refrain from developing energy production and whether they will lower their levels of resource and energy consumption. In this case, ecology has become an excuse to maintain dominance and a new imperialism, disguised as environmental protection -- allegedly for the benefit of all inhabitants of our planet. But, until now, the vast majority of this wealth is being utilized by a few of the richest countries, made wealthy during previous times by ecological "robbery," and by colonial exploitation, compulsion, and slavery.
Here, it seems inevitable to introduce a new term: "eco-imperialism," or even, as some would prefer, "eco-fascism."
If we think about the economic pressure which is being put on Poland by the EC countries and by international financial institutions, which try to force us to restrict production, limit coal mining, and lower consumption level, one can easily draw the conclusion that this is the phase of realization of the eco-imperialist policy towards the countries of the former socialist bloc, which have been defeated in ideological and economic warfare. This can be considered a kind of reparation for damages.
At the same time, "green" groups are inspired to protest against atomic energy and against building new dams. It is regrettable that in these issues, as well as in many others, the Polish government seems to be totally subordinated to this type of manipulation.
For a long time, not only foreign journalists, but also many Polish journalists seemed to compete with each other in expressing the opinion that Poland is the most ecologically devastated country in Europe, and the main producer of pollutants in Europe. But this is a great exaggeration, if not a lie. I will not deny that the environmental situation in Poland is bad, but it is not any worse than the situation in the former East Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, the former Soviet Union, or other countries. After all, in Germany, France, and England, alarms are being sounded because of catastrophic levels of air and water contamination. Of course, these countries have done a lot to protect their nature and to improve their environmental quality, but they are still far from solving their problems. Up until now, the Ruhr area in Germany or the industrial regions in England have been serious sources of air pollution in Europe.
We in Poland must do everything we can to save our country from ecological disaster, but we should not allow ourselves to be fooled. We need to look for a method of financial and economic development which is not based on the exploitation of nature, but which -- as far as possible -- would improve our environment. However, we can not quit developing. Our goal cannot be to shrink our nation to the size and form typical of primitive ethnic groups, just to leave a clean environment for the foreign successors.
translation from Nauka i przyszłość 7/93
(Prof. Edward Kowalczyk is a retired employee of the Warsaw Institute
Note: The editorial staff does not necessarily agree with every opinion found in "Green Brigades".