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The Children of Africa

September 2, 2002

The children of Africa, described by the London Sun: "Desperate kids in nearby shanty towns queued for water at standpipes", become the single defining moment of failed UN earth summits.

While thousands of UN delegates were gorging themselves on "buckets of caviar", lobster and filet mignon, South Africans, many of them children, were starving in slums just a few miles away.

There are 60,000 summit delegates from 182 countries in Johannesburg. Let the record show that for all of their rhetoric and hype not too many of them fall into the sincere category of a Mother Theresa.

The delegates were expected to drink some 80,000 bottles of mineral water during the conference,

Children waiting in line for water at standpipes provide a stark contrast to the hip habit of legions of healthy people who now carry bottles of water on the streets of most world cities.

In terms of saving the poor and the environment, the $53 million extravaganza was a bust from its opening ceremonies.

Film stars were in collective absentia, and even selfish environmental activists began distancing themselves from the largest UN summit ever.

But some activists aren’t snubbing the conference because if its excess and astronomical expense, but because those topics closest to their hearts are not on the agenda.

Elizabeth May, president of the Sierra Club of Canada: "I think the world would be better off and the climate would be better off if we could have avoided all the greenhouse gases from people flying there, and all the money.

"To have a summit that doesn’t even discuss Kyoto is a scandal. I feel it borders on fraud."

Louise Comeau, director of the centre for sustainable community development with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities: "We were asked if we wanted to be on the delegation…I said: would we be contributing to key decisions that would affect Canadian communities? And we were told no. There are no key decisions being made," she said. "It’s a fight over a communiqué and we don’t have time any more."

And then there are the activists in Johannesburg, like primate expert Jane Goodall blaming Sept. 11.

Goodall told summit participants the fight against terrorism is

overshadowing environmental concerns in the U.S., and that "since Sept. 11 Americans haven’t wanted to speak out on the environment because it doesn’t seem patriotic."

Goodall, whose expertise is in primates and not what the American public is thinking, should be aware that terrorists as well as primates are roaming the earth,

Even in the face of abysmal failure, UN officials carry on.

President of the Carriage House Centre on Global Issues announced that the Centre’s prestigious Candlelight Award would be presented by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to Canadians Maurice Strong and Jim McNeil.

Strong, Secretary General of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992, and McNeil, Secretary General of the World Commission on the Environment and Development were to be feted at a sumptuous reception following their awards.

Let’s hope that they and the UN dignitaries and high-living delegates have their every dream haunted by the many faces of starving African children on their inglorious return home.

Canada Free Press founding editor Most recent by Judi McLeod is an award-winning journalist with 30 years experience in the print media. Her work has appeared on, Drudge Report,, Glenn Beck. Judi can be reached at: [email protected]

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