A U.S. report drafted for next year's "Earth Summit" in Brazil is drawing criticism from environmentalists, who contend that the Bush administration has glossed over the ecological harm caused by this country's economic growth in the past two decades.
"If you look at our use of energy and our dependency on certain chemicals, I think reasonable people would say we've got big problems," said Fran Spivy-Weber, director of international issues for the National Audubon Society.
Spivy-Weber was among about 50 federal, state and local officials, environmentalists, scientists and industry representatives debating the report yesterday in Baltimore. The federally sponsored meeting was ending today, but a public hearing on the 330-page document is planned tomorrow at Towson State University.
Environmentalists charged yesterday the report was too optimistic and "bland," and urged U.S. officials to expand on the section about threats to the public and the environment from widespread production and use of pesticides and toxic chemicals.
The meeting here -- the fifth held around the country to collect comments on the report -- focused on toxics, environmental emergencies, health issues and the living and working conditions of the poor.
Federal officials conceded that the report, to be submitted this year to the United Nations, was "perhaps too rosy," as one put it, in portraying U.S. progress in cleaning up the environment. They pledged to revise it in response to the criticisms.
The U.S. report and similar documents from industrialized and developing countries will be used to set the agenda for next June's U.N. Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro. The conference, or Earth Summit, is expected to tackle global warming, deforestation and extinction of animals and plants, among other issues.
Separate negotiations aimed at reaching international accords to curb climate change, forest destruction and loss of species are all proceeding slowly, said Patricia Bliss-Guest, associate director of the environmental quality council.
The U.S. has been accused of foot-dragging on the global warming pact, but Bliss-Guest said other nations resist U.S. efforts to reach an accord on forest preservation.
Tomorrow's public hearing is to run from 8:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. in Smith Hall at Towson State. Registration is $12 with a low-income/student/senior citizen discount of $6.
For more information, call Chris Darling at 366-2457.