PROSE AND CONS
The World Charter for Nature, three years in the framing and recently submitted for approval to the U.N. General Assembly, contains some very lofty provisions. Among them are, "Nature shall be respected and its essential processes shall not be impaired" and "Nature shall be secured against degradation caused by warfare or other hostile activities." Considering the high ideals manifest in the document, it was small wonder that on Oct. 28 the General Assembly passed the charter by a resounding 111-1 vote (with 18 abstentions).
The significance of this vote, particularly to those who have been fighting the Reagan Administration on the environmental front, was that the lone dissenter was the U.S. However, according to transcripts of the debate on the charter's passage, American objections to it weren't inspired by Interior Secretary James Watt or anyone else in Washington. If those misgivings were inspired by anyone, it may have been Strunk and White. The U.S. representatives didn't like the grammar of the charter.
Said U.S. spokesman Robert Zimmerman, "For example, paragraph 13 begins 'Measures intended to prevent, control and mitigate natural disasters....' We submit that neither the United Nations nor man can prevent natural disasters. We think that the intent may well have been 'the effects of natural disasters....' We think that if all the 'shalls' that are in the document could have been changed to 'shoulds,' we would have been much more likely to have gone along."
While nits were being picked, the Japanese voiced their misgivings concerning the syntax of the charter, which was written in French, one of the U.N.'s two official languages, and then translated—accurately, all parties agree—into four other tongues. Of the preamble, which states that nature cannot be conserved "until mankind learns to live in peace and to forsake war and armaments," the Japanese delegate said, "According to this argument, the existence of armaments is in itself detrimental to the protection of nature. This seems to us illogical: It is not arms per se but their use in warfare which affects nature adversely."
Yet the Japanese found it in their hearts to vote for the charter, as did the British and nearly all the rest of America's friends and enemies. The spokesman for Zaire, which co-sponsored the charter, said, "We have been waiting for three years for a consensus, and it is not our fault if the United States delegation has not been in a position for the past three years to submit its comments."
The U.S. delegation stuck to its grammatical guns. As a spokeswoman for the American mission said last week, "We're not against the Charter for Nature. We're against the language. How can we back a bad document on nature or anything? Unlike some of these countries, we have to answer to our people." For every frowning environmentalist, somewhere out there is a smiling English teacher.
A note from SI's Franz Lidz: "Willie Gault, Tennessee's All-America wide receiver and world-class hurdler, is getting married next June. His best man will be Renaldo Nehemiah, the world-record hurdler, and world-class sprinters Carl Lewis, Stanley Floyd and Harvey Glance will be in the wedding party. Boy, talk about quickie marriages."
THAT'S SHOW BIZ
Of course, you know the San Diego Chicken, the clown in fowl costume who entertains crowds, mainly at baseball games. The Chicken, whose real name is Ted Giannoulas, is big stuff and is making a bundle in appearances all over the country.