April 1, 1998 in Nation/World

Safari Leaves President Gushing Over Lions, Giraffes Sounds Environmental Theme In Botswana Preserve Speech

James Bennet New York Times
 

On the other stops of his 12-day African tour, President Clinton has dispensed some small amount of aid - never enough, his aides have acknowledged, to meet each country’s needs.

But to Botswana, Clinton offered no money, only himself and his own need to relax. It seemed enough.

“You have given us several million dollars of free advertisement!” Kgeledi George Kgoroba, Botswana’s minister of commerce and industry, exclaimed in introducing Clinton at this wildlife preserve Tuesday. Because of its tourism and diamond industries, Botswana is so prosperous that it receives no American development assistance.

For Clinton, Botswana was both rest stop and backdrop, a chance to take a day and a half’s safari and a dazzling setting in which to reaffirm his enthusiasm for the environment. He did so here Tuesday, appearing in this game park to call for Senate approval of an environmental treaty to limit the growth of deserts.

“I think any human being who spends any appreciable amount of time in a uniquely pristine place, full of the wonders of animal and plant life, instinctively feels humanity’s sacred obligation to preserve our environment,” Clinton said, standing on a rise as the shadows of clouds rolled over the green hills behind him.

Clinton reeled off a list of the animals he and Hillary Rodham Clinton saw on Monday while on safari in the Chobe River Valley north of here. “I saw all the things I dreamed of seeing, from elephants and hippos to giraffes and lions,” Clinton said.

He also said he saw a monitor lizard, adding that it made him think of “all the people I would like that lizard to monitor.”

The White House had been searching for an environmental issue to spotlight here, and it settled on the desertification treaty, even though the United States signed the treaty in 1996 and it is already in force.

The treaty, which was sought by African countries, is intended to coordinate foreign aid internationally to encourage local governments and communities to fight the spread of deserts, which can be caused by overgrazing.

Clinton has not pushed for this treaty much since he sent it to the Senate more than a year ago. Asked why the president chose to highlight it Tuesday, David Sandalow, the National Security Council’s director of environmental affairs, said, “The Africa trip has really brought home to him and to lots of Americans the importance of these issues.”

Sandalow said he was not aware of any opposition to the treaty in the Senate, where it is awaiting action in the Foreign Relations Committee.

In his 15-minute speech, Clinton did not address in detail the crux of the environmental debate in Africa and throughout the developing world: the question of balancing the needs of poor people against the desire to protect the environment.

But he said, “I wished everyone in the world - every child in the world and every child in Africa, especially - could have a chance to see these things” free from poverty and “any necessity of their parents to think about doing things which would undermine the existence of those birds and animals for all time.”

The following fields overflowed: DATELINE = MOKOLODI NATURE PRESERVE, BOTSWANA


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