Methyl Bromide factory in their own country was literally bombed and destroyed by North Korea. “Our Dear leader Comrade Kim Jong Il took the decision of destroying the Methyl Bromide production facility of our Sinhung Chemical Complex. The Dear Leader said that the facility should be destroyed immediately by exploding it. His decision was based on the fact that Methyl Bromide is dangerous to the Ozone Layer and is extremely harmful for our health, ” Director General of the Shinhung Chemical complex near city of Wonson on the East coast of North Korea was explaining to me. We were standing in front of the destroyed facility of Methyl Bromide that I was visiting in late 1990s. The facility was small part of the huge chemical complex.
I was taken aback. That was extraordinary decision by the President of North Korea and its implementation was startling. The developing countries, as per the global agreement of the Montreal Protocol, would get the incremental cost to shut down the manufacturing facilities that produced the Ozone Depleting Substances. The President of North Korea-Democratic Republic of Korea to be precise- did not wait for such funding from the Multilateral Fund of the Montreal Protocol. He just wanted to go ahead and get the job done.
Juche ideology, which I read with interest, of the Great Leader and past President Kim Il Sung (father of Kim Jong Il) states that the human being is distinguished, first by their social character. Then comes his or her creativity, independence and innovation. “ To nurture these characteristics further, Juche ideology says, we need to inculcate self-reliance”, said my North Korean friend while I was staring with awe at the Methyl Bromide factory destroyed under the orders of the President Kim Jong Il.
The Western critiques would raise the eye -brows and mischievously ask, why he did not destroy the CFC and HCFC plants as well? I have no answer to such questions. But we all know that there many other questions that have no answers. Like ‘why only certain countries ruled by the dictators are chosen to attack by other countries where as other countries are left to wait for their ‘ springs’ to arrive to remove their dictators.
In one of the books that was presented to me by the Ministry of the Environment in Pyongyang – and authored by Kim Jong Il-was titled ‘On Improving Land Management’. Written in 1989, well before the UNFCCC was adopted in Rio conference in 1992. This book reads like a manual for the Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) and even the latest programme of REDD, (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) –the programme that are now being talked about .
I quote from this 1989 book:
Quote: “ The master plan (for Land Management) is a unified and comprehensive plan for developing land on long term basis to exploit natural resources rationally ….to meet the demand of the demands of the nation’s economic development and people’s lives, eliminate waste of man power, materials and funds…. (Such plan) should be drawn up on the principles of avoiding encroachment of farmland, refraining from enlarging the cities excessively, ……” Unquote.
The book then goes into amazing details to describe how the people should undertake afforestation, avoid land degradation, take care of the existing trees and not to just keep planting trees but also to ensure that newly planted trees grow in healthy manner for the sake of well being of the people! One of the sections interestingly sounded like what United Nations is now, after about two decades of what Kim Jong Il said in this book, preaching about “Green Economy”!
Here is how it reads:
Quote, “. …Forests are a valuable natural resources, and important means of protecting the land. Proper afforestation and the protection and management of forests will bring about a steady increase in forest resources, develop the economy, and improve standard of the living of the people…” Unquote.
During my travels in North Korea from coast to coast, in the evening I would see the TV-programme full of the images of The President Kim Jong Il. He is always seen in the field and in the remote corners of the country with his entourage. He was seen talking to farmers, children, teachers and soldiers counseling and guiding them. His ‘ field trips and field guidance’ had been the major talking point and the lessons for the North Koreans. It was ground level socialism in action: real people-centric!
Again, many Western intellects would argue that with all those manuals and field visits and ‘ socialistic propaganda’, did the situation improve in North Korea? Were the disasters avoided? Well, my response would be: with all those manuals and best practices of the Western Models of open economy and globalization, did we avoid the disasters? Did we do anything on climate change?
I recall the ‘ filed visits’ of United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon who hails from South Korea –Republic of Korea -to be precise. One of the first visits he undertook, which I fondly highlight during my lectures on Climate Change, was the one he undertook after he was sworn in as Secretary General of United Nations. That was the mission to no-man’s land-Antarctica- to see for him the state of the impacts of the global warming. Later he also had field visit to Arctic Circle. He always liked to refer to be field visits and his experiences. Recently in Durban during the Climate change meetings, he extensively talked about his interaction with the children and farmers in the Climate impacted areas around the world.
Few weeks back Mr. Ban Ki-Moon joined famed British anthropologist Jane Goodall at the COP 17 in Durban climate conference to support a mechanism called REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) and he said, I quote: ‘“We need to support a climate friendly forest sector. And we need innovative policy and actions that can halt deforestation.”
What a similarity in approaches, of the two men of the same country but grown under different ideologies, I thought!
I dare to generalize and sketch the broader canvass on the occasion of end of the eventful year. Reunification of North-South, not just in geographical sense, but also of the whole globe is not far. Ambience in which we grow may be different, but basic instincts are surprisingly similar. In any case, such divide related to political and economic powers is fictitious, like the divide between West and East that crumbled 20 years back. Durban meeting, which moved towards the legally binding targets for all countries, in the North as well as in the South, is testimony of this reality.
The borders between North-South are collapsing. As new year 2012 dawns the message is getting clear. END.