RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau Friday criticized the 'myopic vision' of both rich and poor nations for ignoring the real environmental dangers of overpopulation, poverty and the indiscriminate use of natural resources.
'Temporary necessities or even simple temptations have unfortunately much more influence on the behavior of human beings, than regard for the preservation of our heritage,' said Cousteau, 81, in a speech read during the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development, which ends June 14.
He said 'developing nations ... claim that the main problem is an equitable sharing of resources rather than overpopulation or environmental protection, while many ecologists from more favored nations cry 'shame' when people in Asia or Africa deforest for survival. '
Appealing to conference participants, he said, 'I wish that at this Rio conference, heads of state and their delegates realize the urgency of drastic, unconventional decisions.'
Speaking on the 20th anniversary of the first U.N. environmental summit in Stockholm, Sweden, and on World Environment Day, Cousteau estimated that acid rain and desforestation have eliminated a million species of plants and animals.
'Almost 10 percent of all kinds of living creatures are extinct forever,' he said. 'The two fluids of life, hydrosphere and atmosphere, are equally threatened.'
Cousteau, who is famous for his marine research, said it was a 'myth' that the seas are inexhaustible resources, but warned that many countries appeared to believe that is the case.
'The people of the world are anxiously awaiting a new light,' he said. 'This is our responsibility, as we hold in our hands the future of tomorrow's exacting generations.'