Tag Archives: global

Rio+20 – The Optimist and the Cynic

As I’ve been reading about the Sustainable Development Conference outlined in my last post, I’ve been thinking that it seems almost too good to be true. I’ve read the Zero Draft document, and a report entitled Green Economies to Green Societies, plus information provided on the official website. They talk of creating green, equitable and inclusive societies, of how education is fundamental, of the importance of the world’s oceans, of creating a green economy, providing green jobs, holistic and long-sighted decision making…. The list goes on. When did the UN get so on the ball?

The Optimist
The optimist in me is jumping for joy, excited that this year is graced with such a fantastic and timely opportunity. Although their results aren’t always that impressive, international conferences and summits are tried and tested and what other options really are there for getting a bunch of nations to commit to something? That our world leaders are actually coming together to discuss how to get from here to a sustainable future, and then commit to actions to this end, is well worth celebrating. This could lead to binding legislation on all sorts of related issues, and give governments incentive to kick-start the kind of projects we desperately need. Even the fact that the official UN website for the conference is linking to organisations I respect such as Global Transition 2012 is so inspiring. All the discussion papers and issue briefs outline sound aims and reasonable ways of achieving them. I feel content knowing the powers that be are finally addressing the issues I spend so much of my time thinking about. This could be a real turning point.

The Cynic
But as great as it all sounds… A niggling devil-on-my-shoulder thinks it can’t really be this good. Perhaps it’s all green wash, something to keep environmentalists quiet while the guys at the top cackle and finance the slow death of civilisation. Well, that might be taking it a bit far, but there’s definitely a cynical part of me saying it’s naive to expect the outcome to be as good as I hope. Governments have a huge vested interest in business-as-usual after all. Change is hard, and the scale of change required may not do wonders for (short term) popularity and this matters a lot to politicians hoping to get elected in the next term. And what about the multinational corporations that so infamously pull the strings of these puppets, any way? Will Easy Jet and the oil companies be so happy about all this? Will they quietly go bankrupt without a fight? Surely governments won’t stop supporting them so soon… And will the banks really commit to an economy that is focused on the well-being of most people? In a more equal society, (which the Summit proposes) the distribution of wealth would of course be more equal. This is advocated in the report Green Economies to Green Societiesbut does the rich really want to have less so that others can have more?

And the elusive Realist
The path of realism is tightrope-thin, between the vast lands of optimism and pessimism. It’s way harder to be realistic about Rio+20 than it is to get carried away or depressed. But of course, the reality will likely fall somewhere between the two. I truly think this Summit is an amazing opportunity, and I think it will play a major part in our eventual transition to a sustainable way of life. In fact, I think it’s a vital piece of the jigsaw. I don’t think it’ll be plain sailing, not by a long decree. It’s likely that some countries will be unwilling to give their political commitment. Of the ones that do, I don’t imagine for a minute they’ll be able to quickly turn their entire country to a sustainable one. But I think they will make some changes, and I think these will be important. Basically, I don’t think the UN Conference on Sustainable Development will be a miracle, but I think it will be a huge step in the right direction.

A small ending comment from the Optimist
Huge steps in the right direction are pretty good!

Earth Summit 2012

This June, there will be a United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil. Also going by the names of “Rio+20″ and “Earth Summit 2012″, this will undoubtedly be a great milestone, an example of history unfolding around us as we speak. We can only hope it will have a more impressive outcome than the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Conference… I am remaining optimistic as times are moving fast and we have come a long way in the last couple of years after all.


The objectives of the Summit are as follows:

  • Securing Political Commitment to Sustainable Development

  • Assessing Progress Towards Internationally Agreed Commitments

  • (Identifying?*) New and Emerging Challenges

And the themes are:

  • Green Economy in the context of Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development
  • Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development

* On the website it doesn’t include the word ‘identifying’… But ‘New and Emerging Challenges’ isn’t actually an objective and this was my best bet as to what they meant.

I absolutely recommend having a look at the  Earth Summit 2012 website. It’s by Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future, who are heavily involved in the organisation and facilitation of the conference . Also here’s the link to the official website of Rio+20. I’ve been reading about the Summit for the last few days and am really excited about the possibilities arising from this. I mean, of course governments don’t have to agree to things, and in many cases they won’t want to. But at least they’re being given the opportunity. The ground is being prepared, and the seeds planted.

I also think the fact that this Summit deals with the ‘Green Economy’ could inspire more action than a focus purely on reducing carbon emissions. Attention is being given to the three pillars of sustainability – environmental, social and economic. Environmentalists are often bashing governmental bodies for only caring about finance and disregarding the natural world. Social equality advocates are quick to point out that human suffering is also disgustingly widespread and that the capitalist-consumer culture that is trashing the planet does not even benefit most people. Perhaps conceding that, yes, economics does deserve a place on our agenda as well, will encourage said governments to be more reasonable. Perhaps it is really time to give economics a shake up. Business wields great power in our world, so rather than attempting to squash it we should be innovative and harness that power. Perhaps corporations working towards profit at all costs is outdated – and perhaps corporations making a profit while (or oh my god, even BY?) having a positive effect on surrounding communities and ecosystems is possible.

So as you can see, I’m very interested on what this Green Economy could be like, and I’ll write a post specifically looking at that soon. For now I’ll just add that the Global Transition 2012 website is also well worth a click. They’re an international network of leading thinkers, movers and shakers who advocate a global transition towards a sustainable future, focusing on Rio+20 and beyond. They have been publishing some very interesting discussion papers on issues such as the Green Economy as mentioned above.


So have a look and inform yourself! As an Earth Baby, this most definitely concerns you.


We made it to the future!

So… Welcome to 2012. I think the phrase “may you live in interesting times” is appropriate here. I have a feeling this year is going to be filled with many surprising turns of events. Some good, and some bad.

Of course the very word “2012” now makes everyone think of ancient Mayan calendars and the end of the world. I’m pretty sure their prediction dealt more with a great change and the end of an era than with an apocalypse, but to be honest I don’t know enough about the subject to talk with any authority. Whenever I open a book to enlighten myself I get bombarded with talk of ascension to astral planes and have to shut the book and go and have a snack to calm down. I have a suspicion that the whole concept has got rather out of hand and sensationalised. However, I do believe that having so many people expecting the extraordinary this year will create a fulfilling prophecy of sorts. I for one am expecting people to go fairly crazy on the 21st of December.

Anyway, let’s move on.

In terms of more practical issues, 2012 is another year into the future, and another year in the lives of our numerous global crises. Economic recession is apparently worse than it’s been in nearly a century, and eco-systems, cultures and the planet’s climate continue to be suffer in the name of strengthening it.

I’ll predict that this year oil prices will fluctuate more violently, and climate change will cause more cases of extreme weather events. Every problem we face will be likely to intensify.

But I also predict there will be victories. I think the solutions already being worked on will also accelerate. I think people’s attitudes will begin to shift at a greater rate than ever before. I think the growth of green industry could lead to positive turns in economy. Basically I think this year, everything will be hotting up and getting faster.

A quick look at Wikipedia tells me this year has already been named the International Year of Cooperatives and the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All. That sounds promising!

I’d also like to point out two other events taking place this year:

Firstly, the Earth Summit 2012 is taking place in June and is an opportunity for world leaders to address their commitments to international sustainable development. Look at the website here. It’s very interesting and I may write a whole post about it soon.

Also, the American presidential election is this November. I think this is an event that is of importance to the whole world, not just the US, because of course America is such a global giant. It’s influence is far reaching in the extreme.

So what do you think is going to happen?