Saturday At The Movies

Via (thanks Curtis) comes this powerful speech from a man known for his humbleness; President José Mujica of Uruguay gave this speech at the Rio+20 summit this past June. It’s so unusual because here we see a political leader speaking the truth about our current situation; would that more of this truth-telling would happen!



photo credit: Sustainability The Musical

Health Warning Attached To Rio+20 Text: If You Care For The Future Of This Planet, This Document Will Make You Sick

Here in Canada, it’s hard to tell that there is even an Earth Summit happening in Rio De Janeiro at all. A quick scan of the major papers, from one coast to the other, and there is hardly a mention that most world leaders, minus our own prime minister and some other heavy hitters, are meeting in a historic conference.I guess Canadians, led by our current federal government, have decided to give a sustainable planet a miss this time round. Maybe in another twenty years, when global climate destabilization has made our lives (and our children’s lives) a whole lot more uncomfortable, and clean water and clean air are a rare commodity, we’ll pay more attention.

In the meantime, the text from Rio+20 has been released. And it ain’t pretty. Here’s some coverage of it from other parts of the world:

George Monbiot, in The Guardian, writes that “Rio+20 draft text is 283 paragraphs of fluff”:

The declaration is remarkable for its absence of figures, dates and targets. It is as stuffed with meaningless platitudes as an advertisement for payday loans, but without the necessary menace. There is nothing to work with here, no programme, no sense of urgency or call for concrete action beyond the inadequate measures already agreed in previous flaccid declarations. Its tone and contents would be better suited to a retirement homily than a response to a complex of escalating global crises.The draft and probably final declaration is 283 paragraphs of fluff. It suggests that the 190 governments due to approve it have, in effect, given up on multilateralism, given up on the world and given up on us. So what do we do now? That is the topic I intend to address in my column next week.

The Rio+20 conference is remarkably listless; the energy of 1992 has bled into a formulaic bureaucracy-fest. The text negotiators have agreed to punts on virtually every major issue (one analysis showed that governments agreed to “encourage” and “support” actions 148 times, but only on three issues summoned the courage to say “we will” actually do something).

But it came spontaneously alive for a few hours this afternoon, when a youth-led demonstration turned into an Occupy-style sit-down that in turn agreed to a mass walkout. We’ve just marched out the front doors of this sprawling complex, 130 strong, surrounded by as many cameras and tape recorders.

The youth-led demonstration violated all the U.N. rules — security squads surrounded us at the first sound of controversy, announcing that our gathering was “unsanctioned” and if we didn’t stop immediately we’d lose our accreditation. People discussed the threat through the human mic for a few minutes, and then decided it wasn’t a threat at all — in fact, we were eager to surrender our badges, because then we wouldn’t be part of what had turned into a sham.

Adam Vaughn is blogging for The Guardian from Rio, and does a good summary of reactions to the text: check out his Rio+20 Final Day Live Blog

Rio+20: Our Leaders Toy With Us

The Rio+20 conference was officially launched yesterday, where world leaders – minus some heavy hitters like US President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as well as Canada’s more minor leader Stephen Harper – are in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro for a major environmental summit. On the agenda are ways to create a sustainable blueprint for eradicating poverty and protecting the environment. The Rio summit commemorates the 20th anniversary of the original Earth summit. That summit concluded with much promise but, as the globe teeters on the edge of environmental collapse two decades later, clearly didn’t make enough of a difference. And this conference won’t be up to the enormous challenge the world faces, either, as the text of the summit’s declaration was finalized by negotiators before the summit started, and apparently is not up for further negotiation. It has been criticized as being weak – Bill McKibbon tweeted re: language of the document: ‘support’ 99 uses, ‘encourage’ 50, but ‘we will’ just 5. Our leaders toy with us.  Insurance giant Allianz Knowledge’s website put it this way:

“Everybody should look in the mirror and ask what history is going to make of this. We face connected crises. Rio+20 should be a turning point, but it is a dead end,” said Stephen Hale, Oxfam spokesman at Rio+20 speaking to the Guardian newspaper. “This summit could be over before it’s started. World leaders arriving tonight must start afresh. Almost a billion hungry people deserve better.”
Twenty years on since the Earth Summit in Rio it’s clear that global economic growth has not been decoupled from environmental destruction or the use of scarce natural resources, nor has it benefitted everyone. Consider galloping greenhouse gas emissions, the greatest mass extinction since the dinosaurs, the obesity epidemic, one billion hungry people or record levels of inequality.

At the same time there are solutions and ideas out there that could fulfil the conference’s stated aims to “secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, assess the progress to date and the remaining gaps”.

Meanwhile, northeastern North America is sweltering through a record-breaking heat wave, and floods hit Minnesota. We are leaving the Age of Entitlement, folks, and entering the Age of Consequences. Hang onto your hats, it’s going to be a wild ride.

More links:

Allianz Knowledge’s website is a good one for balanced and thorough coverage of Rio+20, and climate change:

Extreme Weather Cooks Northeast, floods Minnesota.