We, the heads of State and Government and high level representatives, having met at Rio
de Janeiro, Brazil, from 20-22 June 2012, with full participation of civil society, renew our
commitment to sustainable development, and to ensure the promotion of economically,
socially and environmentally sustainable future for our planet and for present and future
These are the opening words to “The Future We Want,” the document which is the product of dozens of lead-up meetings and finally the ultimate conference in Rio de Janeiro this past weekend (June 20-22). There are a few key words in the above paragraph which generally sum up the rest of the document’s ‘resolutions.’
The phrasing here, “we renew our commitment to sustainable develoment,” is kind of a contradiction of terms. If at Rio 1992, commitments were made that have not been met or accomplished, how does renewing those commitments make any difference? The verb sets a very passive, complacent tone that resonates through the rest of the document. The document goes on to renew the UN’s commitment to the environment, the poor, and five other pages of renewed commitments, NONE of which reference any direct action or plan of HOW they plan to actually commit to those issues.
Here’s the next ‘action’ word of the document. “We ensure the promotion of a sustainable future.” So, instead of actually ensuring a sustainable future, the document has already excused itself from any potential failure by only promising the promotion of said future. So, I guess we can expect more ‘renewed commitments’ coming down the line at the next Earth Summit.
The document never gets a plan off the ground for how to deal with the issues it acknowledges, (though it occasionally points to Agenda 21 or some other 20 year old documents that haven’t been effective). Even the section on climate change is vastly inconsequential, with only three meager points being made that 1.) The issue exists, 2.) Money needs to be raised to deal with it, and 3.) Governments should stick to their previous commitments in solving the issue.
Wait, what was the point of having this conference then? Why bring world leaders, experts, and thousands of members of civil society together for a massive summit only to agree that the issues you came to talk about exist, and to leave with a mission to “carry on as before”? Reading this document is like seeing a movie that had so much potential to be great and just misses it at every opportunity. But this isn’t a movie; this is the framework that governments will act on (er, not act on, rather) in dealing with these issues until the next Earth Summit.
I don’t have the solutions to the issues that plague our world – and I don’t expect them to come from any one individual – but it’s a sore disappointment that issues we know to be detrimental to people, animals, and the earth, cannot be turned towards a more positive path. It baffles me how leaders can gather, talk about these issues, and fail to make any concrete plans for their respective constituencies.
Over 100 members of civil society walked out of the conference center, upset at the failed process.
I am not alone in being frustrated with this outcome. The Major Group for Children and Youth were very active in Youth Blast and the lead-up events to the conference, and they had to say:
Where was our voice, the voice of our children and grandchildren in this? How can you listen to them in the future if you did not show the will to create the space now.
We have one planet. Our being, our thinking, and our action should not be constrained by national boundaries but by planetary ones. You failed to liberate yourself from national and corporate self-interest and recognise our need to respect a greater more transcendental set of boundaries.
We came here to celebrate our generation. We have danced, and dreamed, and cried on the streets of Rio and found something to believe in. You have chosen not to celebrate with us.
George Monbiot (of The Guardian) adds,
Was it too much to have asked of the world’s governments, which performed such miracles in developing stealth bombers and drone warfare, global markets and trillion-dollar bailouts, that they might spend a tenth of the energy and resources they devoted to these projects on defending our living planet? It seems, sadly, that it was.
It would seem our relationship with the world we live on is not as important as our relationship with the artificial life of consumption that we have created for ourselves. So it will be up to individuals to make the difference on our own accord, and we can only hope that enough of the world are Planeteers.
Read the “Future We Want” document for yourself and draw your own conclusions.