It makes sense that environmentalists are placing a lot of stock in the Rio +20 conference.
After all, the first Rio Earth Summit was groundbreaking; it was a coming out party for modern environmental consciousness, and laid down the foundations for cornerstones of global ecological protection like the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It was the first large global recognition of the need for international climate action, and the need to preserve important resources like clean air and water.
This rosy image of Rio has led the environmental movement to place an unjustified -- almost frighteningly so -- amount of faith in this June's upcoming Rio +20 conference. The faith that many have progressively lost in the UNFCCC climate talks since Copenhagen has been shifted to Rio, with hopes that some new global eco-consciousness will break out this June.
This kind of blind faith is dangerous.
Now don't get me wrong: I would love to believe that the world's largest corporations, and most polluting governments, have the best interest of people at heart. And I would love to believe that Rio is a world of endless possibility, but lets face it: The track record isn't so great.
Even the vaunted success of the first Rio summit in creating the UNFCCC has failed to meet its expressed goal after 20 years -- meaningful global progress on climate change. This is not meant to ignore the great work of some of the other initiatives created at the Earth Summit, but the unfortunate reality is that without climate action, they are all Pyrrhic victories.
Saving species at risk is great, but on a planet four degrees warmer than today, everything is a species at risk.
The fundamental problem with the euphoria surrounding Rio is that it ignores the root causes of our globe's worst ecological crises. Take climate change for example. The lack of progress can be traced to two closely related root causes, a lack of political will and the power of the fossil fuel industry.
Unless I have unknowingly been living underneath a rock for the past few months, neither of these monolithic problems have been addressed, at least not since the last United Nations climate talks failed to produce progress in Durban. As a movement that has been through the failure of Copenhagen, we should know better.
But it's not all doom and gloom. In the worst polluting nations on earth, the power of the people is standing in the way of both political inaction and Big Oil. We have seen the unprecedented power of organizing protests against the expansion plans of Canada's tar sands, with two multi-billion dollar pipeline projects stalling in the face of popular resistance. We need to bridge the gap between this kind of organizing and Rio's blind faith politics. Rio may be destined to die, with corporations and big polluters acting as its executioners, but that doesn't mean we need to sink with the ship.
Valentine's day has come and gone, and now its time for us to break up with Rio and the United Nations. It is only when we realize that we do not need Rio or the UN to solve climate change that international progress may become possible. Our faith should not be in multilateralism, and international conferences, but rather, in each other, and in the power we can build together. Once we realize that, we will start building something so powerful that the impossible will become possible, and by Rio +30 we wont simply have blind faith, we will have the power.
This is an entry into TckTckTck's Rio Blogger Prize.
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