Have you noticed how often idealism gives way to a sense of entitlement to all the perks that come with political office? Some politicians take a different road. I only recently learned of Jose Mujica, a remarkable man who became president of Uruguay in 2009. Mujica receives $12,000 a month as president but donates 90 per cent of it to the poor and small businesses.
A new report values the annual services provided by aquatic areas to Lower Mainland residents. These are services that we've always treated as free because they have no current market value and are add-ons to nature-based economic activities like fisheries and forestry. The results are remarkable: our wetlands, beaches, coastal areas, lakes and rivers give us benefits to the tune of $30 billion to $60 billion every year, and that's a conservative estimate. That's like building more than 14 Canada Lines.
Ontario's endangered wildlife dodged a bullet when the provincial government reversed its decision to gut the province's world-class Endangered Species Act. With their vote of confidence, politicians in Ontario helped sustain one of the few outcomes of an important global environmental agreement in June at Rio+20.
Rio+20 failed, plain and simple. Few are surprised, and many are grasping at straws within the weak, toothless text, searching for something to grab onto to claim victory. Rio failed because if it had succeeded, it would have fundamentally undermined some of the most powerful forces on the planet: big polluters.
Last week, Rio+20 felt like a family reunion that no one wanted to be at -- as if someone had declared 20 years ago that the world would gather in Rio and we all begrundingly came down to suffer through it. And so it began, everyone waiting around for the other shoe to drop, and when it finally did on Tuesday, it landed with a hollow, empty thud. Rio failed, and it hadn't even really started yet.
In all the political posturing and lobbying by corporations, there is simply no comprehension of what the real crisis is at Rio+20. While we should be talking about what we can do for the environment, we just have politicians signing watered-down documents and treaties, and doing nothing to implement them.
There are opportunities and challenges at the Rio+20 conference. Certainly Canada has successfully pursued sustainable development at home. Our opportunity at Rio+20 is to find new approaches and partners to help us sustain that momentum, to build further on a sturdy foundation of principle and action. It is also our challenge.
The world has a trillion dollars to spare and with that money there isn't much we couldn't do to build a more just and sustainable future. Unfortunately, right now governments around the globe are giving this trillion dollars to some of the wealthiest corporations on the planet. We need an energy revolution, we need climate action, and we need to put people ahead of polluters. This trillion dollars is how we pay for it.
I'm not surprised to find out that Canada is promoting the tar sands at the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development and the environment, after all, they have a long and marked history of using these conferences to promote and defend the image of the tar sands abroad. It might not be surprising, but that doesn't mean it isn't wrong.
As activists from around the globe are convening at the Rio +20 conference to protect our common resources from private interests, the Stockholm International Water Institute's decision to award PepsiCo for its water efficiency is a cruel irony. There are some resources that simply shouldn't be bottled, traded or sacrificed to the market, and that is especially true of water.