Friday, June 1, 2012

Rio+20: don't wait for disappointment from the bureaucrats

Andrew Simms in the Guardian (UK): In three weeks the 20th anniversary conference of the Earth Summit will take place in Rio, Brazil. Once again, most of us will feel like spectators to the biggest debate about life on earth: whether or not to maintain convivial environmental conditions for human civilisation. Such events become so lost in technocratic detail, that it is easy, perhaps even procedurally intended, that the full meaning of what is under discussion gets obscured.

From a civil servant's or negotiator's point of view, clarity and exposure to the meaning of failure is probably intolerable. Imagine you've agreed something which, even if an improvement on what went before, still leaves us heading over the cliff of catastrophic, irreversible climate change. You've dropped the baby.

We can hear the sound of it falling. Carbon concentrations in the atmosphere above the Arctic crossed the line of 400 ppm this year for the first time in a very, very long time, at least since before anything vaguely human set foot on the land mass of the United Kingdom.

...Not only are we powerless in watching an existential struggle being reduced to the negotiation of which verbs and adjectives may be used in agonisingly agreed official obfuscations, but we must watch as the powerful plunder with impunity the public realm of natural resources for private gain, regardless of consequence.

What can we do, nothing? No, our actions are limited only by our imagination. If you want to know how different the future can be, just look to the past and compare it to the present. We can, for example, remove the legal privileges that put the interests of finance above all else. We can completely redesign how we move around, like the city of Ghent did, making cars mere guests on streets....

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