Rio+20: não deixemos passar a hora! Rio+20: Let us not miss out on this one!

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Amid more and more garbage, extreme abundance coexists with extreme poverty; the capitalist, industrial, productivist, consumer society dazzles crowds and conquers hearts and minds across borders. The fact is that the economy and the power supporting this society, as well as its lifestyle are premised on domination, racism and discrimination, male chauvinism and social exclusion and environmental destruction, which compromise the sustainability of life as a whole and our planet.


Social awareness that we cannot go on this way begins to grow at the core of civil society. We need to change now! But, ethically, this is not about saving the planet and forgetting humanity. How can we change and at the same time harmonize the agenda of sustainability in nature and life with social justice? This is the great requirement for citizens and democracies from the place we live in to the world as a whole, recognizing ourselves as a planetary citizen community, with shared rights and responsibilities, with the same values of freedom, equality and democratic participation and a focus on our diversity and interdependence.


The high hopes generated by ECO-92, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, were not able to become a strong front against the overwhelming neoliberal globalization which took over the world in the 90´s and beginning of this century. Just as big cities grew, so did the world dispute for resources, destruction and inequality. The objective of business growth at any price was favored by economic liberation, deregulation and flexibilization, which invalidated the capacity of states to regulate and promote rights. The UN faded and the illegitimate G8 grew under the leadership of the only imperial military power, the United States. Now, in the midst of the crisis, the G20 came up as an extension of the exclusive club of world power of the G8, and has not changed the essence of the asymmetry of power and domination that it favors.


The agenda of social justice was relegated to so-called MDG´s – Millennium Development Goals, eight points not at all ambitious, where it was agreed to serve justice without changing the causes of injustice. In fact, not even this is being done. The unwillingness to change the way of organizing society, its economy and its power is even clearer in the negotiations that followed the conventions signed in 1992. It was an arduous struggle to reach the Kyoto Protocol on climate change; however, it is nothing more than paying for the right to continue polluting so that others, elsewhere in the world, commit to carbon capture with standing forests. In Durban, in 2002, green business took over and beat the hope of any radical changes. Again, in 2009, in Copenhagen, the hope seemed to resurface. Despite pressure from the public, the rulers merely made a statement of vague promises.


This cannot go on! The multiple and combined crises , at the heart of the dominating developed countries spread and contaminate the whole world, which only reinforces the conviction of activists that other world is possible. The industrial, capitalist, productivist consumer paradigm is being eroded by its own contradictions. Merely shuffling elements will not bring out change.


In the case of the Rio + 20 Conference it all seems to occur at the same time. The crisis works as an excuse for government leaders not to commit themselves. When Obama visited Brazil this year he was in Rio and triggered his attack against Libya and spoke about almost everything, even about the World Soccer Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016, but made no mention of this Conference which is so vital for humanity and the planet. On the other hand, what are European leaders doing to cause Rio + 20 to be different? Does the eurozone crisis justify this silence? And can we expect something from Japan after the earthquakes, seaquakes and nuclear leaks? The “emerging countries” – such as us, Brazilians – with ambitions for rapid growth at any cost are part of the problem not of the solution. What should be done if the chairman of the Rio + 20 Conference is a Chinese ambassador from the UN? The conference will be held in Brazil, but our agenda will include the resumption of nuclear plants, oil from pre-salt layers, the large dams in the Amazonian, and to make matters worse, the flexibilization of the Forestry Code. The scenario could not be more demoralizing.


As to the content of the conference, very little or practically nothing can be expected from it. Green economy is the main topic; something more palpable to talk about than sustainability, which at least adds relevance to the relation between society and nature to a greater extent. To rate as green an economy whose logic is to accumulate wealth above all, to continue changing and marketing life and nature causing destruction and inequalities even in the name of employment, is nothing else but the opening of a new business front. The issue of governance, also in terms of regulations, is simply another obstacle, since it consists of empowering organizations at the UN to govern the “green business”. To conclude, the format is not that of a leading member’s summit, but of a ministerial conference, empty by definition.


The rising global citizenship, in its diversity of dissonant identities and voices, has nothing to expect from Rio + 20. We must believe in our capacity to institute and constitute members, called to unveil contradictions and cause history to move forward at specific moments in time. I think we are facing a major challenge and possibility: the challenge of being so bold as to dream with impossible changes which humanity and the planet need in order to transform the paradigm. The challenge is also to have the courage to make unimaginable proposals and act to turn them into reality. This is how human history is forged, with its right and wrong turns.


We have a chance to use time efficiently until the Rio+20 Conference takes place and to reverse the game, create the vibrant space of the global citizenship for the sustainability of life and the planet. Instead of reacting to what is proposed and discussed at the official conference or to organize parallel events, let us have the main event as that of the citizenship, where representatives of this official conference react to our proposals and claims. This is our method of active citizenship, where the number of persons involved in a cause turns into political quality and transforming forces. We need to occupy and expand public space, politicize economy and life, radicalize claims by democratizing democracy itself, diverse, but with planetary dimensions and impact. The recipe is simple: mobilization, participation and pressure, believing in the strength of our dreams and ideas, making bold proposals.


Let us turn Rio 2012 into a time for global indignation and citizen change. We need to assert our citizen power, deeply-rooted in the diversity of our essence and the situations we experience, the strength of our ideas, the richness of our experiences in forging the future right now, in our ability to build networks and mobilize, in our political influence. As the poet says, “he who knows makes it happen; he does not let it happen”