Rio + 20 turned out to be much worse than anyone could have predicted. The slogan ‘The Future We Want’ is assured a place in history as a moment when the corporate world, its lobbyists and the politicians who are too lazy to look at the issues for themselves, may have succeeded in taking control of mainstream environmental process for global sustainability. But that vital social element intrinsically linked to environmental and economic sustainable progress was ignored to the extent that any mention of sustainable development at Rio was erroneous.
Proven in England’s NPPF debate was the fact that so many commentators from the corporate world and policy makers & shapers simply do not understand the most basic premise of Sustainable Development and assume it to mean sustained economic growth. This was clearly what many policy makers attending Rio+20 also assume.
It was a defining moment; it was the moment when two directions were born – theirs and ours. The future is not certain, although we know what they want, we do not know quite yet what will become the standard guidelines taken by us who clearly want a future that will actually be sustainable.
And is this division such a bad thing? As many governments across the globe have clearly spoken on behalf of lobbyists rather than their population is this not the time to simply progress towards true sustainability and ignore them, as they will us. The funding from their financial commitments will never ever be allowed to fall into the hands of those that actually understand or practice sustainability so why should we allow ourselves to be upset by this.
The Uruguayian President, Jose Mujic, made a speech which whilst receiving a feeble splatter of hand clapping at Rio + 20, was perhaps the only speech worthy of further publicity:
“Development cannot fly in the face of happiness, it should promote human happiness, love, human relations, relationships between parents, children and friends is the most important treasure we have in life and when we fight for the environment the first element of environment is human happiness”
The starting block in realising sustainable development when taking proper account of the social element are communities in their landscape, wherever in the world that may be. And it is or should be embarrassing that western democracies cannot grasp the very simple fact that those fighting to protect their rights to live a happy lifestyle in their landscape, without the burdens of the inflicted addiction caused by over consumption, may be perfectly comfortable in their landscapes so long as it isn’t at risk from being removed from them by those wishing to offset their guilty conscience.
And there is a rapidly growing movement in the landscapes of western countries that is also very much at odds with the chosen direction of policy makers through what they have been fed by their more powerful lobbyists. The problem for them is that it is not a small band of hippies – a possible risk of some activists climbing a tree, but a core group of public, practitioners and professionals from all backgrounds, political leanings or none at all but who either have continued with sustainable development since before the first attempts at explaining it to policy makers, or have come into it subsequently through seeking a lifestyle to improve the well being of themselves, their families and their wider community.
Are they really going to stand back and watch the celebrations of their efforts branded with corporate logos? Absolutely not. Without clear commitment to help towards a map to help people in making the decisions for their landscapes themselves, what else can be expected but what policy makers and developers would label Nimbyism.
The abyss created between communities in their place and the corporate world by the feeble ‘Future We Want’ text at Rio+20 relinquishes any duty from our policy makers in producing effective policy making with regards sustainable development. But unfortunately they will only do the right thing in these times of austerity and back off when the last of the money committed by corporations has been used up – but this won’t take long as the PR and media army is a hungry army.