Sunday, July 1, 2012

Day 2: Rio +20

The question remains: are these big conferences worth the effort in this age of political inaction? By most accounts Rio +20 was a huge failure that might signal the end to such huge-scale endeavors, or at least the death of optimism about them. The positive spin holds that for the first time, each of the three huge and geographically disparate conference venues hosted representatives from government, private, and non-profit sectors, signaling new collaborations... (click title to read more)

Rio +20 Venue
 Main themes included 1) natural capital accounting - states taking inventory of various natural resources as a baseline against which to measure the impact of extraction of one resources on the health of the other 2) greening of markets - the role of the private sector in advancing sustainability principles, not as "corporate social responsibility" but as the only economically viable choice 3) "Blue," the role of oceans in climate change and the "other carbon problem" - ocean acidification.
The scale of the conference was stunning. (I guess you need somewhere to put 50,000+ people): three venues across the city, the one we visited an hour bus ride from our hotel, the size of 50 football fields. Consensus held that Rio had been overwhelmed and unprepared hosting Rio +20, lacking infrastructure and planning to manage the 50,000 visitors, with consequences of lodging and traffic, with serious implications for the impending 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. But security was out in full force, with armed guard in camouflage and even barriers and diplomatic motorcades with guards in front of the hotel and distinct military and policy presence on streets and at tourist destinations like Corcovado. A Rio native I met who worked in the justice department  reported cynically of a tacit agreement between police and gangs, “don’t do anything during Rio +20, then you can go back to your devices…” For me it was exciting to finally see this type of event, after so much reading and teaching about events like COPs. The scale was much bigger than I'd even imagined. It's common knowledge that any productive conversations happen behind closed doors and after hours.
Rio +20 Venue
The Role of the Private Sector

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