This week, 20 years on from the historic 1992 UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the world’s leaders will gather in that same beautiful city to do some reconvening. Except that they wont. Or at least the leaders from the biggest nations won’t.
This is an event that could mean so much for the planet we live on, a conference that has the potential to bring decision makers together and put in place the changes that need to be made to help save the environment. It is a disgrace that Barack Obama, David Cameron and Angela Merkel have chosen not to be involved. Even François Hollande, who could have used the half decent excuse of recently being elected, is making the effort to attend.
Speculation and chatter in the run up to the event has not exactly been filled with optimism. Some commentators and environmental agency’s see it as another token ‘get together’, a chance for nations to look serious for a week and then forget about the planet for another 20 years. That may or may not have been true, but now that the leaders of the most powerful and influential nations on earth will be a no show, it is likely to just be a get together.
It was a different matter 20 years ago. Although the outcomes for the environment could always have been better, the overall success of the 1992 conference was unprecedented. Presidents, Prime ministers and Kings signed up to a legally binding convention covering biodiversity and climate-change agreement in the form of the historic Kyoto protocol, a 6,000-page blueprint for action. It was a philosophical paper linking poverty to environmental degradation and new initiatives to help save the great forests.
20 years ago the Earth Summit was full of words such as ‘environment’, ‘climate-change’, ‘ecology’, ‘forests’, ‘eco-regions’, ‘fossil-fuels’ and ‘scarcity of water’ to name but a few. This year the pages of the aims and objectives scream out with two words; ‘development’ and ‘economy’. Whilst this event must rightly take into account the worlds economic woes and the fact we now have over 7 billion people on a planet which surely isn’t (in the long run at least) equipped to hold this many humans;, the leaders that turn up in Rio this week must not forget the main reason they are gathering there; the plight of the natural world.
For our own sake, as the most advanced species this planet has ever hosted, we must reconnect with the natural world. For it is that world, the landscape around us, the creatures, the plants and the air we take life from which will determine how comfortably and perhaps more poignantly, how long planet Earth will tolerate us. Make no mistake about it; tolerating is exactly what it is doing.