“Stealing the future to sell it in the present, and then calling what we make GDP”
Prince Charles quoting Paul Hawken (Environmentalist Author) to make his point about “Accounting for Sustainability”. We need a new way to measure economic prosperity, that isn’t just about the money.
Businesses have a responsibility too.
Prince Charles, your work to promote environmental issues makes me want to stand up and sing the national anthem. Unfortunately I only know the first four words.
Also, can you start making audiobooks?
I was so excited for Rio+20. In my naive twenty-something way, I thought the global increase in awareness of the value of our environment would help urge governments to actually make a stand, to change things, revolutionize the way we treat nature, as they did in 1992. The first Earth summit was ground breaking. The international treaty ‘Agenda 21’ thrust sustainable development into the firing line. Imagine, with the huge amount of knowledge we’ve gained since then, what could be done at Rio +20?!
It was also the first time Oceans have appeared as a topic for discussion in a conference like this. Rainforests has gotten tonnes of attention since the 80s. International recognition of the importance of oceanic habitats have sorely been neglected. Maybe because we don’t feel connected to the Oceans, or maybe because the task of regulating and policing the seven seas is so mammoth no one wanted to take it on. Regardless, the “Blue Economy” was finally getting some face time!
So what happened? Well, not a lot apparently.
The ‘outcomes’ of the conference, a document entitled ‘The Future We Want’ has recieved huge amounts of criticism. Outcomes from international conferences like these are promises of action. What we got from Rio+20 was a document called “The Future We Want” and has been described as more of a “we’ve reached general agreement on some watered down concepts and will consider to do some things in the future about them” document.
But then I found a post by Glenn Prickett from the Nature Conservancy, all about the silver lining. Ok, the outcomes weren’t as earth shattering as we hoped, but he writes some valid points on what we can get excited about.
“First, nations rich and poor recognize that nature has value.
- Since Stockholm, we’ve tried to balance the economy and the environment, as though human well-being and healthy nature are competing objectives. We conducted environmental diplomacy like arms control: figuring out how to get countries to do things for the good of the planet — like reducing greenhouse gas emissions — that weren’t in their immediate self-interest.
- In Rio, we saw something else. Leaders of developing and developed nations stepped forward with commitments to conserve nature because it benefits their people. The Nature Conservancy was proud to support a gathering of Leaders Valuing Nature, where leaders of countries as diverse as Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Colombia, Grenada (pictured above), Indonesia, and Seychelles announced commitments to protect their oceans, coasts, rivers, and forests for food security, water supply, infrastructure and other economic and social goals. The World Bank organized a pledge by over fifty countries to include the value of “natural capital” in their national economic accounts.
Second, business has a stake in nature’s value.
- One of the most striking differences between the Rio summits was the business community’s outlook. A handful of visionary companies came to Rio in 92 to encourage action, and almost as many came to block it. Since then, business has woken up to sustainability. Leaders like Walmart, GE, Dow, DuPont and Unilever have recognized that helping customers address environmental challenges is good business. As a result, hundreds of companies came to Rio this year.
And finally, societies aren’t waiting for their governments to agree.
- Perhaps the most encouraging signal from Rio was the turnout itself — nearly three times the number of people who attended the Earth Summit in 1992. Sustainability has become a truly global movement. Empowered by two decades of democratization and globalization, civil society is more powerful than ever. NGOs are driving governments and businesses to act. Communities around the world are creating their own solutions to global environmental problems.
So the legacy of Rio+20 might be that governments, businesses and civil society finally realize that nature has value for people. Of course we’ve known this all along, but we haven’t set up the institutions and policies that govern our lives this way. Doing so would revolutionize the world for the better.
#Riofail? I don’t think so.”
On Wednesday 20 June, 2012 17-year-old Brittany Trilford of Wellington, New Zealand addressed 130 heads of state at the opening plenary of the Rio+20 UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This is her speech.