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Tagged with Earth Summit


After the Earth Summit, young people push for real change

Young people protested at the Earth Summit in Rio last month. (Photo courtesy of Adopt a Negotiator.)

There are two ways to respond when you watch the world's leaders attempt to solve the planet's most pressing problems and fail: You can despair or you can raise hell.

After watching the 2009 climate talks in Copenhagen collapse, many bright-eyed young people despaired, suffering through months of what can only be described as a "Hopenhagen" hangover. More recently, when the diplomats at the Rio+20 Earth Summit produced a policy document with all the weight of a fluffy pink cloud, we watched the cloud pass and decided to get down to business.


The Earth Summit debacle: Why our leaders don’t have game

Photo by John LeGear.

As those of us who attended the Rio+20 Earth Summit get back into the daily grind, and those who weren't in Rio have already forgotten it ever happened, we begin to realize the mistakes that were made and the lessons we can learn.

As a young person who will live with the results of Rio+20 for years to come, it is already feeling like a missed opportunity for something much better. The slogan that was bandied about, plastered onto the wall of the conference center, and put at the top of the final "outcome document" was "the future we want," but the "we" clearly didn’t refer to the young people who were at the summit, or the many who didn't even consider going.

Read more: Politics


Rio hangover: 50,000 people rallied for the Earth Summit. Did it do any good?

The Earth Summit is mercifully over, leaving us all to wonder: What the hell happened last week? Did the end result justify the 3,600 tons of CO2 generated by the U.N. delegation alone? And has anyone seen my pants?

Rio+20 was like Carnival without the party -- unless you consider 50,000 people cramming into conference centers, soccer stadiums, and makeshift meeting halls, all struggling to access the internet and navigate between venues as much as three hours apart by bus a good time.

The official summit and negotiations were, as we predicted, a bomb. The final “outcome document” [PDF], signed by world leaders last Friday, brings empty political speak to new heights. The 49-page tome amounts to a long list of “acknowledgements,” “affirmations,” and “underscorings” of statements and agreements already put in writing years or decades ago.

In a nutshell, the leaders of the world said, “We recognize that we are in deep doo-doo, and we need to do something about it.” What that “something” is remains unclear.


After the Rio Earth Summit: Will agriculture really get any greener?

If last week’s Rio+20 Earth Summit made anything clear to those of us at home, it's the degree to which the world’s developed nations have been sitting on their hands since the original Earth Summit 20 years ago. As Grist's Greg Hanscom reported from the summit, the "outcome document" was negotiated before the week started, and “the overwhelming feeling [there], even as world leaders and celebrities rolled in for the official pomp and circumstance, was that the summit was over even before it began.”

Meanwhile, Bill McKibben called the event a “formulaic bureaucracy-fest” wherein the only real excitement was a walkout staged by young activists.

So where was food and agriculture in all this? Food was one of seven “critical issues” identified by the U.N. before Rio+20 began, as population growth (we’ll have another 2 billion people on the planet by 2050) and climate change have put the question of food access into sharp focus. But a quick look at the “issue brief” prepared before the summit will tell you most of what you need to know about the vast chasm that exists between the kinds of goals articulated in meetings like this and the level of real change occurring on the ground. “Global delivery of the food security and sustainable agriculture-related commitments has been disappointing,” the brief reads. And it’s easy to see why; a table reporting on target goals set as early as 1995 is filled with stalled progress, lack of funding, and a general dearth of political will. Here are a few examples:



Rio grand: Scenes from the Earth Summit [SLIDESHOW]

The Earth Summit in Rio may be over, but just like spring break, the triumphs, tragedies, and terrible judgment calls will live on in memory. Here are some of our favorite moments captured in all their photographic glory. For more of Grist’s Earth Summit coverage, click here.


Arnold ‘Terminates’ commitment to Rio Earth Summit

President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron were both big no-shows during the Rio Earth Summit this week, but in the surest sign that this party was a bust, even former Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger decided not to come. This is a bit surprising, because he's no stranger to the allure of the Marvelous City -- and now that he's on his way to being single again, this could've been the perfect opportunity to pick up where he left off:

Schwarzenegger was scheduled to help hand out the Sustainia awards Wednesday evening, but reportedly got tied up with a movie shoot. Mmm hmmm. If not even the language of love could lure him to Rio this week, we must assume he had more important affairs to deal with. Ahem.

But really, who could blame him for staying home? The Earth Summit wraps up today with an endless stream of near-identical speeches from world leaders and their surrogates. (Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke for the U.S.: “Good morning” blah blah blah, “Brazil’s deft and effective leadership” blah blah blah, “a real advance for sustainable development” blah blah blah, etc.) Later today, bigwigs will sign a final “outcome document,” widely panned as a watered-down and insufficient plan that provides exactly zero help in meeting the challenges of creating a green economy for the globe. Afterwards, they’ll all probably go out for a show and a couple of caipirinhas.

All of which means we may have to wait until Rio+40 before we see Arnold reprise his carnival debauchery. Consider me and the internet crushed.

Read more: Politics


A tale of two summits: Rio People’s Summit is both vibrant and troubled

Catadores, or trash pickers, fight for their rights. (Photo by Paulo Teixeira.)

“I am the son of a catadora,” begins João Paolo de Jesus, sounding like someone who has told his life story a few times before. “I lived around the open pit dump from the time I was 7 until I was 11 or 12.”

João Paolo’s mother was a trash picker, one of thousands of people in Brazil who subsist by sifting through society’s castoffs, gleaning copper, aluminum, plastics, and paper for sale to scrap dealers and recycling companies. The two of them lived near an open dump in Salvador, Brazil’s third-largest city. At 26, João Paolo has taken up the trade as well, and he is working to build pride and legitimacy for catadores locally and across the country.

The effort has brought João Paolo and several dozen other catadores to Rio this week under the banner of the National Movement of Collectors of Recyclable Materials -- the Movimento -- for the People’s Summit, a grassroots alternative to the Rio+20 Earth Summit.

Read more: Cities, Politics


In Rio, disappointment, discontent — and a few silver linings

The first official day of the Rio+20 Earth Summit brought clouds, light rain, and a whole lot of sad-face among those who have worked for months to make the meeting a success. The overwhelming feeling here, even as world leaders and celebrities rolled in for the official pomp and circumstance, was that the summit was over even before it began. Still, not everyone was despondent.

The final “outcome document,” to be signed by heads of state at the end of the week, was “closed” to changes Tuesday night, and while there is a chance that it could be opened for further discussion, Brazilian leaders, who are shepherding the document to completion, have stated that they don’t intend to let that happen. By most accounts, the agreement is a great disappointment.


Why women’s needs must be part of the conversation at Rio

Photo by U.K. Department for International Development.

The outcome document for this week’s Rio+20 summit is 49 pages long. Some 23,917 words.

Women were mentioned in less than 0.01 percent of the text. And only two of the 283 sections addressed women’s needs for family planning.

At first, this might not seem like a big deal. It’s easy to think of Rio as a purely environmental conference, dealing with issues related to sustainable development and a green economy. It’s easy to say that Rio is not about "women's issues."

Well, we have some news for you: You can’t have sustainable development without women.

Read more: Population


Updates from the Rio Earth Summit, day one

The Earth Summit in Rio begins today. What's that? You thought it started weeks ago? Very understandable.

You can watch the plenary sessions here, or streaming below.

Later today, 17 year-old Brittany Trilford will speak to the assembly. (You can read Greg Hanscom's interview with her here.) We'll update this post after she does.