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Rio+20: Listen to communities
By Pandurang Hegde



We can not save the Mother Earth by allowing the corporate sector to take the lead in shaping the 'green economy'. The green policies must be based on the voices of communities, indigenous people and people's movements. But the question is whether the world leaders are willing to listen and pay heed to the wisdom of common people?


Environmental activists in a protest march during the UN Conference on
Sustainable Development, or Rio 20, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
(Photo courtesy: AAP)

Four decades since the Stockholm conference on Environment, representatives of almost 140 countries will meet in Rio to finalise a blue print of a Green Economy. This blue print has been prepared with an aim to rescue the planet from the multiple crises of climate change and increasing threats to survival of numerous forms of life including human beings.

What are the chances of success in chartering such a road map? Will the world leaders be able to agree on a common course of action to address this crisis? Will they be able to cater to the needs of local communities as well as address the macro level policies that have global impact on use of natural resources like forests, oceans and water? Will they agree on the agricultural policies that do not poison the soil and environment, and are able to overcome the food crisis? Will they be able to rein in the greedy corporates which plunder the natural resources forcing the national governments to jettison the democratic processes?

The Stockholm Conference in 1972 did succeed in creating awareness on the emerging ecological problems like destruction of forests and impact of polluting industries. Developed as well as developing countries enacted statues to protect environment and control pollution while addressing the problem with ‘human’ perspective.

Two decades later, in 1992, the Earth Summit in Rio was held to reaffirm the commitment to protect our Planet which gave us Agenda 21, the UN convention on Climate Change, the biodiversity convention, the precautionary principle, all under the banner of ‘sustainable development’. These rhetorical conventions, endorsed by most countries, except USA, did generate hope among people.

“International Environmental Governance systems reveal little rationality, methodology or connection between various parts. Rather, we find immensely complex disorder of more than 500 environmental agreements, disengaged institutions and bodies, and unsupported commitments”.

However, the reality is that this approach failed miserably in handling the environmental crises. Angela Cropper of UNEP has categorically stated, “International Environmental Governance systems reveal little rationality, methodology or connection between various parts. Rather, we find immensely complex disorder of more than 500 environmental agreements, disengaged institutions and bodies, and unsupported commitments”.

Obviously, the good intentions of the world leaders at Rio never realised and in practice the corporate powers took control of the entire process of development in which the material prosperity brought out by ravaging nature was considered the ideal for human prosperity.

Though Rio+20 provides another opportunity to review the policies which have failed to yield results and to reorganize the environmental governance, there are apprehensions as to who will control this green economy and who will be the beneficiary.

Though the ‘green economy’ is vague and poorly defined, it is the main agenda for world leaders to arrive at a common understanding and the UN agencies are preceding with Zero draft to green wash the agenda. The emphasis is on evolving new green technologies propagated by business leaders to implement the dream of ‘green policies’ to save the Earth.

The crisis in Eurozone countries and its worldwide impact is forcing the leaders to act fast to save their currencies and countries. And the easy option is to embrace the pre set green agenda drafted by UN agencies under the influence of corporate interests.

The green technological revolution focuses on replacing the petroleum based economy with the biomass. This is said to be the post fossil free future based on biological feedstock transformed through new technologies developed by corporate giants. The recent trends indicate the power of nano-technology and synthetic biology which can transform biomass into high value products under the banner of ‘green’ technologies. But, will these new technological tools help us to overcome the environmental crisis or will it be just hype?

The crisis in Eurozone countries and its worldwide impact is forcing the leaders to act fast to save their currencies and countries. And the easy option is to embrace the pre set green agenda drafted by UN agencies under the influence of corporate interests. This becomes evident as we see the pressures on emerging economies like India to open their markets to face the onslaught of corporate power. In order to address the issue of food security they are asked to adopt genetically modified food crops that would destroy the food sovereignty of communities.

Four decades of environmental practice is the history of declining power of national governments and concentration of economic, financial and political power in the hands of corporate giants. Bhopal is a stark reminder of how they can escape the national laws even after killing thousands. It is doubtful that this monolithic, deeply entrenched system which helps to grab resources for profit will take a back seat in Rio+20.

Though the future is bleak with the dominant corporate sector taking the lead in shaping the ‘green economy’, there are opportunities towards a common goal to implement green policies based on the voices of communities, indigenous people and people’s movements. These diverse ground level experiences with a new set of ethical values towards securing natural resources are the basis for restoring the health of Mother Earth.

But the question is whether the world leaders are willing to listen and pay heed to the wisdom of common people?

 
Disclaimer:
The views expressed above are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of d-sector editorial team.
 

Pandurang Hegde  |  appiko@gmail.com

Pandurang Hegde is a farmer, environmentalist and writer based in Sirsi town in Karnataka. He is well known for launching the Appiko movement which played a key role in protecting many forests from the axe in the Western Ghats region.

Write to the Author  |  Write to d-sector  |  Editor's Note
 


 Other Articles by Pandurang Hegde in
Environment Development  > Conservation > National Policies and Programmes

Green ministry or green signal?
Tuesday, June 05, 2012

During the last eight years of UPA rule, nation's precious natural capital has been exploited at an unprecedented scale on the pretext of ensuring faster economic growth. Now when the GDP growth rate is going downhill, who will compensate the permanent loss to environment for temporary gains?

When the will is weak
Saturday, June 04, 2011

Celebrating the World Environment Day is meaningless if political leadership does not back their words with actions. To save our precious natural resources, we need leaders with broader vision and commitment required to protect the environment. Unfortunately, the current lot lacks the vision and strength necessary to act decisively for the cause of Nature.
 
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The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

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Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

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