The Rio + 20 Summit Will Promote Sustainable Deterioration for All

February 25th, 2012

By Dan Miller

United Nations LogoIt does not go far enough.

The much awaited Rio + 20 conference on sustainable development of good stuff for everyone calls for full participation ultimately (although not necessarily at the Summit itself) by all because

Sustainable development requires major groups – women, children and youth, indigenous peoples, non-governmental organisations, local authorities, workers and trade unions, business and industry, the scientific and technological community, and farmers – to play a meaningful role at all levels. It is important to enable all members of civil society to be actively engaged in sustainable development by incorporating their specific knowledge and practical know-how into national and local policy making. In this regard, we also acknowledge the role of national parliaments in furthering sustainable development. (Emphasis added)

As every child knows, children not only have the requisite specific knowledge and practical know-how, they know better than their elders what will be best for the world in which they soon will be fully functioning participants.  They don’t need adults to infect them with cynical and defeatist attitudes.  Children such as these need to impart their sincere and untutored wisdom to the Summit attendees:

Unfortunately, there is no substance to any rumor that these charming and amply informed children — or others — will participate in the Summit as they should.

The draft also acknowledges “the role of national parliaments in furthering sustainable development.”  While an apparent afterthought, such a role will of necessity limit the participation of children and youth. That is a shame.  In the unenlightened United States, the antiquated Constitution limits members of the Senate to those at least thirty years of age and members of the House to those at least twenty-five years of age.  Clearly, it should be amended to make those the upper, rather than the lower, age limits.

According to this possibly cynical article, the conference will be a feel-good sort of thing — “a Festival of Global Greenness” — intended to promote voluntary steps to accomplish multiple but related goals. Those goals are set forth in the United Nations’ own draft preamble:

I. Preamble/Stage Setting

1. We, the heads of State and Government, having met at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 20-22 June 2012, resolve to work together for a prosperous, secure and sustainable future for our people and our planet.

Seal of the President of the U.S.Despite this anticipation, I have seen no official announcement that President Obama will participate. To do so would take precious time away from campaigning leading our country onward and upward toward virtuously sustainable higher fossil fuel prices as his current Energy Secretary urged in 2008.  Presumably, President Obama does not desire to turn the Summit into a crass photo opportunity or other political event.

The U.N. draft continues,

2. We reaffirm our determination to free humanity from hunger and want through the eradication of all forms of poverty and strive for societies which are just, equitable and inclusive, for economic stability and growth that benefits all.

3. We are committed to making every effort to accelerate progress in achieving the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, thus improving the lives of the poorest people.

4. We are also committed to enhancing cooperation and addressing the ongoing and emerging issues in ways which will enhance opportunities for all, be centred on human development while preserving and protecting the life support system of our common home, our shared planet.

5. We urge bold and decisive action on the objective and themes for the conference. We renew our commitment to sustainable development and express our determination to pursue the green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication. We further affirm our resolve to strengthen the institutional framework for sustainable development. Taken together our actions should fill the implementation gaps and achieve greater integration among the three pillars of sustainable development – the economic, the social and the environmental.

Is the chosen venue the best?

Rio, the venue chosen for the Summit, is of course in Brazil, the most developed and prosperous nation in all of South America.

Characterized by large and well-developed agricultural, mining, manufacturing, and service sectors, Brazil’s economy outweighs that of all other South American countries, and Brazil is expanding its presence in world markets. Since 2003, Brazil has steadily improved its macroeconomic stability, building up foreign reserves, and reducing its debt profile by shifting its debt burden toward real denominated and domestically held instruments. In 2008, Brazil became a net external creditor and two ratings agencies awarded investment grade status to its debt. After record growth in 2007 and 2008, the onset of the global financial crisis hit Brazil in September 2008. Brazil experienced two quarters of recession, as global demand for Brazil’s commodity-based exports dwindled and external credit dried up. However, Brazil was one of the first emerging markets to begin a recovery. Consumer and investor confidence revived and GDP growth returned to positive in 2010, boosted by an export recovery. Brazil’s strong growth and high interest rates make it an attractive destination for foreign investors. Large capital inflows over the past year have contributed to the rapid appreciation of its currency and led the government to raise taxes on some foreign investments. President Dilma ROUSSEFF has pledged to retain the previous administration’s commitment to inflation targeting by the Central Bank, a floating exchange rate, and fiscal restraint.

Brazil also has huge oil reserves, many of them recently discovered.

Currently the world’s ninth largest oil producer, Brazil believes it may become one of the top four or five oil producers in a few years. But a recent spill 200 miles off the country’s famous beaches has brought home the pitfalls of deep-sea drilling.

As I noted here,

Much of that oil will be sold to China, already Brazil’s biggest investor and trade partner:

Published ahead of a planned visit by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff to China next month, [a] report said Chinese firms have announced investments of nearly $30 billion in Brazil, including $8.6 billion currently under negotiation.

The energy and mining sectors represented 90 percent of those investments, the report by the Brazil-China Business Council said.

But Chinese investors have also made direct or indirect purchases of Brazilian farm lands, especially for soy production.

China is seeking “a base for supplies of natural resources,” the study said.

Brazilian exports to China have also climbed rapidly, from $1 billion in 2000 to $30.7 billion last year:

These exports — mostly in soybeans, iron ore, oil and other commodities — helped Brazil secure an estimated $5 billion annual trade surplus with China.

Most Brazilian imports from China are manufactured products, which soared from $1.2 billion in 2000 to $25.5 billion in 2010.

Since Brazilian oil is uniquely carbon-free, it will be green and environmentally friendly, a great boon to the sustainable development of China. That will benefit the entire planet.

Copacabana Beach

Copacabana Beach, Rio

Rio is also a tremendous tourist destination with great restaurants and entertainment.  Obviously, that had nothing to do with its selection as the venue for the Summit; such matters are never considered even briefly.

My modest Proposal

Despite all of the obvious advantages Rio offers for the Summit, the organizers seem to have overlooked at least one small but very important point: a goal of the Summit is to encourage the engagement of all sectors of society, from children to national parliaments and from the most to the least oppressed.  Sadly, with the venue in Rio that does not seem to be in the cards.  To right this wrong, the Summit must be held in a country where the people are the most oppressed and least engaged, where children are well aware of the implications of starvation and poverty. The Democratic People’s Republic of [North] Korea is one possibility, Afghanistan and Iran are others.  Somalia would also be a good choice. All are poor but civilized nations in which the evils of corruption are unknown and therefore cannot impair prospects for sustainable development for the betterment of all people everywhere.  Clearly, they desire only the betterment of all through peace and understanding, presumably with green energy and sustainable development.  Any of those nations would provide Summit attendees ample opportunity to observe at first hand, to mingle with and to solicit the views of, all sectors of society — from the youngest to the oldest and from the most oppressed to the most oppressive.  Only through first hand observations and interactions of this sort can the attendees agree upon Summit outcomes most likely to achieve their laudable  goals.

(This article was also posted at Dan Miller’s Blog.)

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