Dr. Andrew Venter Blog
Civil activism – the way forward?
July 2, 2012
Another mega environmental gathering is over, and once again there is global disappointment over the outcomes. As Murray Griffin puts it (www.bloomberg.com) “The result from Rio+20 is so lacklustre, leaders and their delegates declined to bequeath it one of the grandiloquent titles normally attached to such things. It is not a Rio+20 Declaration, nor even a “roadmap”. It is simply, awkwardly, uninspiringly, a “Rio+20 Outcomes Document”. COP 17 attracted similar criticism and there is a general sense of gloom with regards any meaningful global pact from COP 18 later this year.
Does this mean that these processes are a total waste of time and that there is no chance of our leaders ever demonstrating the vision and commitment required to craft a sustainable future for us? Clearly this is a real possibility. However, I remain positive and believe that there is a whole lot more to these processes than we realise. Fundamentally, the outcomes of these gatherings reflect the shift in global power and influence. In the 1990’s, gatherings of this nature were substantially funded by the USA and European Union, who led discussions and were able to “incentivise” outcomes through promises of aid and investment. This influence has waned over the past decade as a group of the “developing” nations have grown in stature and the economic and political woes of the USA and Europe have accelerated. The shift in this balance has allowed these nations to challenge the old “colonialist” type agenda’s.
Explicit in this process are a number of real ethical dilemmas. How can developed nations prescribe a low carbon economy, when theirs is a high carbon economy? How can they prescribe the protection of forest resources when they have deforested their landscape? The developing nations argue that their citizens have the right to enjoy the same quality of life that the citizens of developed nations do. They are also clearly pursuing this dream. Unfortunately, there is increasing evidence that our planet can simply not support the achievement of this vision on a business as usual basis; Hence the growing panic in the environmental sector.
Personally, I don’t believe that a global compact is going to make a difference. I believe that civil activism will. These gatherings are very important in this regard as every gathering lifts the debate, generates greater awareness and nurtures increasing activism. I also believe that the Governments of the Nations pursuing the “developed” dream are acutely aware of this growing activism, and are thus actively innovating and piloting solutions that could enable this dream without us reaching an “environmental tipping point”. This is a high risk strategy, as it will probably involve pushing the limits of global warming and climate change. I’d like to know what you thinkGo back