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
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’
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
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
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?