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Issue #1554      4 July 2012

Rio+20: Criticism rains down

Criticism of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, known as Rio+20, has rained down from the moment that the draft version was known until the definitive document was signed. Barack Obama did not even attend the event; neither did Angela Merkel, David Cameron and other European leaders in general.

However, there were other voices with more prestige and more forceful arguments than the absentees. Bolivian President Evo Morales recalled at the Conference the message of the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, to the Earth Summit in Brazil 20 years ago.

“End hunger and not humanity… Pay the ecological debt, not the external debt,” affirmed Morales, recalling Fidel’s words and noting in reference to these recommendations that, at this stage, the capitalist debt is unpayable.

The Bolivian leader attacked the so called green economy proclaimed by developed nations, calling it a new mechanism for subjecting the peoples and anti-capitalist governments, and noted that capitalism promotes privatisations, the mercantilism of biodiversity and the genetic resources business.

The green economy is making nature a commodity and converting every tree, every drop of water and all natural beings into a merchandise, subjecting them to the dictatorship of the market, which is privatising wealth and socialising poverty, he added. In his speech, Morales criticised environmentalism as an imperial strategy which quantifies every river, lake, plant and natural product and translates them into money and business profit, temporally safeguarding them for their future private appropriation.

“Capitalism is no solution at all; if we wish to pass into history we must establish economic, ecological and social policies directed at saving life and humanity, and re-launch ourselves toward humanity,” Morales concluded.

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa stated that the rich countries bear the most responsibility for environmental degradation on the planet.

He stated that Ecuador had aspired to a document that would enshrine the rights of nature, in order to save it, “now that financial rescues are in fashion.”

In an interview with the Telesur network, Correa emphasised that while there is no change in the relations of power, there will no agreement to reduce net emissions into the atmosphere or to declare the universal rights of nature, as Ecuador proposed.

It would be difficult to reach a spontaneous and genuine commitment because the rich countries are consuming the environment of the poor nations, he noted.

Referring to the “green economy", Correa said that the concept, as managed by the developed countries, is an attempt to incorporate environmental assets into calculations of the gross domestic product, under the pretext of reducing contamination. In order to lower pollution levels, he commented, one has to change the notion of development based on materialism, accumulation, and consumerism into another, which would allow for sustaining the planet, such as the concept of development in harmony with nature, as advocated by Indigenous populations.

“How can one understand multimillion bank rescues and not multimillion environmental rescues?” he asked.

Thanking the Brazilian government for its political will in organising the summits, Correa observed that they have little value; however, “the problem is not a technical one, but a political one.” For the Ecuadorian President, changes in the relations of power must be brought about by citizens of First World countries who are exploited by the system.

He observed that anyone can sign a document of principles, but asked, “Where are the concrete commitments, where are the emission limits, compensation for contamination, new international agreements, new binding concepts of compensation for net emissions avoided?”

For the Ecuadorian President, the four cardinal points are: “A change in the economic system; in the social context of poverty, inequality is incompatible with conservation; in the environmental context, the rights of nature itself and changing our vision of nature. And the fourth, the cultural dimension.”

Even UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated: “Let me be frank: our efforts have not lived up to the measure of the challenge. Nature does not negotiate with human beings.”

The Rio Summit on Sustainable Development document is “disappointing” given that, 20 years after the Earth Summit, the most pessimistic trends noted in 1992 have become a reality.   

Next article – Syria and the Phantom

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