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Report from Rio+20 by Kosha Joubert

Saturday 16-6-2012

Macaco Tamerice (GEN-Europe President) and myself, Kosha Joubert (GEN-International President), have arrived at the Rio+20 - United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development – meeting up with representatives from the broader networks of GEN, Gaia Education and Transition Town. At the Rio-Conference in 1992, when the term 'Sustainable Development' was coined as a 'new economic model', the sense of urgency was present.
Now, twenty years later, with the economic, social and environmental crises omnipresent, the sense of urgency has increased to the point where, at times,  my belly is hurting and my head is spinning. Many of us 'activists' are accepting that we actually need to slow down, shift awareness, love more, prioritise carefully, do less - activism in itself does not hold the solutions…it needs to be coupled with a deepening of connectedness and awareness.

Rio 2012 - what a city - what an event…

Much of the beauty and pain, hope and despair, good intentions and blindness of the world are reflected here.
The conference will produce more good intentions and more written agreements - the actual outcomes will depend on governments and corporates changing their ways – we have seen how resistant those in power are.

Please check out the new GEN-Slideshow on www.gen.ecovillages.org - thank you to all from the broader GEN-networks for working on creating solutions that can be seen, touched, felt, tasted - a future worth choosing! 

We will be present at Gaia Home and at the GEN-TT-Gaia Education Stand in the People's Summit.

Sunday 17-6-2012

Today Kosha and Macaco went with May East to a fishbowl in one of the official UN side-meetings, where Kosha and May were invited to speak. Ana Rhodes together with Daniel Wahl were attending the meeting as well.Amongst the speakers there was one of the Thirteen Grandmothers and many other engaged people. One of the outcomes of the meeting was, that beside the urgency of the moment, felt by all participants, the fact to integrate the awareness that you can only do what you can and a personal feeling of inadequacy exists without loosing the hope that we can make it.

In the afternoon at Gaia Home Macaco presented after Albert Bates. She talked about the social dimensions in communities, about the necessity to be willing to embrace personal transformation in community life and Damanhur as an example of a socially structured reality. She involved everyone in an exercise to find out together the core principles of creating thriving communities. The presentation ended  with a newly compiled slide-show of images from ecovillages and communities all over the world (see www.gen.ecovillages.org)

In the evening there all the Geese organisers in Rio had a lovely dinner together with typical Brazilian food.

Monday 18-6-2012

Today we spend the whole day in Gaia Home, drinking in the atmosphere of the People’s Summit. Art, demonstrations, music, heated voices, many tribal people, proud and strong in their colourful attires. The diversity of life is vibrant here – in comparison with the rather clinical atmosphere in the official conference. The community of Terra Una is hosting the tent, making sure visitors feel welcome. 

It is a day of encounters. Gjohn George and Namita from GEN-India; the tribal villages in Orissa have arrived. In the morning I had an inspiring lunch with Rob Wheeler from Alaska, who is working with tribal networks and who wants to connect to GEN.

Tuesday 19-6-2012

This has been the most inspiring of all events I’ve visited so far: “Women Leading the Way – Mobilizing for an Equitable, Resilient and Thriving Future” with a panel of Vandana Shiva, environmental activist and founder of ‘Navdanya’, a women’s movement for the protection of biological and cultural diversity; Marina Silva, who at the age of 36 became the youngest senator in the history of Brazil and Environmental Minister during President Lula’s administration; Sheyla Juruna, indigenous leader from the Xingu Basin of the Brazilian Amazon, who has been fought tirelessly against the building of the Belo Monte Dam; and a representative from La Via Campesina. 

Today, after 10 days of negotiations in what some call the ‘Political Theatre’ of the official conference, the outcome document has reached its final form before the government heads start their process of signing and probably further watering it down. There is widespread agreement here amongst the women and civil society movements that the document is significantly weaker than it was 20 years ago. Some are starting to call this the “Rio minus 20 Conference”. We truly cannot afford to regress in Global Policy Making, but that seems to be exactly what is happening. In the document there is no basic recognition of the fact that our current crisis has been created by a flawed, anthropocentric model of growth and development. The rights of women, indigenous peoples and nature are being relegated further into the background. 

The women here are clear that the so-called ‘Green Economy’-concept, as propagated in the document, prioritizes economic growth above equity and environmental protection. The Women’s Major Group held a silent demonstration within the official meeting to show their anger. 
Vandana Shiva’s comment: ‘I am not depressed with the text because I did not come here for another text. I came here for solidarity. No text can capture the force of life’. Sheyla Juruna: ‘Sustainability cannot grow out of destruction. We want our rivers alive and free for life. The government of Brazil is crushing its own constitution and taking away the rights of the indigenous peoples in the name of sustainable development.’ 

The women agree that we are facing a crisis of civilization that is at its base a crisis of values. As long as money works to safeguard the interests of money and politics works to safeguard the interests of staying in power, we will not see change. Vandana Shiva, truly a bold speaker, shocks the room with her final statement: “Here in Rio, we are witnessing the death of democracy”. Fortunately she goes on: “And we will resurrect democracy bottom-up.” 

But how? How can we take the step from collective stupidity to collective wisdom? Many NGO’s have been investing enormous amounts of resources and efforts in influencing the negotiation process here in Rio. Many feel disappointed and angry at the outcomes. It seems to have become a part of the structural design of these big UN-events that the ‘People’s Summit’ and civil society is separated through sheer distance from the main conference area where the governments meet. In earlier times, or at smaller UN-conferences, where ministers can mill through NGO-stands and conversations ensue, the possibility of breaking through barriers and worldviews was and is much more available.

Walking our talk on the ground in widening circles of solidarity, and trusting that we are coming up not only to tipping points in climate change and the monetary system, but also in the realm of human awareness, gives many of us a strong sense of hope amidst despair. As we talk to the people coming to Gaia Home to hear more about GEN, Transition Town, Gaia Education; as we meet the vibrant newly birthed networks of CASA (El Consejo de Asentamientos Sustentables de las Américas - GEN-Latin America); it certainly feels as if the sum total of the good intentions of the peoples is reaching a tipping point in human spirit. This is a multi-centered crisis, calling for multi-centered approaches to solutions. These are exciting times.

Wednesday 20-6-2012

Today, the heads of state arrive, and on the ground, demonstrations are already taking place. Since the early hours helicopters are circling over Rio, dogs are barking, sirens are going off and there is tension in the air. In Rio itself, impoverished communities are being relocated to make space, not only for Rio+20, but also for the upcoming Football World Cup in 2014 and Olympics in 2016. In practice, this means that inhabitants of small favela’s are being forced to pack up, carted off in trucks and dropped 30 and more miles further out from the city center. There is despair on many levels here.

Soon, we will go out to join the hopefully more artistic and peaceful part of the demonstrations. Given the sounds, I feel nervous – at the same time looking forward to gaining another taste of the Brazilian way of doing things with warmth and enthusiasm…

Article from Giovanni Ciarlo

You can read the reflections and conclusions of Giovanni Ciarlo about Rio conference and the People's Summit, here.

You can also follow the events at Rio+20 on the Blog of the Findhorn Foundation.
Links to older blog entries can be found on the left side of the page:



And you can have a look at Albert Bates's Blog containing articles about RIO+20. 


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