Rio+20 - The future we don't want
Sustainable development, promised at the Earth summit in 1992, failed because it was equated with economic growth, consumerism and increased corporate power. Without sharing wealth, knowledge and power, humankind will not survive.
Two cleavages have emerged in humankind: between classes, those who own capital and those who only possess their labor force; and between values and ways of living, those who profess the faith in the unlimited accumulation of material wealth, ignoring the fact that the planet’s resources are limited, and those who already practice a socio-economy built upon happy sobriety, aware that we can be happy consuming less material goods and living in harmonious solidarity among humans and with the other beings on Earth.
Despite the voluntary commitments taken by elites in official Summits (from Rio92 to Rio+20), the indicators of how far we have failed in the last 20 years are astounding: global GDP, +75%; carbon emissions,+36%; melting of the Arctic floe, +35%; annual rhythm of melting of glaciers, +100%; world population, +26%. While food production has increased 45%; one third of this total (1.3 billion tons) is wasted; agriculture uses 70% of water consumed, and food is grossly mal-distributed shown in the fact that those who are malnourished (more than 1 billion plus) is matched by a similar figure for the number of obese. Income inequality has continued to rise: global income held by the richest 20% grew from 82.7% to 91.5%; the fraction held by the poorest 20% fell 20 times, from 1.4% to 0.07%. This has been reflected in growing inequality in life expectancy: for the richest 20%, there has been an increase from 77 to 79 years; for the poorest 20%, a decrease from 46 to 44 years of life (UNDP).
These indicators prove the failure of “Sustainable Development”, heralded as the way forward in 1992. Yet an evaluation of the outcome of 20 years of international treaties about poverty, climate change, gender, biodiversity, deforestation and desertification, water, emission of greenhouse gases, acidification of the oceans, melting of the ice caps and glaciers, was withdrawn from the Rio+20 agenda. Why? “We should not look back. It is time to build the future”. In order to hide that failure, the big corporations launched the concept of the 'Green Economy', not only to avoid the evaluation of empty promises, but also to give the 'market' economy a 'green' cover, presenting it as ‘the new path’ of salvation of life and the planet.
Effective solutions beyond rhetoric are absent in the official document, The Future we Want. The Declaration of the Peoples’ Summit at Rio+20 is incisive: “The multilateral financial institutions, the coalitions serving the financial system, such as the G8/G20, the corporate-captured UN and the majority of governments have demonstrated irresponsibility with respect to the future of humankind and the planet and promoted the interests of corporations in the official conference. In contrast, the vitality and the force of mobilisations and debates in the Peoples’ Summit strengthened our conviction that the world will only become free from domination by corporations and financial capital when the peoples are organised and active.”
The global elites present in the official Summit equate “sustainable development” with “sustained economic growth”. In today’s world, nearly 90% of global consumption belongs to the richest 20%. Without reducing excess consumption and planning economic growth on behalf of those in need there is no solution to the social and environmental crises. Without sharing wealth, knowledge and power, humankind will not survive. Only a new consciousness and a new development paradigm will respond to this challenge.