In a meeting on the environment in Chile, organized by Universidad Central of Chile last April, 23-24, Per Gahrton, president of the Green think tank COGITO and former member of the European Parliament for the Green Party of Sweden, highlighted seven issues about Rio-92 on which Greenpeace was skeptical (“1. The Greenhouse effect will continue without control. 2. The flood of money from the South to the North will continue as before. 3. The overconsumption in the North will not diminish. 4. Transnational corporations and the World Bank have been strengthened. 5. Hazardous waste will continue to be exported. 6. There will be no restrictions on nuclear power and nuclear arms. 7. Ecosystems will continue to be destroyed”).
Can anyone be more optimistic on what Rio +20 can achieve today in view of the economic crisis affecting world economy? Garthon also analyzed what were the main causes for such a negative development (“1. growth/industrial society/productivism, 2. economic globalization/neoliberalism, 3. big business/transnational corporations, 4. humanity as such, 5. commercialism/consumerism, 6. developed countries/colonialism, and 7. central state abuses”). Obviously, most of these causes are structural ones. Do not structural causes logically demand structural changes? If crisis is constitutive to capital development, as Jason Moore suggests, then only radical changes can offer a solution. But what is that we are hearing as solution to the crisis just with the arrival of ‘left’ in France, the election in Greece and after the new loan given by EU to Spain? More growth! More growth! But is not growth, one of the causes (the principal?) of the crisis?
Fortunately, there are also increasingly challenging discourses among grassroots movements and academicians that reveal the continued and renewed methods of dispossession of the poor of the world and exploitation of nature under new as old hegemonies ( 45% of pulp production take place in the South to be consumed in the North; 37 hectares of forest plantation give employment to only one person; 44% and 19% of shipbreaking occurs in India and Bangladesh respectively; Sweden has secured 100 000 hectares in Mozambique and 330 000 hectares in Russia for bio-fuel production; Petrobras in Brazil got a loan of US$ 10 billion from China and Ecuador US$ 9 billion, REDD (Reduction of Emissions avoiding Deforestation and Degradation) is another form of dispossession of the poor, just to give some examples of those mentioned in the International Society of Ecological Economics (ISEE) conference taking place in Rio, June 2012. In this conference, concepts and demands flourish as in Rio +20 side events and in The Peoples’ Summit for Social and Environmental Justice and Protection of Common Property going around Rio’s streets. Examples of these, just to mention some of those that echoed in me: green economy cannot exist without environmental justice; science led activism; militant scientific community; mining does not paid for water or environmental damages; ecological debt; unequal ecological exchange; find and identify the ‘most wanted’ behind environmental catastrophes, create a tribunal for environmental crimes; sacrifice economic growth, not people; sustainable development is impossible, it is an oxymoron – if things change, how can we sustain them and what are we supposed to sustain, the world we have today, the economic crisis? Econology (ethics, ecology and economy); green education is more important than green economics; monetarize food-print; democratize development, Sumak Kawsay (in Quechua; Buen Vivir, in Spanish): autonomy, solidarity, self-sufficiency, productive diversification, sustainable local, regional resource management; etc. All this points towards one clear idea that can materialize: another world is possible, but we cannot expect multinational corporations or government to do it for us; we have to do it, if not for us, for our children and their children!
Gloria L. Gallardo Fernández, (e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org), Associate Professor, Uppsala Centre for Sustainable Development (CSD), Uppsala University, Sweden