Rio+20 (and solutions?)
So the Earth Summit in Rio didn’t solve climate change. It didn’t seem to make any progress. It didn’t even seem to attempt to do so. But we all know that climate change won’t be solved by one international conference. In some ways responding to climate change is simple. Reduce emissions. See below!
In other ways, it is a bit more complicated… We are trying to solve an issue that was created by deep rooted problems in our societies, corporations, our whole system in some instances and the ways we think about things. Such issues need many creative solutions from all across society and all across the world. There are no step by step solutions to some of the problems we face at a community level all the way to a global level. Vitally, we need to be persistent and determined to find those solutions. The lack of any determination in Rio from ‘our leaders’ is probably what stings the most. Yet, we also know we cannot, and do not, pin all our hopes on one method to stop climate change.
The environmental movement does not hinge on what text is created at a conference, nor does it depend on the position of a comma in a declaration. The movement is the people involved in it. The people who walked out on Rio. The people who campaign at a national level. The people who work at a grassroots level in their community. All of us make the movement. All of us make positive differences. That cannot be stopped or cannot die because all of those people will continue to make those positive differences.
Those people who also do so much in their own communities and countries are not going to be put off engaging in the movement by Rio’s lack of progress. They will be galvanised and work harder and shout louder to make sure the youth are heard at the highest level. The solution to the set back at the Earth Summit is to engage even deeper and at all levels.
International negotiations still remain one of the many ways we can contribute to solutions. They are not the only way to contribute but, for me, they still represent a useful and productive way of doing so. Yes, Rio was a disappointment. It is not the first conference that has disappointed us, it is not the last. And yet we do still have a role to play not only at these international conferences but also every other place where decisions on sustainability are taking place.
I read a book recently where Nelson Mandela reflected on his own campaigning and said that often the most discouraging moments are the best times to launch an initiative. In the disappointment of Rio I can see that people are already doing this in directing their anger/dissapointment into the energy to create more solutions to the unique and global problem we face in climate change. Through these disappointments we continue to meet new and amazing campaigners from around the world and we continue to create new links and partnerships.
It is easy to feel that progress is slow or non-existent in an international negotiations context. Yet, I am sure youth will, rightly, continue to make the most of any opportunities to have an impact at this level. We position ourselves as the most ambitious voice at these talks. We will continue to do this! On the back of some good advice I heard: let us create what seems an impossible goal and then take the first possible step to that goal. I find this useful advice in the context of disappointing talks where it could appear we, as youth, are swimming against the tide.
Ultimately we continue to work towards creative solutions. We don’t really have the luxury not to. Climate change won’t be solved from international negotiations, like Rio+20 alone. But it won’t be solved by working in a community in Glasgow or Bath, or wherever, alone either. Doing as much as we can, as a movement, in as many places, spaces and levels gives us a chance. Rio reinforces this to me more than anything else.