Image

20 years after the Earth Summit: What does the future hold?

Excerpts of article by Dr. Vandana Shiva.

For complete article visit Aljazeera 01 Jun 2012 06:52

Vandana ShivaNone of us are immune to climate change, or the effects it will have on the earth and our environment.

In June 2012, movements and leaders will meet in Rio for Rio+20, two decades after the Earth Summit was organised in 1992 to address urgent ecological challenges such as species extinction, biodiversity erosion and climate change. The Earth Summit gave us two very significant international environmental laws: the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity and the United Nations framework Convention on Climate Change. It also gave us the Rio principles, including the Precautionary Principle and the Polluter Pays Principle.

The world has changed radically since 1992, and sadly, not for the better. Ecological sustainability has been systematically sacrificed for a particular model of the economy, which is itself in crisis. 1995 created a tectonic shift in what values guide our decisions, and who makes the decisions. Rio was based on values of ecological sustainability, social justice and economic equity – across countries and within countries. It was shaped by ecological movements, ecological science and sovereign governments. The establishment of WTO, and the paradigm of global corporate rule, inaccurately called “free trade” (more accurately described as corporate globalisation) changed the values and the structures of governance and decision making.

Conservation of the Earth’s resources, and equitable sharing was replaced by greed and the grabbing and privatisation of resources. Sustainable economies and societies were replaced by non-sustainable production systems, and a relentless drive to spread the virus of consumerism. Decision making moved into the hands of global corporations, both directly and indirectly. It is therefore not surprising that when we meet at Rio+ 20, the ecological crisis is deeper than what it was at the time of the Earth Summit, and the will and capacity of governments is weaker.

While the corporations wrote the rules of WTO and global free trade, they have also subverted the environmental rules which were supposed to regulate their commercial activities to ensure sustainability. They have mutated environmental laws which are supposed to regulate commerce into laws for commercialising and commodifying the earth’s resources and ecological functions.

‘We know we can change it’

In both the Climate Treaty and the Biodiversity convention, trade and commerce is replacing conservation and the commons. Rights of Corporations is replacing the Rights of Nature and People.

And this change in values, from conserving and sharing to exploiting and privatising, is justified in the name of economic progress and economic growth. Yet the economic paradigm for which the Earth and Society are being pillaged and destroyed, is itself in deep crisis. Look at the farmers suicides and hunger and malnutrition crisis in India. Look at the protests in Greece, Spain or the Occupy movement of the 99% in the US.

As the Spanish indignados said:

“We fail to understand why we should have to pay the costs of the crisis, while its instigators continue to post record profits. We’re sick and tired of one injustice after another. We want human dignity back again.
This isn’t the kind of world we want to live in, and it’s we who have to decide what world we do want. We know we can change it, and we’re having a great time going about it.”

A paradigm shift is desperately needed. And it will not come those who have created the crisis, and who are looking for new ways to extend the life of the Greed economy by commodifying and privatising all life on earth. They will come to Rio+20 to paint the Greed Economy Green, and call it the Green Economy. And they will have powerful governments on their side.

Movements for ecological sustainability, social justice and deep democracy will come to Rio+20 with another paradigm, one centred on the Rights of Mother Earth, the rights of future generations, of women, indigenous communities and farmers.

Dr Vandana Shiva is a physicist, ecofeminist, philosopher, activist, and author of more than 20 books and 500 papers. She is the founder of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, and has campaigned for biodiversity, conservation and farmers’ rights – winning the Right Livelihood Award (Alternative Nobel Prize) in 1993.