Rio+20 puts the poo back in pollution

21 June 2012

Right now, tens of thousands of  delegates from almost 200 countries have settled into Rio for yet another expensive jaunt that may well not produce much at all.  Just after Rio 1992, one of the world’s most prominent ecologists, Jon Cairns Jnr, observed:

The June 1992 Rio conference on environmental problems (while gratifying in that world leaders were paying collective attention for the first time on environmental problems) was disturbing in that no substantive program of action to arrest or reverse deleterious environmental trends was put in place.  While much attention was given to policy at the Rio conference, few policies issued were resolved; even if they had been resolved, they would have had little effect on human actions.

So, all that we can say with confidence is that not much has changed in 20 years and probably this holiday event will produce more of the same.  South Africa’s The Star reports that anticipations for meaningful progress are poor.

Rio in 2012 is apparently much less appealing than two decades back.  As with restaurants, the first experience is often never repeatable.  Today’s Marietta Times reports that

The throngs streaming into Rio for a sustainable development conference may be dreaming of white-sand beaches and clear, blue waters, but what they are first likely to notice as they leave the airport is not the salty tang of ocean in the breeze, but the stench of raw sewage.  That’s because the airport sits by a bay that absorbs about 320 million gallons (1.2 billion liters) of raw waste water a day: 480 Olympic swimming pools worth of filth.

“Rio, the host city, has a range of urban problems: air and water pollution, social exclusion, water supply,” said Carlos Bocuhy, who heads the Brazilian Institute of Environmental Protection. “But what we have here is a crisis in a civilizational model. We are nearing a moment when all these crises will start feeding into each other. We are facing the possibility of collapse if we don’t change course.”

Well done Rio!  Set a good example of how to look after the planet.

Jon Cairns Jnr has produced some of the most insightful observations regarding how the burgeoning human population can hope to co-exist with the finite resources that this planet has to offer.  Central to his arguments was the premise that  Society must replace legislation with ethos as a primary means of ensuring ecosystem health and well being.  In simple terms this means that mankind must WANT to protect the environment, not only do so because it is required by law.

America’s erstwhile president, George Bush, made the following statement – quite unique from a top-end politician:

… any nation concerned about the quality of life, now and forever, must be concerned about conservation. It will not be enough to halt the damage we’ve done, our natural heritage must be recovered and restored…it’s time to renew the environmental ethic in America – and to renew U.S. leadership on environmental issues around the world. Renewal is the way of nature, and it must be the way of man.

Pity man doesn’t give a damn!

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