Four reasons why Rio + 20 was never the answer

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The four Reasons why Rio + 20 was never the answer seems obvious now, but the hand wringing continues. As Anthony Morris, Australian QC stated in his 2010 address to the Cook Society. “Those (in government) who are empowered to act decisively can’t or won’t do so, and those who would act decisively are not permitted to do so.” Which is, unfortunately, so very true indeed. The powers-that-be do nothing bar having a gab fest that cost millions of dollars and polluted the Planet just a little more while those of us who would like to do things are not allowed to do so.

Many people, myself included, are not surprised by nor impressed with either the 50,000 people at the Rio +20 conference.

For most of us who are trying to fully understand sustainable development, the lack of direction and commitment from Rio was always on the cards for a number of reasons:

  1. The Arrogance of Ideas - The proliferation of special “sustainability” branches of Governments, “NFPs and NGOs all add to the noise not the solution. Once an organization gets on the trajectory of promoting and concentrating on its own idea of “the answer” it becomes the only idea worth consideration. Add the competition for sponsorship and government money and the arrogance associated with ideas becomes very much part of the problem of achieving meaningful change.

  1. Specialists who specialize – Systems are complicated and effective problem solving requires a systems understanding. When specialists concern themselves with only a small part of the organism the full picture and indeed the essential understanding of what is really happening is overlooked. It will only be through looking at the system that the system can be understood and addressed.

  1. Governments only lead on difficult decisions when they are sure of the support of those who are led. After all a government is just made up of people trying to keep their jobs.

  1. Us – It is nonsense to expect the world’s leaders to effectively lead the world into a sustainable future without the vocal support of those they lead. We all want to continue living, what we know to be, an unsustainable life, but our attitude is: let someone else sacrifice and pay the price to fix it.

Point 2 above makes things rather crystal clear as to the specialization issue and that includes to continuous hammering on about CO2 and carbon reduction, carbon credits and carbon trading. There is much more to our problems on this Planet than just carbon and always has been.

The hippies of the 1960s and 1970s who, basically, laid the foundation of the Green Movement of today, which seems to have lost all but direction, were concerned, as were we all who were involved with them, about all manner and forms of pollutions, and all the other issues. Today the only word on the lips of everyone is carbon. Why?Because one can create a nice industry out of it.

What is required is not government statements (or the continuous criticism from the vaguely defined NFPs). Instead let policy and grand statements from government follow our actions, let government announce that we, the business community, local government and highly effective sustainable development groups, are solving the problems.

We no longer require permission to act, because our leaders, in government and in the NGOs have failed and are failing us and the Planet. Those of us who do, can just get on with doing, and must get on with doing.

It is also not the big things that will make a difference. Everyone's small actions, together, will bring about change. So, let's get to it.

© 2012