Our slender hopes of the Rio+20 conference were duly disappointed and the NGOs’ fears proved to be all too well founded. In a special report for LAB, Patrick Cunningham observes the ponderous, heavily guarded and stage-managed official summit at the Rio Centro from the viewpoint of the infinitely less formal and more dynamic People’s Summit, an hour away in Flamengo Park. Nevertheless, amidst all the bland and disappointing vagueness of the official event, Patrick detected people ‘muttering about the need for a real and substantial change in direction, the need to replace the narrow financial basis of our world order with some new mechanism which prioritises the long-term obligation to manage the planet’s natural resources and biodiversity in a way which is genuinely sustainable’. This is exactly what the NGOs and people’s organisations, especially the indigenous groups, have long been saying. Perhaps now they will begin to be heard. Read more.
LAB will be returning to this theme over the coming months. Another interesting view on this can be found from Eduardo Gudynas in his article on ‘the Brown Left and Rio+20’ on his blog (in Spanish). LAB also turned to World Wildlife Fund, one of the main NGO voices at Rio+20, for its views on the impact of climate change on Latin America. Regional climate change director Mariana Panuncio, responded to our questions. Read more.
Rio+20 organisers did make some modest attempts to give a voice to the poor and local communities. Civil society and youth organisations from the favelas (albeit only the ‘pacified’ favelas) were given some funding and the chance to present their ideas and concerns to foreign visitors. We have a special report direct from Rio. Read more.
One of the dark clouds hanging over Rio, however, was the relentless drive of Brazil and the other BRICS for accelerated growth, ever more voracious consumption of natural resources and energy. In Brazil an important element of that drive is the quest for more and larger hydro-electric schemes. LAB interviewed Pedro Bara Neto of World Wildlife Fund, who argues that wind and solar power offer better and less damaging alternatives to the proposed mega-dams. Read more. Philip Fearnside, a researcher at Brazil’s National Institute for Amazon Research (INPA), says that the emissions from the Belo Monte dam will take 41 years to compensate for. Read more (in Portuguese). Even more damning views of dams such as Belo Monte and their impact are provided in a fascinating interview by Eliane Brum with the Bishop of Xingu, Erwin Kräutler. Read more.
Food security remains a major concern for climate change debate and was one of the topics on the agenda at this week’s G20 summit in Mexico. However, the position of the Mexican government on this topic are dubbed ‘surreal’ by Timothy Wise, in an article for Triple Crisis. Wise analyses the paper presented by minister of agriculture, Francisco Mayorga on ‘small-holder productivity’. Mayorga is known, apparently, as ‘the Minister for Monsanto’, whose transgenic soya varieties he enthusiastically promotes and which have led to the near obliteration of Mexican honey exports. Read more.
Not everything in Monsanto’s garden is rosy, however. A recent decision by the Brazilian Supreme Court could force the company to pay back US$7.5 billion to Brazilian farmers it charged ‘royalty’ fees for replanting seed. Read more.
Mexican farmers, as Julia Olmstead notes, are facing dramatic increases in climate instability. While they struggle to respond by diversifying and using agro-ecological principles, the G20 leaders plunge on with neo-liberal agricultural policies which promote ‘precisely the kind of production systems that will be most at risk from severe droughts and flooding: large tracts of monoculture corn or soy adapted to a narrow range of temperatures and precipitation.’ Read more.