Saturday, 23 June 2012

Where's the Love in Rio?

by Teifi Caron

For me Rio +20 has been a juxtaposed conference set in a city of contrasts that perfectly outline the major contributing factors behind the sustained attack we are currently engaged in against a vulnerable global ecosystem - poverty, inequality, greed and fear.  Let me explain....

I have often heard (and I thoroughly believe) that love primarily requires 3 factors:  Trust, Respect and Affection.


I noticed before this conference even began that there was obviously no trust amidst these global negotiations.  The military and police operations underway in preparation for the arrival of so many heads of state, and others deemed to be important, was frighteningly thorough.  I spotted 8 warships navigating the crystal clear ocean waters from Botafogo to Sao Conrado on my way to my hotel, 4 military helicopters hovered overhead, army trucks every few blocks with soldiers sporting their automatic weapons, federal police, state police, municipality police, security guards, horse-mounted police, sniffer dogs (we have invaded other species on our quest for self-preservation) were all present to 'protect' the city.  Since when did protection require such a display of force? When did we become so frightened of each other???

Add to this the elaborate processes involved with debugging the hotels where each delegation stays to prevent international espionage and I think we can all agree, trust is definitely not there.  I wonder how much work our leaders would actually be able to get done if they didn't have to spend so much time in security convoys traveling out to conferences on the outskirts of town due to the fear of civil societies' protests if locations were more accessible?  


After staying in a glitzy hotel for the first few nights where the delegations of Australia, Iran and South Korea happened to be staying, I packed my bags and headed to a grimy backpackers in Botafogo to get a feel for the other side of the conference attendees.  My 8-person dorm room is filled with Central and West Africans and Brazilians who have traveled interstate for their chance to be part of what was lauded as such a historic conference.

Speaking with Babamondo from Nigeria this morning over a breakfast of fresh tropical fruits and strong coffee, Babmondo gave me a personal insight into the corruption and abuse of human rights endured in his home country after oil was discovered in the Niger Delta.  He asked me a powerful question which I couldn't give him an appropriate response to considering his war-torn past  "what is point of having these big conferences to talk about ethical issues in front of the cameras, when under the table none of these laws are respected".  I did a quick bit of further research and found a great article from research coming out of Berkeley University for those of you who want to know more about the issue.

On the bus journey out to the conference centre, I thought of many other examples of violations of international law in the relentless pursuit of resources to satisfy ever increasing standards of living, influence doctrine or for personal vendetta.  East Timor, the Palestinian Territories, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Cambodia, South and Central America come to mind.  In fact, notable examples from every region in the world.

Yes, I think we can tick respect off our list.  It is not present behind the scenes of this conference.

If international law is not respected, we have no chance of saving our planet. Simple.


One of the coolest things I've seen during this conference is the bread tank initiative by the World Future Council which publicises the realistic possibility of eradicating hunger and extreme poverty by redirecting military spending.

Visiting the bread tank present here yesterday with Julie Melrose (and eating some of the slightly stale pita bread to subdue our hunger), I learnt that defence spending world-wide last year was $1.74 trillion. Hang on, let me get that that straight - $1,740,000,000,000 is spent internationally on methods to kill one another.

And according to Edward Davey, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, UK; "Competition for resources could intensify, as territorial change puts pressure on trade and makes conflict more likely.  Natural disasters could increase the demands on our military capability". Therefore, presumably military spending will increase to combat the exacerbated instability caused by climate change and environmental destruction. See how it is all linked in a cycle of positive feedback loops?    

Nope, I think we can agree, affection can't be present while we're blatantly spending so much plotting to murder each other so let's tick that off our list and conclude that there is no love here in Rio.  If international relationships were marriages, I think we would see a very high divorce rate indeed.

I'll leave you with a nice image and song which reflect the sentiment of this post to end it.  I look forward to receiving your comments....

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