Sunday, October 9, 2011

Activist Manifesto for Rio+20

Environmental activists going to the "Rio+20" Conference in Brazil next June  should use it for two things primarily: to springboard civil society action aimed at bringing about global change, and to reject the governmental agenda.

The reason for rejecting governmental proposals is simple: for four decades official action has been ineffective.

The world today is far more polluted than it was in 1972 when the UN convened the first world conference on the environment. Numerous new problems have surfaced, ranging from the accelerating extinction of species to global warming, and there is a grim pall over every environmental prospect we can see or imagine.

The basic problem with the governmental approach is that it is inadequate. Improved environmental standards and controls cannot "green" the world economy as it tries to cater to six billion poor people hoping to become "developed" and live like the rich. The belief that new technologies can make much difference in this scenario is little more than fervent corporate faith.

Governmental action has been constrained by the fear of damaging the wealth-creating capacity of the existing economic system. Big corporations, which fear radical change because they inevitably reduce profits, have been the primary promoters of caution.

So what can environmental activists do at Rio+20 to change this situation?

They should adopt their own plan of action and begin implementing it with or without the support of governments. (Governmental support is a certainty once power brokers see that they will be cut out of the action if they do not participate.)

The Plan of Action should consist of the following steps:

1. Network: Activists should create a global electronic network arranged in an easily accessible hierarchy (local, national, regional, global), to facilitate sharing of information, interactive discussion, and concerted action.

2. Organize: Activists should work with entrepreneurs and leaders of small business to establish community-level organizations for cooperative action. (This will be good for business, so gaining entrepreneurial support should not be difficult.) As these units develop and proliferate they should become the basic units of the global network.

3. Survey & Monitor: Using the network to share the best available expertise (including that of the UN Environment Programme), activists should begin a global environmental survey based on community-level feedback. It should put in place a permanent environmental monitoring system capable of providing real time status reports for consideration by governments at the national, regional and global levels

4. Analyze: Analysis of the data collected by the Survey should indicate the need for remedial and preventive actions, their scope and cost. In contrast to existing analyses, those generated by activist networks can be expected to pull no punches in identifying what needs to change, and where.

5. Educate & Mobilize: The community level organizations and their networks should be engaged in educating and mobilizing popular support for environmental action.

 Energetic implementation of these steps should create a global apparatus for effective action from the local to global levels. It should also create the general public awareness and support for continuing action.

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